Qatar MotoGP debrief with Shinji Aoki
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi won an entertaining MotoGP season opener at Qatar’s Losail Circuit, the nine-time World Champion emerging the victor in an epic battle with Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso. It was an all-Italian podium at the first Grand Prix of 2015, with Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone clinching third place to join Rossi and Dovizioso on the rostrum.
Weather conditions for the race were warmer than in previous years, thanks mainly to this year’s Qatar Grand Prix commencing an hour earlier compared to previous years. The track temperature throughout the twenty-two lap race remained at a steady 26°C.
Q&A with Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tire Development Department
The Qatar Grand Prix was the competitive debut for Bridgestone’s 2015 specification MotoGP tires. How do you feel the first race weekend of the season went for Bridgestone?
“It was a good opening race for Bridgestone as all our slick tire options worked well and the pace throughout the weekend was both quick and extremely competitive among the twenty-five MotoGP riders. To have the top twelve or so riders on different machinery split by one second a lap over a race weekend is a pleasing result as it means our development goal of delivering tires which are safer and are easy to understand were achieved. The performance of our tires at a circuit which is quite severe for tires was also very consistent. Despite Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso riding quite aggressively at the end of the race as they fought for victory, Valentino was able to set his third-quickest lap on the final lap, while the last lap was Andrea’s quickest of the race.
Overall, what we have seen both in pre-season testing and the first race weekend of the year is that the riders are able to find a good rhythm with our 2015 specification tires quite quickly thanks to their improved usability and warm-up performance. This is a very positive outcome.”
This year Valentino Rossi won the race using the hard compound front slick, ahead of five riders who all selected the medium compound front. What advantages did the hard compound front slick offer over the other options?
“tire choice largely comes down to rider preference and Valentino, as well as most of the other Yamaha riders were very comfortable using the hard compound front slick over the weekend. Compared to the medium front slick, the hard front offered an advantage in braking stability and durability, at a slight expense to warm-up performance and edge grip. The extra durability of the hard compound front slick may have served Valentino well in the final stages of the race, but the most important factor was that he obviously felt the hard front better suited his riding style. What is pleasing for Bridgestone is that our tire allocation at Qatar provided many different tire combinations to suit the various riding styles and machine characteristics on the grid.”
The desert sand at Qatar often causes issues such as reduced grip levels and increased tire abrasion. What was the situation like this year?
“The sand on the track surface was an issue this year at Qatar, but it was nowhere near as severe as in recent years. For Free Practice 1, riders commented that grip levels weren’t optimal with selecting the soft compound front slick at the start of this session to ensure the greatest amount of front-end grip as possible. However, some riders also felt confident using the hard compound front slick in the first practice session, which is an indication that the sand didn’t have a great as an effect as in previous years. Also, the circuit condition improved throughout the sessions and we didn’t see much abnormal wear from the tires. The fact that five open-class riders selected the soft compound rear slick for the race reflects that high abrasion wasn’t a problem last weekend at Qatar and riders were confident of having strong, consistent performance over the twenty-two lap race from their rear tires.”