Qatar MotoGP debrief with Shinji Aoki
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez won the MotoGP season opener at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, as the reigning World Champion claimed victory ahead of Movistar Yamaha Racing’s Valentino Rossi and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa who finished in second and third place respectively.
Weather conditions for the race were cool and humid, with a peak track temperature of 20°C for the twenty-two lap contest.
Q&A with Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport tire Development Department
The first race of the season was the competitive debut for Bridgestone’s 2014 specification MotoGP tires. How do you feel the first race weekend at Qatar was for Bridgestone?
“The Qatar circuit is a difficult venue for tire development due to its low grip, high abrasion levels and cool track temperatures. Considering the difficult track conditions, I felt it was a positive debut for our 2014 specification tires and I think the inclusion of the soft compound rear slick added another dimension to the action, particularly in qualifying. The whole race weekend was extremely competitive, with the top half of the field separated by less than a second in almost every session and the race itself was also highly entertaining. In QP2 the lap time difference from first place to twelfth was only 0.65 seconds which was an unbelievable result, and this was a good indication that the riders have now worked out how to get maximum performance out of our 2014 specification tires.
There is always an initial period during the pre-season when everyone has to adapt to the new tires they will be using for the upcoming season, but I think the performances we saw in Qatar are evidence that the hard work put in by the teams and riders testing tires in pre-season paid off.”
The soft compound rear slick which was only available to the Ducati and Open-class riders at Qatar helped create exciting qualifying sessions, but did many riders use it for the race?
“The soft compound rear slick was chosen by seven riders for the race, including all of the riders on the Honda RCV1000R. Both Scott Redding and Nicky Hayden - who finished in seventh and eighth place respectively - managed to set a fastest race lap only 0.8 seconds slower than the best time in the race on the soft compound rear, and on average were about 1.5 seconds per lap slower over the race distance than the leading pack. If you see the sector times, the Open-class riders on the soft rear slick were very close in the first three sectors, and only lacked compared to the Factory bikes in the last sector where engine power is the most influential factor. I was happy to see such a positive result from the riders using the soft compound rear slick at Qatar.”
The hard compound rear tire was selected by just one rider for the race, Marc Marquez who ended up winning the race. What advantage does this option offer over the medium compound rear slick which was used by most of the riders on Sunday?
“tire choice often comes down to the rider’s personal preference and how they can maximize the different advantages each option provides. When he tried the hard compound rear slick in FP4, Marc felt that this option offered consistent performance and gave better grip from the centre section of the tire, which helps provide good drive out of the corners. The more consistent performance and drive grip obviously worked well for Marc’s riding style and helped him win the race. In comparison, the medium compound rear slick offered a bit better warm-up performance which would benefit riders in the opening couple of laps of the race at the expense of slightly less durability. It was pleasing to see that both of our rear slick options were viable race options at Qatar and we expect this trend to continue for the rest of the season.”