A couple of late press releases from the opening MotoGP round of the season at Qatar. Today, it's a Bridgestone debrief, and releases from MZ and FTR:
Qatar Grand Prix debrief with Hirohide Hamashima
Round 1: Qatar GP – Post-race debrief
Losail International Circuit, Tuesday 22 March 2011
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium, Extra Hard. Rear: Medium, Hard
The 2011 MotoGP season started this weekend with the first race in Qatar, which is unique because it is run in the desert and at night. Since the test on 13-14 March conditions were windy which meant a lot of sand was blown onto the circuit, making it slippery and leading to graining. During the weekend though the weather conditions improved, particularly on Saturday and Sunday, and the track surface became cleaner meaning the times got faster, peaking during the qualifying session. The Repsol Honda Team dominated the weekend with Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa constantly at the top of the timesheets, and it was Stoner who took victory on Sunday night with Pedrosa in third, behind hard-charging Jorge Lorenzo.
Q&A with Hirohide Hamashima – Director, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development
The race was run three weeks earlier this year than in 2010. Did this make any difference from a tyre perspective?
"Conditions this year were certainly cooler with track and ambient temperatures about seven degrees Celsius lower. This caused the track to be a little slippery, especially coupled with the dirty surface early on in the weekend, but we still used the same tyre compounds as last year with no problems. The operating range of our tyres is more than sufficient to deal with a change of ten degrees Celsius in track temperature. The laptimes were fast too, especially during the qualifying session."
How big a role did sand on the circuit play throughout the weekend?
"We experienced quite high winds for most of the week until the Saturday of the Grand Prix which left the track quite sandy, especially for the first free practice sessions. As more laps were completed it got cleaner, but during free practice one and two in particular we experienced some graining of the softer option rear tyre because of the sand. Graining occurs as the rear tyre loses traction and starts spinning, so this gives us an indication of how slippery it was at first. Nevertheless, this is one of the unique challenges of the Losail circuit so from past experience it was expected."
The pace in qualifying was very fast – how was tyre performance in general?
"Overall I am satisfied with tyre performance this weekend. To lap within 0.2seconds of the outright pole position record, set on qualifying tyres in 2008, using race tyres is very impressive. Throughout the weekend the extra hard front tyre was the preferred option as it provides more stability under braking and is more durable, although some riders did use the softer option and had no problems with it. In the rear, the harder option was the favourite throughout the weekend because of its added durability and resistance to graining, though on the softer option in qualifying the times were very fast indeed which shows the level of grip it was producing once the circuit had cleaned was very high.
"During the race durability was good. Casey and Jorge were able to lap within 0.6second of their respective fastest times until the end of the race and Andrea set his best on the final lap, which is a strong sign of tyre performance right until the end. We have confidence in the consistent and high quality of our tyres from last year to this and I am happy that the teams do too as this allows them to make good setups based on last year's data. A good rider, bike and tyre package is very important to get the most out of our tyres."
Max Neukirchner scores first point in season opening race in Qatar
MZ factory rider Max Neukirchner scored his first point in Grand Prix racing at the season opening Moto2 race at Qatar. Starting from 12th spot on the grid, the former World Superbike star ran into trouble early on when he missed a braking point. Neukirchner lost a lot of ground and was down in 24th place, but kept on fighting and re-gaining positions before making sure of 15th place and a well-earned point. Team-mate Anthony West didn't get a real chance to show his abilities, as he was torpedoed by another rider on lap three and crashed. West had started with high hopes, since his crew managed to solve the chattering problems that had hampered him in practice.
"All in all it has been a satisfying weekend for us", said MZ CEO Martin Wimmer. "We found a solution for the Anthony=E2=80=99s chassis problems and the crash in the race wasn=E2=80=99t his fault. The highlight of our weekend was the 17th lap of Max Neukirchner: On this particular lap, he was as fast as the front runners even though he had worn his tyres in the hunt to re-gain positions.=E2=80=9D MZ's sport- and development manager Dietmar Franzen added: "We worked until 4 o'clock this morning to find a solution to Anthony=E2=80=99s problems with the front end of the bike. Our results weren't the best today, but I am happy with our technical progress."
Max Neukirchner (15th position, +26,803 sek.)
"We have to be pleased with this result, although it could have been better. At the end I was able to do pretty quick times, but I had bad luck at the start of the race and lost many places. Also during the second lap I made a big mistake. I didn't get the breaking point right and lost more ground. But then the bike and I got better and better and to score a point for the championship in the end makes us all happy. I now go to Jerez with a good feeling!"
Anthony West (DNF / Crash):
"Before the race we changed nearly everything on the bike and all of a sudden the chattering was gone. I didn't have to fear losing the front and I could use different lines and run a good corner speed. I had to get used to it for the first part of the race and had to change my riding style a bit. I got quicker and recognized it would be possible to overtake the two riders in front of me. I got past the first one and as soon as I wanted to catch the second one we clashed and I crashed. Now I hope MZ delivers the new chassis as soon as possible, as I am riding last year=E2=80=99s bike at the moment. But with that bike we aren't competitive any more, as all the other bikes got significantly faster!"
FOUR RIDERS GRAB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS FOR FTR MOTO IN QATAR
FTR MOTO took an opening round top six finish and enjoyed three other point-scoring finishes as the Moto2 World Championship got under way at the Losail circuit in Qatar on Sunday.
The IODA Racing Project team's Simone Corsi followed up a solid pre season testing display by qualifying in 11th place for the 20-lap race before battling through to sixth place in the evening affair, held under floodlights at the 3.340-mile desert track.
Talented young Colombian Yonny Hernandez took 12th place, fighting his way through from 20th place on the grid aboard his Blusens-STX FTR M211 machine.
Hernandez won a three-way battle for 12th and his team-mate Esteve Rabat was just 0.02s adrift of Hernandez as the young Spaniard brought his M211 home in 14th place.
The final World Championship point went to German Max Neukirchner as he took 15th place on the MZ-branded FTR machine. HP Tuenti Speed Up Team youngsters Pol Espargaro and Valentin Debise finished 22nd and 23rd respectively with Kenny Noyes finishing 24th on the FOGI Racing/GP Tech-backed FTR M211.
Stop and Go Team riders Santiago Hernandez and Ratthapark Wilairot both crashed out of the series opener as did Kev Coghlan on the Aeroport de Castello machine, all escaped injury.
"Overall we've had a pretty tough opening race but I'm pleased to see plenty of FTRs in the points," said FTR's Steve Bones. "We always knew the beginning of 2011 would be demanding – with the many new teams we're working with, the many young riders they have brought to FTR plus the riders moving from the 125cc World Championship class and the Spanish Championship.
"But the feedback from this opening round has been exceptional. To have so many teams and riders confident the FTR machine can win is a compliment but we want to move on from the Losail results now with a big improvement at Jerez in round two on Sunday week."