Hiroshi Yamada looks back over the 2013 MotoGP™ season
After one of the most exciting MotoGP™ campaigns in recent years, Bridgestone Motorsport Manager Hiroshi Yamada looks back on the highlights from this year, and gives a brief glimpse of the world’s largest tyre manufacturer’s approach to the 2014 season.
Yamada-san, how would you summarise 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 break record after record and Jorge 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 tyres, eleven Circuit Best Laps and ten Circuit Record Laps were set this year, showing the performance potential of our BATTLAX tyres.
“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 Americas Grand Prix 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 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 tyres 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 tyre 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 tyre 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.”
During your long career with Bridgestone, you’ve worked in both a competition and sole tyre supplier environment in MotoGP™. Which supply situation do you think offers the most excitement?
“In the era of multiple-tyre manufacturers, there was definitely another element of competition in the series which many fans appreciated, but in my mind it’s difficult to say which era produced the better racing. The level of racing is probably more due to depth of talent at a given time and as I said, I think MotoGP is currently very healthy in this regard and this is reflected in the great racing in recent years.
“One thing I am personally proud of is watching riders on different machinery and different riding styles taking different approaches to winning races, all while using the same tyres. This is not only a testament to their phenomenal skill, but shows that our approach to widening the operating temperature range of our BATTLAX tyres – in essence making the performance more accessible – allows riders to perform at their peak on different types of machinery. Take this season for example. When you look at Marc and Jorge in particular, you had two riders with vastly different riding styles and on different makes of bike taking 14 wins between themselves and engaging in many memorable fights at the front of the field. It shows that the performance potential of our tyres can be unlocked via different approaches, and ultimately this is a good thing for the championship.”
What is the biggest advancement in tyre development since you’ve been involved in the industry?
“For me the most impressive thing is how far tyre technology as a whole has advanced in recent years, and this is the result of many factors, not just one development. Tyre development is much like any other high-tech industry; if you look at each small development in isolation, you might not be that impressed, but when you combine all the developments, it is amazing to see the positive change in the last twenty years.
“The best news about this is that the ones who benefit the most from these developments are consumers. People often talk about how race-honed technologies like electronic control systems have made their way into production bikes, but I think it’s important to note how tyre technology developed through motorsport has benefitted road-users over the years. Whether it’s the compound or construction we’re talking about, a modern road motorcycle tyre contains incredible amounts of technology and in the case of Bridgestone, many of these were developed on the track.”
What can we expect to see tyre-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 class 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 class machines next year.
“Over the winter we will develop tyres 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 tyres so that we can offer two viable rear tyre options at every circuit to promote greater variability in tyre choice on race day.
“Another exciting development for 2014 is that we will be releasing two production BATTLAX motorcycle road tyres next year that will draw on recent MotoGP technological developments. Both these tyres will probably be the purest example to date of our ‘racetrack 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.”