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Italian MotoGP debrief with Masao Azuma

Posted on June 4, 2014
Lorenzo and Marquez battle for the race win at Mugello.

Lorenzo and Marquez battle for the race win at Mugello.

A thrilling Italian Grand Prix at Mugello last weekend saw Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez continue his winning-streak to six races, although by the barest of margins over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo who battled the regining champion right to the finish line. Celebrating his three-hundredth Grand Prix, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi enjoyed a rostrum finish by placing third at his home race.
 
Rain on Friday caused variable track conditions which resulted in little action during Free Practice Two; however, the rest of weekend experienced warm and dry conditions. The peak track temperature at Mugello over the weekend was 47°C and was recorded at the beginning of Sunday’s twenty-three lap race.
 
Q&A with Masao Azuma – Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport tire Development Department

Some riders evaluated the hard compound rear slick at Mugello, which compared to the hard rear offered last year has more edge grip. However, it wasn’t selected by any rider for the race. Can you explain why?
 
“The main reason why no one selected the hard compound rear slick at Mugello is because the medium compound rear slick has such a wide operating temperature range. It is true that the 2014 specification hard compound rear slick has better edge grip than the 2013 version, but in the conditions at Mugello last weekend, the medium compound rear slick performed better for the factory-class entrants and in long runs during free practice they could see that the medium compound rear also had good durability over race distance. The riders that evaluated the hard compound rear at Mugello said it offered good performance, but the medium performed better. Track temperatures were around the mid-forty degree mark last weekend and if temperatures were in the mid-fifty degree range – which can happen at Mugello – then I believe a few riders would have selected the hard rear for the race.”
 
Most of the field, including three of the Ducati riders selected the soft compound rear slick for the race. How did this perform during the race, particularly for the powerful Ducati machines?
 
“It was interesting that Iannone selected the soft rear slick at Mugello, as he also selected the softer rear option at Le Mans but unfortunately crashed early on in the race so we couldn’t find out what his potential on this tire was. This time at Mugello, Iannone, Pirro and Hernandez selected the soft compound rear slick, with Iannone and Hernandez achieving top-ten finishes so it seems this tire option worked well for them. In the early stages of the race, Iannone was very competitive so his choice to go with the soft compound rear seemed the right one for him.

Pramac Racing's Andrea Iannone in parc-ferme at the  Italian Grand Prix.
Pramac Racing's Andrea Iannone in parc-ferme at the  Italian Grand Prix.

 
“Our feedback from the riders was that the soft compound rear slick performed very well at the start of the race and over race distance, the loss in grip was predictable. As expected, in the final laps of the race the soft rear option perhaps suffered more than the medium compound, but the advantage it offered at the start of the race more than made up for this. There is no doubt that the softer rear slick is a viable race choice for the Ducati’s at many circuits. Perhaps the information Ducati acquired at Mugello where three different bikes completed race distance on the soft compound rear slick will enable them to devise strategies to gain even more performance from this option.”
 
The hard compound front tire was hardly used all weekend. Was this also due to temperatures not reaching exceedingly high levels?
 
“Yes, the absence of extremely hot weather was a factor in the hard compound front slick not being used, but it also comes down to the nature of the circuit. Although the braking zone into turn one is extremely demanding and riders want very high levels of front-end stability, the rest of the circuit places a lot of importance on cornering ability and edge grip. The medium compound front slick offers the best balance between braking and cornering performance and that’s why every rider used it for the race. If temperatures were warmer, then perhaps a few riders might have selected the hard compound, but I think the medium compound front is the best all-round performer at Mugello. ”

Related Topics: Bridgestone, Italian Grand Prix, Masao Azuma, Mugello circuit

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