Qatar MotoGP debrief with Shinji Aoki
The 2012 MotoGP season got off to a flying start last weekend with a thrilling race taking place under the lights of the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
The venue for the season opener for the past six years, Qatar is unique due to being the only night race on the calendar and its desert location. At times during the race weekend, breezy conditions resulted in a considerable amount of sand being blown onto the circuit, causing lower levels of grip and higher levels of abrasion.
With improved conditions on Sunday, Factory Yamaha Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo took advantage of his pole position to take victory in the first race of the season ahead of the Repsol Honda pairing of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.
Q&A with Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development
Qatar was the race debut for Bridgestone’s 2012 specification tyres and the 1000cc MotoGP machines; what was your perception of the first race of the year?
“Pre-season testing was valuable in learning the performance characteristics of the 1000cc MotoGP machines to aid our ongoing development programme, but Qatar was the first time we were able to see how the new specification tyres performed in a race situation.
“Track temperatures at Qatar are always quite cool, but the enhanced warm-up performance and rider feel provided by the 2012 specification tyres ensured the riders could push from the first lap and helped them deal with the variable track conditions. Despite the greater torque generated by the 1000cc engines, tyre wear was not a problem for any of the riders during the twenty-two lap race.”
Last year the harder rear tyre was chosen by all riders for the race. Was it the same this year?
“For this year at Qatar we made available an asymmetric rear tyre with comparatively harder rubber on the right hand shoulder. The harder rear option tyre was still the popular choice for the race this year, but the extra versatility an asymmetric construction provides resulted in four riders; Bautista, Petrucci, Pasini and Ellison selecting the softer rear option for the race. In particular, Bautista’s performance with the softer rear tyre on the Honda RC213V showed it was a viable option for the race as his lap times were consistent and he was able to engage in the exciting battle for sixth place with Hayden, Bradl and Barbera.”
Overall, how did the 2012 specification tyres perform in Qatar?
“I am very satisfied with the way our tyres performed in Qatar. The quicker warm-up performance and wider operating temperature range of the 2012 specification tyres ensured riders felt confident riding in the highly variable conditions at the Losail Circuit. The asymmetric rear tyre we brought to Qatar also worked well, with the riders appreciating the greater durability the harder rubber on the right shoulder provided. Throughout the weekend the extra-hard front tyre was the preferred option as it provides more stability under braking and is more durable, however all three of the front tyre options we made available were used to good effect over the race weekend.”