A thrilling battle for supremacy at the opening race of the 2008 MotoGP season in Qatar just over two weeks' ago, ultimately won by Bridgestone-shod Ducati rider Casey Stoner, set a highly competitive standard for this year's championship, ...
A thrilling battle for supremacy at the opening race of the 2008 MotoGP season in Qatar just over two weeks' ago, ultimately won by Bridgestone-shod Ducati rider Casey Stoner, set a highly competitive standard for this year's championship, which continues this weekend with the second round of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix.
The hosting Jerez circuit in southern Spain is a venue well known by the entire MotoGP grid through its use not only as an annual race circuit, but also as a preferred off-season test facility. February's IRTA test was held in mixed weather conditions but nevertheless all 18 MotoGP riders took part and amassed a combined total of almost 3,000 laps between them over three days, offering teams and manufacturers important data ahead of the race proper.
Jerez has been a permanent part of the MotoGP calendar since 1987 and holds its 22nd premier class event this weekend. It is one of three Spanish circuits on the calendar, but is the only one to hold the title of 'Spanish GP'. Jerez was one of the more disappointing races for Bridgestone in 2007, and marked the only race of the season in which a Bridgestone-shod rider did not secure a podium finish. Toni Elias was the highest-placed Bridgestone rider in fourth for Honda Gresini.
Q+A with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Sport Unit
Q: How much do tyres influence the results at Jerez?
HY: "Tyres are an important part of the package at Jerez because it is a circuit with a wide range of corner types and there is no dominant straight, so the riders require good cornering performance. This means we need to provide high grip front and rear tyres. We expect track temperatures to be between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius, so we will run soft to medium level of compounds."
Q: A lot of testing takes place at Jerez, what effect does this have on the performance?
HY: "Everybody knowsJerez very well from testing so there is a lot of data at our disposal. We have seen in previous years that the level of competition at Jerez is very high and it is often just tenths-of-a-second that can make a big difference to the result. The circuit is not always in exactly the same condition as when we tested, and this year there is a full month between the pre-season IRTA test and the race, so track conditions will likely have changed. Teams will have a good idea of the set-up they require for their bikes, so the first practice will be used to confirm or make slight adjustments before we start the usual process of tyre evaluation for the weekend."
Q: How important is qualifying at Jerez?
HY: "Grid position is important at Jerez because it is so competitive and not so easy to overtake. We are still working hard on our qualifying tyres and will introduce some new rear qualifiers in Jerez this weekend, which we hope will offer riders the extra grip that is needed. Some riders have also expressed an interest in a front qualifying tyre which we initially started to look at during last season and are continuing to develop. In the past, a front qualifier did not offer a significant advantage over a standard front tyre, but we are continuing into this as part of our ongoing development plans for this season."
Riding Perspective - Valentino Rossi - Fiat Yamaha Team
"Obviously Qatar didn't turn out quite as we hoped but we took away a lot of positives from the weekend. We saw how competitive both our bike and the Bridgestone tyres are, and this is very exciting for the season ahead. We did some excellent work at the Jerez test in February and I was able to have great fun riding the bike, so now I'm really looking forward to going to race there. It's a great track to ride on, it's quite technical and it usually seems to suit our bike quite well. We know we have a big job facing us, especially after the result of Qatar, so we will be aiming to make the most of the few hours of practice time that we have available to us to refine our package. Jerez is a great track for me and I have had some wonderful races there in the past, including a brilliant win last year, and I always enjoy racing there a lot."
Toni Elias and Casey Stoner quickly established themselves as the fastest riders on Bridgestone tyres in last year's Spanish GP event, with Elias one of just three riders to dip under the 1m41s barrier in Friday practice. With the top 16 riders separated by less than one second, it was to be a closely-fought and ultra-competitive weekend. Saturday's qualifying hour continued in the same way with Stoner setting the fifth quickest time, but an agonisingly close 0.1s from the pole time set by Honda's Dani Pedrosa. The top twelve riders on the grid were split by just half-a-second. The competitive nature of the grid masked an otherwise improved performance of Bridgestone's latest spec qualifying tyres. The race was largely dictated by grid positions, but Valentino Rossi was the eventual winner ahead of Pedrosa and Colin Edwards. Elias and Stoner had troubled opening laps but the consistency of their tyres over the full race distance enabled them to make a determined fight up to fourth and fifth, less than 2s from the podium and under 5s from race winner Rossi.