Bridgestone MotoGP Preview: Qatar, Losail
Losail International Circuit will light up the opening round of the 2013 MotoGP season as the twenty-four riders contesting this year’s championship prepare to do battle in the Qatari desert.
This year is Bridgestone’s fifth as Official Tire Supplier to MotoGP and during that time, it has been the fast and technical Losail circuit that has hosted the season opener. This year sees a new practice and qualifying format which has brought with it a revision in tire allocation, with each rider being given one extra rear slick and an extra set of wet tires at each race compared to last year.
Bridgestone has also responded to rider requests by allowing selection of up to seven of the softer option rear slicks at each race weekend, compared to six last year. Although the total number of front slicks allocated to each rider remains the same at nine tires, riders have greater flexibility in how they can select their tire compounds and can now choose up to six tires in either the softer or harder slick option, up from five last year. Slick compounds for the front tire remain unchanged this season, though the names of the front slick compounds have been revised to extra-soft, soft, medium and hard to make them consistent with the rear slick tire.
The desert setting of Losail brings with it cool track temperatures at night and the potential for wind-blown sand which when combined with the flowing nature of the circuit, creates a challenging environment for race tires. Although Bridgestone is offering different rear slick specifications for the CRT and works riders this season, the particular demands of this circuit mean that two specifications of rear slick – the medium and hard asymmetric rears – will be provided for all riders at this race. Front slick tire compounds for Qatar are the same as last year, with the soft and hard compounds giving the variety needed to manage the changeable grip and abrasion levels that often occur at this circuit.
Hiroshi Yamada - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
“It is with great pride that Bridgestone commences its fifth year as Official Tire Supplier to MotoGP this weekend at Qatar. This race also marks the introduction of the revised tire allocation regulations which sees every rider receiving one extra rear slick and an extra set of wet tires, and this change is just the latest example of Bridgestone’s continued commitment to improving its quality of service to the riders and teams.
“Many riders have shown good form in pre-season testing and the pace across the whole grid is more competitive, so I am confident that we will see an exciting race this weekend and that the season as a whole will be one to remember. I am also very interested to see the new qualifying format in action, and I’d like to wish everyone competing in this year’s MotoGP championship a safe and successful campaign.”
Shinji Aoki - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Division
“The first race of the season at Qatar presents quite a challenge for tire development. Being run at night, track temperatures are always quite low which would normally require softer compounds, but the desert sand often blows across the circuit, making the surface quite abrasive which makes durability also a priority. This combination of low temperature and high abrasion makes it very tough for tires, especially on the right shoulders, as they have to be soft enough to provide grip in the low track temperature but hard enough to resist wear. The tires also need sufficient stability for the heavy braking points.
“To meet these demands, last year we brought asymmetric rear slicks to Qatar for the first time and this helped improve performance and safety, so we will offer the same this year in the medium and hard compounds. Our front tire compounds will be soft and hard, with the softer option being offered in case especially cool conditions occur.”