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A new hand on the wheel at Bridgestone

A new hand on the wheel at Bridgestone

A new hand on the wheel at Bridgestone

Kawasaki's Alex Hofmann found himself being pressed into service as a tyre fitter on Thursday afternoon at Catalunya after being spotted by Bridgestone's regular fitters relaxing outside his motorhome, close to the Japanese tyre manufacturer's service area.

With a team of technicians and fitters from Bridgestone working to ensure he has the best tyres for the conditions fitted to his Ninja ZX-RR at every race, the Bridgestone service area would not normally be high on Hofmann's list of places to visit during a race weekend.

But with nothing to do on the Thursday afternoon, in the run up to last weekend's Catalunya Grand Prix, the 25-year-old German jumped at the chance to find out just how difficult it is to fit one of Bridgestone's race tyres to the magnesium rims used on his Ninja ZX-RR.

Assisted by mechanic Daniel Petak, and under the watchful eye of Bridgestone tyre technician Peter Baumgartner, Hofmann was put through his paces on the tyre-fitting machine by Bridgestone's regular tyre fitter Joachim Dully.

While the procedure used to fit a race tyre to a race rim is the same as that used for road- bike tyres, persuading a race slick onto an ultra-light magnesium rim requires a little more finesse and a lot less brute force if the €750.00 wheel is not to be damaged beyond repair.

"The Bridgestone guys make fitting a tyre look easy, but I found out on Thursday that it's actually a lot harder than it looks," said Hofmann. "Obviously you have to use some force to get the tyre onto the rim, but always at the back of your mind is the fact that the magnesium race rims we use are very easily damaged if you're a bit heavy handed. For sure, if I'd bent the wheel then my team wouldn't have hesitated to deduct the cost from my salary!"

"I eventually got the tyre fitted to the rim and we ran it on the bike during practice with no problems. In fact, it was the best front tyre of all the ones we tried, but I'm sure that was more down to Bridgestone's development programme than my fitting skills! I think, in future, I'd prefer to leave the tyres to experts like Joachim and Peter, and I'm sure they feel the same way," added the Kawasaki pilot.

"We don't get many MotoGP riders coming down to the service area to fit their own tyres, but Alex did a pretty good job," said Bridgestone tyre technician, Peter Baumgartner. "Maybe when he's not too busy on a Friday afternoon he can come and give us a hand preparing the tyres for qualifying at other races this year!"


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