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Riders assess Bridgestone material after first ‘competitive’ session

Riders assess Bridgestone material after first ‘competitive’ session

Sunday saw the first ‘competitive’ session since the switch to single tyre supply by Bridgestone for 2009, the experience provoking varied but mainly positive reactions from the MotoGP field.

One of the big changes in MotoGP over the ’08-’09 off-season has been the move onto new generation Bridgestone tyres, following the rule change to a single supplier arrangement at the end of last year.

Qualifying sessions in particular will be different this year, with the Japanese company no longer producing ‘qualifying’ tyres as such and with the Official Practices which dictate grid positions having been reduced to 45 minutes, as part of the ongoing cost reduction process in the World Championship.

With the first preseason in the single tyre supplier era now complete - and with Sunday’s BMW M Award session giving an insight into what qualifying may be like in 2009 – a number of MotoGP riders have given positive impressions on the new rules.

Instead of fitting qualifiers in search of hot laps this season riders have the option of putting on a new ‘soft’ tyre from their Bridgestone compound allocation, with all riders receiving exactly the same material in the name of fairness.

The most experienced rider on the premier class grid, Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi played a big role in helping Bridgestone to establish themselves in MotoGP during his time with Ducati and he is a fan on the updated regulations.

The veteran Italian, who has been riding well over the winter on an updated Suzuki prototype and was third in Sunday’s showdown session, commented, “Now it is easier compared to the past because everyone has the same material. We have the choice of softer and harder tyres and maybe some riders will even race on the softer ones because they are not qualifying tyres.”

He added, “We will have these 45-minute sessions and everyone will try hard. Last year we saw instances where someone was tenth or eleventh, they put on a qualifier and suddenly they were second. We won’t see that anymore.”

Another vastly experienced MotoGP rider, Colin Edwards spent years riding with Michelin until the end of last season, but he too is in favour of the new system, despite finishing tenth on Sunday. He stated, “I think the single tyre supplier rule is working out really well as we are now all in the same boat. So instead of trying to find a tyre that works for your bike you have to adjust your bike to work with the tyre.”

The Texan continued, “With our bike it is a little bit different to last year, but we have had the same bike for five years so that maybe gives me an advantage. I know what to do with the bike, or my crew chief especially knows what to do with the bike so we can just adjust it. I think the rule is excellent, you look at other championships that are also going to one tyre and it seems to be working.”

A successful qualifier last year, Jorge Lorenzo remarkably took pole position for his first three MotoGP races and was on pole four times in total last season. He has had to adapt to riding with Bridgestones ahead of his second year in the premier class and he believes that he is at a slight disadvantage now, even though he was the fastest of the 2008 Michelin riders on Sunday.

The Spanish youngster said, “I think that the qualifying this year is going to be quite hard without the special tyres, which always suited my riding style quite well. I was quite a specialist with the qualifying tyres and now I don’t have that advantage, so I have to learn to adapt. My riding style is better with the harder Bridgestone tyre and so it will be quite difficult for me to be as good in the qualifying sessions this year I think.”

Lorenzo’s big rival Andrea Dovizioso, meanwhile, has also been adapting to Bridgestones over the winter but he remains upbeat about the situation, despite going slower than Lorenzo over the weekend at Jerez. The Repsol Honda rider focused on racing rather than qualifying when asked about tyres, saying, “We need to wait until the weekend of the first race to really see, but I don’t think it will be a big problem because you can do many laps with the same tyre. Also we don’t have too many tyres in terms of quantity, I think we have enough for each weekend.”

The last word on the matter goes to Valentino Rossi, the legendary Italian who made headlines last season by regaining the MotoGP title after a dramatic move onto Bridgestone rubber at the beginning of 2008. He stated, “We have to wait and see what it will be like at the first Grand Prix. The situation looks ok and it is possible to push and make quite good lap times, but these tyres are not like qualifiers. There is not the same grip, but you can still enjoy it, push hard and go faster for just one lap. I feel that I still have to improve in this area a bit.”

MotoGP, 2009

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