25 August 2006
Q&A: Junichi Kawajiri - Bridgestone.
Last Sunday's Czech Republic Grand Prix was dominated by Loris Capirossi, who took his Bridgestone shod factory Ducati to its second victory of the 2006 MotoGP season.
Capirossi's first victory of the year was 11 rounds earlier at the Jerez season-opener and Bridgestone riders had been off the podium for the three rounds prior to Brno. However, the next three races - at Sepang, Phillip Islands and Motegi - are also expected to favour Ducati and Bridgestone, with Capirossi still holding a slim chance of the championship.
Meanwhile, Kawasaki will be seeking their second podium of the season in the remaining five rounds, with Rizla Suzuki still to break into the 2006 top three - despite taking three pole positions to date.
Here, Bridgestone's Junichi Kawajiri reviews the Czech Republic Grand Prix weekend and looks ahead to September's trio of flyaway events in Malaysia, Australia and Japan...
Were you surprised at the competitiveness of the Ducati-Bridgestone package in Brno?
Brno has always been a favoured track for Ducati with successive top five finishes, including a close second place with Loris last year. It is also a circuit that suits Bridgestone's range of tyres with the relatively mid-high grip asphalt playing to our strengths. We were optimistic for a strong result coming into the weekend, but the dominance demonstrated by Loris in the race was beyond all our expectations.
But how much of that success is attributable to the tyres?
Results are never attributable to one factor. There can, of course, be occasions where one part of the package plays a bigger role. Brno is a technical track and that places a greater emphasis on the set-up of the bike in unison with the tyres. Consequently we had to work intensively with our three teams in each of the practice sessions to help them select a tyre that best worked with the set-up of their bikes. By Saturday, we had found one particular specification that showed a higher level of competitiveness and it was this specification that was ultimately used by all six Bridgestone riders in the race.
How effective were the new generation of compounds?
We utilised the three-week break between Laguna Seca and Brno to produce a new family of compounds as part of our preparation for the remaining races of the season. We tried these tyres in free practice on Friday to evaluate their suitability for the race and found some good immediate results, particularly with the Kawasakis. The nature of the Brno circuit, however, favoured an alternative specification, which had been developed for the Czech Republic race based on our experience and analysis of previous GPs. I think the success of this more Brno-friendly tyre in the race underlines how we are putting into practice all that we have learned over the last four seasons.
Why were the Ducatis so much more competitive than other Bridgestone-shod teams?
I think each of our teams did a fantastic job and all three were able to finish with one bike in the top eight, which is a fine achievement. I think it is fair to say that Kawasaki has never really enjoyed this circuit, but Shinya Nakano crossed the line just a fraction behind John Hopkins' Suzuki and both were only a couple of seconds from fourth place. Ducati's approach to the weekend was to focus on long runs and bike set-up. Loris completed in excess of race distance on his chosen tyre in practice and was able to lap consistently and competitively. He was in a class of his own all weekend.”
Were you disappointed to miss out on pole position in qualifying?
Loris's qualifying time was 1.1 seconds quicker than the pole record from last year. The fact that eleven riders qualified with a quicker time than 2005 pole really shows the year-on-year improvement made by teams and tyre manufacturers. It was disappointing to miss out on pole in the closing minutes of the session, but we were confident in our race pace and durability and that's what counts.
Does the Brno win hint at a Bridgestone renaissance in the coming races?
We certainly hope to use this win to build up momentum in the three intercontinental races in Malaysia, Australia and Japan. They are circuits where we have enjoyed previous success. We won in Malaysia and Japan last year with Loris, so we are out to defend our success there. Ducati also scored a podium in Philip Island in 2005 with Carlos Checa, but we are not getting complacent. We know the championship is tough this year and are not taking anything for granted. We have two wins this year but we want more and are working hard for them.
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