After one of the most exciting MotoGP campaigns in recent years, Bridgestone Motorsport Manager Hiroshi Yamada looks back on the highlights from this season and gives a brief glimpse of the world’s largest tire manufacturer’s approach to 2014.
Yamada-san, how would you summarize the 2013 MotoGP season?
Overall, I think this season has been fantastic – one of the best ever for the series. All the riders were performing at a very high level and to witness Marc (Marquez) break record after record and Jorge (Lorenzo) defend his title with so much passion, I think it brought many new fans to MotoGP.
Personally, I was very happy to see that despite our focus on producing safer, more user-friendly tires, 11 circuit best laps and ten circuit record laps were set this year, showing the performance potential of our BATTLAX tires.
Also, to start the year with 24 riders – the largest grid since Bridgestone started in MotoGP – shows how the series continues to grow and when I heard that the overall attendance figure this year was the highest ever, it reaffirmed to me that the 2013 season was one of the best ever.
From a rider perspective, what were the standout performances for you this year?
To be honest, there are too many highlights to choose just a couple. Marc’s domination at the Grand Prix of the Americas was significant, as it showed the world just what a talent had entered the series. Jorge’s brave performance at Assen was the mark of a true champion, and his race at Motegi was one of the most impressive displays of controlled riding I’ve seen. Marc and Jorge’s battle at Silverstone was also an amazing show for the fans. Valentino winning at Assen…I could go on and on! Then you have performances like Aleix (Espargaro) qualifying fifth in Germany, which was so impressive on a CRT machine.
The fact that I can’t just choose a few highlights shows the depth of talent in MotoGP at the moment. The future of the sport is looking very bright indeed.
There were many highlights, but the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island must have been a shock for you.
Yes, Phillip Island was an extreme situation and something we’ve never experienced before. We’ve always known Phillip Island is a severe circuit for tires and so we prepared by running a lot of simulations heading into the race. When presented with the situation, we made sure two things happened. We did the best within the circumstances to ensure things ran as smoothly as they could and we made sure we learned from the situation to avoid a repeat in the future.
Given the tire allocation we had at Phillip Island, I am pleased that we could work with Race Direction and Dorna to ensure rider safety and put on a good show for the fans. Now our focus is on developing a tire allocation that will suit the new Phillip Island surface and a major part of that development will take place after we test there early next year.
What can we expect to see, tire-wise, for the 2014 MotoGP season?
Well, at the moment we are still analysing the data we acquired during the Valencia post-season test and the private testing that finished last week. It is evident from testing that the performance of the new ‘Open’ machines is quite high.
It will be a challenge for us to supply a softer rear slick option for these machines, but I hope to see some exciting battles between the Factory and Open machines next year.
Over the winter we will develop tires for next year’s pre-season tests that will improve upon the key performance characteristics we want to offer riders: warm-up performance and greater usability. We’re also continuing down the development path for our rear tires so that we can offer two viable rear tire options at every circuit to promote greater variability in tire choice on race day.
Another exciting development for 2014 is that we will be releasing two production BATTLAX motorcycle road tires next year that will draw on recent MotoGP technological developments. Both these tires will probably be the purest example to date of our ‘race track to road’ concept and will offer exceptionally high levels of safety, performance and control to consumers. 2014 will be a big year for Bridgestone both on and off-track.