Bridgestone Press Release - Masao Azuma On Ducati Using Soft Tires At Mugello

Bridgestone today issued their traditional post-race press debrief after Mugello. This debrief covers how the weather affected tire choice, and Ducati's use of the extra soft tire in the race. The press release appears below:

Italian MotoGP™ debrief with Masao Azuma

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium & Hard; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)

Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Hard (Main), Soft (Alternative)

A thrilling Italian Grand Prix at Mugello last weekend saw Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez continue his winning-streak to six races, although by the barest of margins over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo who battled the regining champion right to the finish line. Celebrating his three-hundredth Grand Prix, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi enjoyed a rostrum finish by placing third at his home race.

Rain on Friday caused variable track conditions which resulted in little action during Free Practice Two; however, the rest of weekend experienced warm and dry conditions. The peak track temperature at Mugello over the weekend was 47°C and was recorded at the beginning of Sunday’s twenty-three lap race.

Q&A with Masao Azuma – Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department

Some riders evaluated the hard compound rear slick at Mugello, which compared to the hard rear offered last year has more edge grip. However, it wasn’t selected by any rider for the race. Can you explain why?

“The main reason why no one selected the hard compound rear slick at Mugello is because the medium compound rear slick has such a wide operating temperature range. It is true that the 2014 specification hard compound rear slick has better edge grip than the 2013 version, but in the conditions at Mugello last weekend, the medium compound rear slick performed better for the factory-class entrants and in long runs during free practice they could see that the medium compound rear also had good durability over race distance. The riders that evaluated the hard compound rear at Mugello said it offered good performance, but the medium performed better. Track temperatures were around the mid-forty degree mark last weekend and if temperatures were in the mid-fifty degree range – which can happen at Mugello – then I believe a few riders would have selected the hard rear for the race.”

Most of the field, including three of the Ducati riders selected the soft compound rear slick for the race. How did this perform during the race, particularly for the powerful Ducati machines?

“It was interesting that Iannone selected the soft rear slick at Mugello, as he also selected the softer rear option at Le Mans but unfortunately crashed early on in the race so we couldn’t find out what his potential on this tyre was. This time at Mugello, Iannone, Pirro and Hernandez selected the soft compound rear slick, with Iannone and Hernandez achieving top-ten finishes so it seems this tyre option worked well for them. In the early stages of the race, Iannone was very competitive so his choice to go with the soft compound rear seemed the right one for him.

“Our feedback from the riders was that the soft compound rear slick performed very well at the start of the race and over race distance, the loss in grip was predictable. As expected, in the final laps of the race the soft rear option perhaps suffered more than the medium compound, but the advantage it offered at the start of the race more than made up for this. There is no doubt that the softer rear slick is a viable race choice for the Ducati’s at many circuits. Perhaps the information Ducati acquired at Mugello where three different bikes completed race distance on the soft compound rear slick will enable them to devise strategies to gain even more performance from this option.”

The hard compound front tyre was hardly used all weekend. Was this also due to temperatures not reaching exceedingly high levels?

“Yes, the absence of extremely hot weather was a factor in the hard compound front slick not being used, but it also comes down to the nature of the circuit. Although the braking zone into turn one is extremely demanding and riders want very high levels of front-end stability, the rest of the circuit places a lot of importance on cornering ability and edge grip. The medium compound front slick offers the best balance between braking and cornering performance and that’s why every rider used it for the race. If temperatures were warmer, then perhaps a few riders might have selected the hard compound, but I think the medium compound front is the best all-round performer at Mugello. ”

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I was going wild at the start of the race with Joe out in front but of course knew the tires were going to fade. Yes, Jorge got him pretty quickly but seeing him battle with Marc for a short time was awesome. Even better than he and Valentino's little scrap in Argentina.

The latest 2014 mediums are reported to be similar to what was used in late 2013, but not exactly the same. This development was announced by Bridgestone some weeks ago. Is there a problem with Bridgestone developing the tires as time goes by? Why would that be a problem?

The problem of development of a 'spec' tyre is that if development moves away from one rider OR towards another, without the governing body or the tyre supplier communicating the reasons/goals of said development (and really what legitimate reason is there for mid-season development of a spec tyre other than safety, which no-one has mentioned) then the 'development' can actually be seen as 'manipulation' by many.

It's accepted that in this era of spec tires the manufacturers have to build their racers to fit the characteristics of the spec tire for each season. In the Fall Bridgestone releases the new spec for the coming season and the teams test through winter and the spec is finalized. In 2012 with weight regulation changes and spec tire changes very late in winter testing Honda had a dangerous problem with chatter. They told Bridgestone about it and Bridgestone refused to alter the spec for the rest of the season.
Now in 2014 Yamaha and particularly Jorge Lorenzo have a problem with edge grip on the spec tire. Bridgestone's response had been reported as quite different to their stand in 2012 as they have supplied alternate spec tires from last season in several races and have also developed new spec tires now during the season designed in their own words to improve edge grip. The safety issues are no different now than in 2012 so why has Bridgestone taken a different course? If the governing body in MotoGP has changed the rules concerning the processes controlling the specification of tires for the season this knowledge isn't widespread. In my opinion a certain amount of consistency in the actions of the spec tire supplier should be expected in a sport at the level of MotoGP.

In 2012, two out of twenty-odd riders complained about the front tire. There was no majority so Bridgestone didn't yield to Honda's demands.

This year a strong majority wanted a change for more edge grip. It wasn't just Lorenzo but almost every riders. So Bridgestone developed a tire to meet this request.

Going with the majority is as consistent as you can get.

I recall the press conference before the Austin GP and Bradley Smith's comments about the 2014 vs. 2013 tire re-appearing in Austin. He said it was consensus in the paddock that the '14 spec tire was a better tire. He said that only a few riders (calling out Jorge without mentioning him specifically) were complaining about the '14 tires. He said that he was happy to put COTA behind him and the positive of the widespread tire degradation in Austin was that it proved that the 2013 tire was NOT safer. He said that hopefully now some riders will stop 'whinging' and move on. He was talking about Jorge. I don't recall another rider stating the 2014 spec tires were unsafe. Vale, Marc, etc all noted in that same conference that they didn't agree with BS bringing the 2013 tire back. I followed the preseason testing and practice sessions leading up to the season. Grip complaints at Qatar have as much to do with the track as anything else and it was the same in Sepang II where the conditions were extremely hot and a recent car race had contributed to lack of grip.

I'd like to say - I don't care what the impetus was to bring about a tire with more edge grip - even if it was purposeful in helping JL get better results and making him more comfortable on the bike. I say GREAT! to that, and we have Mugello as evidence that a more confident Jorge = a better race. But it should be noted that it was not a majority of riders that were vocal in bringing about a change.

I understand the point, but have HRC always acted in a balanced way by not taking advantage of their budget/technical supremacy? Are they suffering because of it? You could argue it made their bike even stronger once they got to grips with the issues.
Consistency of performance is more important than actual actions. Given that most of the field did not want the tyre that HRC did that seems a fair and 'consistent ' approach.
I don't know if Yamaha or JL have been favoured in some way, but if that sort of inconsistency gets us races like Mugello and not like COTA then I'm all for inconsistency. Sorry.
Also, HRC wanted a completely different carcass, whereas it sounds like Yamaha wanted a compound 'tweak'. Not quite the same.

To say that Yamaha wanted something different than Honda doesn't change the question of consistent behavior toward all competitors. I agree with you that we don't know for certain if Yamaha has been favored but that possibility shouldn't exist in a fair sport.
By the very nature of competition manufacturures as well as teams and riders will seek advantage and Honda as well as Yamaha both are fine examples of this but the governing/sanctioning body over the sport must not only set fair rules but show impartiality and resolve in enforcing the rules and regulations of the sport for it to be viable. As the "Official Tire Supplier" Bridgestone must observe and obey those rules as directed by the governing body. Presently, it appears that either they aren't doing so or that the governing body is either negligent in enforcing the rules or incompetent in the matter of framing a set of regulations which are impartial and fair. Realistically things are rarely black & white in racing but I believe that the fewer shades of gray there are, the more valuable the sport becomes both to the fans who watch it, the competitors who participate in it and the sponsors who support it.

Bridgestone are there to develop tires and they're actually doing a good job. Your summation is that they shouldn't introduce new tires part way through a season as it might upset the apple cart.

Apart from speculative media reports and rider complaints there's no reason to believe BS have ever favored one team/manufacturer over the other. In the year Repsol Honda complained about front tire, Dani had his best ever season.

This year, improved rear tire comes - which everyone thinks is for Lorenzo, but Lorenzo still struggling, Honda with Marc dominating.

BS seem to be developing tires using general feedback from majority of riders. They will never make everyone happy, but your conspiracy theory is way off the mark. If BS was favoring someone it would endanger their working relationship with Honda etc which could potentially cost millions of $$$.

BS will be out for 2016 and I don't know of any BS/Honda relationship outside of MotoGP.

Can't believe you asked that question!

BS has big relationships with all the big 4 Japanese MC manufacturers! If they were seen to be favoring one over the other or engaged in questionable business practices in GP's then they could risk millions of $$$ through OE deals with manufacturers.