Germany/USA GP Debrief: Q+A with Tohru Ubukata Bridgestone heads into the traditional three-week summer break on the back of its most competitive race weekends of the season with podium clean sweeps in both the wet Sachsenring and dry Laguna...
Germany/USA GP Debrief: Q+A with Tohru Ubukata
Bridgestone heads into the traditional three-week summer break on the back of its most competitive race weekends of the season with podium clean sweeps in both the wet Sachsenring and dry Laguna Seca GPs.
In the German event, Casey Stoner continued the dominant form that took him to victory in Donington and Assen. He claimed Friday free practice honours, Saturday's pole position and Sunday's wet race win, clawing back valuable ground in the world championship. Valentino Rossi finished second and, with championship contender Dani Pedrosa crashing out and not scoring points, Rossi reclaimed the lead of the world championship. Chris Vermeulen finished third to take his and Suzuki's first podium of the season.
Stoner's unbeaten pole position run was extended to an incredible five in Laguna Seca, but it was Valentino Rossi who took the victory on race day, after a thrilling 32-lap race. The Sachsenring and Laguna wins take the total number of Bridgestone-shod wins this season to eight from a possible eleven and Rossi's Laguna success extends his lead of the championship to 25 points. Stoner's second place in the USA enabled him to jump to second in the championship with a 16-point lead over third-placed man Pedrosa. For the second successive race, Vermeulen completed the top three to make it another Bridgestone 1-2-3, which was also the second consecutive all-Bridgestone podium at Laguna Seca.
Q+A with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
How would you review the back-to-back German and US race weekends?
"I have drawn a lot of confidence from the last two races, not only because of the results we have achieved with our teams and riders, but because our tyres have shown a good performance level in a wide range of conditions. Sachsenring and Laguna Seca are both tracks which we traditionally expect to be warm, but this year they presented us with very different weather conditions. The Sachsenring race was held in wet conditions, the first fully wet race of the year so far, while Laguna was a lot cooler than we have become used to in recent years, especially in the mornings."
How was the wet tyre performance in Sachsenring?
"Although we have had a few wet races in recent seasons, we have not had a wet race at Sachsenring in the time Bridgestone has been in MotoGP since 2002. The track itself is quite severe on the left-hand side of the tyre, because of the large number of left-hand turns, so we were unsure of the performance of our wet tyres over the full race distance. Although the tyres took a few laps to get up to temperature, I was pleased with the consistency of the tyres over 30 laps. From a results point of view, it was our best race of the year with the top four riders on Bridgestone tyres, and five of the top six. We also accumulated more valuable wet race data which we hope will further enhance our wet tyre development."
How did you combat the cooler temperatures at Laguna Seca ?
"When we made the allocation of 22 rear and 18 front slick tyres with our riders on Thursday, we included a range of compounds from soft to hard to cater for a wide range of weather conditions over the weekend. In the cooler morning sessions, with track temperatures around 25 degrees, we used the softer and medium options, and as the sun warmed the track up in the afternoon, we moved to the medium and harder specs. During the practice sessions, we always kept our focus on Sunday afternoon's race, when we expected the track temperatures to increase, so we knew our rivals would also be more competitive in the race itself, but I was pleased with the grip and consistency from our tyre range."
Were you surprised at the pace of the leading riders in the race?
"Casey proved in practice and qualifying that he had an incredible speed around Laguna Seca, and Valentino also made big improvements over the weekend. These two riders were in a class of their own in the race and provided an amazing spectacle. They were at least a second a lap quicker than anyone else, and Casey broke the lap record by over a second on his fastest lap. The race itself was run sixteen seconds quicker than last year's event, and I am pleased that our tyres were competitive and consistent enough for such a fast pace."
What do you expect for the rest of the season?
"Nothing is guaranteed in this year's championship. Everyone has to be on the top of their game at all times to fight for podiums and wins. Even if we have riders first and second in the championship, we have to continue working on qualifying and race tyres because our rivals will be working hard to fight back from two difficult races. This summer break will allow injured riders the chance to recuperate, so all teams will go to Brno with renewed motivation and recharged batteries. I expect an exciting closely-fought and competitive final seven races of the season, but we will be doing all we can to make sure that the riders on Bridgestone tyres are in the thick of the action each weekend."