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Ubukata reviews Grand Prix de France in depth

Ubukata reviews Grand Prix de France in depth

Bridgestone’s Motorcycle Race Tyre Development Manager Tohru Ubukata looks back on what was learned at Le Mans.

The fourth race of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship was a complicated affair, with success for the riders coming down to how they handled the wet-drying conditions and when to swap from wet tyres to slicks.

With no intermediate rubber provided by single tyre suppliers Bridgestone this year it was crucial that their wet and slick tyres stood up to the job in the wet patches and dry lines which the riders encountered.

Given that only World Champion Valentino Rossi and rookie Mika Kallio suffered crashes in those difficult conditions - Rossi having perhaps changed onto slicks too early and Kallio clashing with Nicky Hayden and then hitting a wet patch unexpectedly - the Bridgestone tyres appear to have performed well again.

Looking back over round four Tohru Ubukata, Bridgestone’s Motorcycle Race Tyre Development Manager answers the key questions…

Bridgestone expected both dry and wet running in Le Mans, but how were these conditions prepared for?
“We knew from past experience that the weather in Le Mans is unpredictable, but also that it is usually cool, especially when it rains. Because of this we brought the soft and medium compound slicks and the soft wets, just like we used in Motegi where the riders gained experience of wet running on these tyres. We also saw some big temperature differences during the sessions this weekend, but I am happy that with one tyre we have been able to cover the whole range.”

“For example, the track temperature during Friday’s free practice was 20 degrees Celsius, but by the end of Saturday’s qualifying session it was 30 degrees, yet riders still could use the same compound with no problems. This is a big temperature window for just one compound of tyre so I am happy with this.”

What are your thoughts after the first wet start to a race this season?
“I can say that I am very happy with the performance and durability of the Bridgestone wet tyres after this weekend. The conditions were not perfect, neither completely wet nor completely dry. At the start of the MotoGP race, the rain had stopped and although the track was wet, it was drying quickly. We saw that the wet tyre got faster and faster with each lap, even though the track was drying. Normally, you might expect a drying track to be slower for wets, but ours performed well with good consistency and durability, and actually got faster right up until the point that the track was dry enough for slick tyres to be quicker on lap nine.”

“We used the same soft compound Bridgestone wet tyre both in Motegi, where the track was very wet and there was a lot of standing water, and in Le Mans where it started damp and dried, so this shows that the same tyre performs well across all types of wet conditions.”

The conditions for the race were damp but drying. How did the wet tyres and the slick tyres cope?
“We saw this weekend that the wet and slick Bridgestone operating windows overlap, meaning that riders can use the wet tyre with good performance until the track is dry enough to comfortably use the slick tyre. For example, Jorge Lorenzo stayed on wet tyres until lap 12, whereas Marco Melandri switched to slicks on lap six and Dani Pedrosa even earlier on lap five, yet their lap times between these stops were comparable. This shows clearly that there is sufficient cross-over between the Bridgestone wets and slicks.”


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