Bridgestone GP Briefing - Round 17: Malaysia MotoGP action returns to Asia this weekend as the Sepang International Circuit plays host to the Malaysian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of this year's championship, which has been dominated by ...
Bridgestone GP Briefing - Round 17: Malaysia
MotoGP action returns to Asia this weekend as the Sepang International Circuit plays host to the Malaysian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of this year's championship, which has been dominated by Casey Stoner and the Bridgestone-equipped Ducati Corse team, who have already secured the 2007 rider, team and constructor titles ahead of this weekend's event.
The Sepang circuit was inaugurated in March 1999 and hosted its first premier class event just one month later, a race which was won by Kenny Roberts Junior on his Suzuki. The venue has remained on the calendar ever since and this year's event is the ninth Malaysian GP to be held at Sepang. Malaysia's involvement in premier class motorcycle racing, however, dates back to 1991 when Shah Alam started a run of seven consecutive events. A one-off race was held at Johor in 1998 before Sepang took over the mantle, taking the total number of Malaysian GPs to 16 prior to this weekend's round.
At 5.548km in length, the Hermann Tilke-designed circuit is the longest on the entire MotoGP calendar and incorporates two ultra-long straights each almost 1km in length, interlinked by a tight hairpin. The track has been resurfaced for this year's event which could alter tyre behaviour but Bridgestone hopes to continue its recent competitive streak which has seen 11 wins on its tyres and 29 podiums across its five teams - Ducati, Suzuki, Honda Gresini, Kawasaki and Pramac d'Antin.
Bridgestone has a good record at Sepang with Loris Capirossi winning the 2005 event in his first season on Bridgestone tyres and then team-mate Carlos Checa making it a Ducati double podium with third. Last year, Capirossi was embroiled in a classic head-to-head with Valentino Rossi until the final corner, but was forced to settle for a competitive second place. Sete Gibernau finished 5th for Ducati and John Hopkins 6th for Suzuki making it three Bridgestone-equipped riders in the top six.
Tyre Talk with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Sport Unit
What aspects of the Sepang International Circuit must Bridgestone take into consideration for tyre development?
"Sepang is the longest track of the year with two straights of around 1km at the start and end of the lap, which require a lot of outright engine power and good braking stability from the machines as riders brake from speeds in excess of 300km/h. The length of time spent on the central part of the tyre is considerable at Sepang while the extreme temperatures we usually experience - with track temperatures around 50C - will mean we run harder compounds for both front and rear tyres. The track has also been resurfaced recently so in the first sessions on Friday we will also be looking at the effects on tyre performance of the new asphalt as we carry out the usual initial assessment of our available specifications."
Does Sepang hold particular memories for you?
"This weekend's event will be the 99t h MotoGP participation for Bridgestone and Sepang is a track at which we have enjoyed some good results in the past. Loris especially has a particular affinity with Sepang and he took his second win on Bridgestone tyres there in 2005. Last year he enjoyed a great battle with Rossi right up to the final corner and finished in second place. It is a circuit which is used a lot of winter testing because of the favourable climate conditions, so most teams and riders are well acquainted with the track layout. I hope we can do our five teams proud this weekend and finish the season with some more highlights."
Riding Perspective with John Hopkins (Suzuki) - 4th in the World Championship
"I really enjoy riding at the Sepang track in Malaysia and it is without doubt the track I have done the most number of laps on over the years. In addition to the races each year, it is a circuit where we accumulate a lot of kilometres in pre-season testing. The circuit is one that suits my riding style, and I am sure that with the performance of the Bridgestone tyres this year, we can be looking for a good result. We enjoyed a reasonably solid race there last season and I finished sixth having started down in eighth after qualifying was cancelled because of the heavy rain. We made important progress in the tests with the 800cc machine earlier in the year. We completed our first test of 2007 at Sepang back in January and we were able to set some very competitive times from the start. The 800cc Suzuki seemed to enjoy the track and with the improvements and advancements we have made over the course of the season, both with the Rizla Suzuki and the Bridgestone tyres, this is looking like it could be a good event for us this weekend."