Night puts pressure on tyre manufacturers.
Wednesday, 5th March 2008
"From a tyre point of view the night race changes everything..."
After getting a first taste of the unique night conditions during testing at Qatar last week, MotoGP tyre manufacturers Bridgestone and Michelin have been working flat out to provide the optimum rubber for Sunday's season opener.
"From a tyre point of view the night race changes everything," said Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "During the day Losail can be very hot, with very high track temperatures. But at night it is going to be pretty cool. In theory this should make the track less demanding on tyres, but that doesn't mean it's going to be any easier for us.
"The track will be much cooler, which will make tyre warm-up very important. Not only that, the track temperature will get progressively cooler as the race goes on, which is the opposite of the situation we have to deal with at daytime GPs.
"Then there is the possibility of night winds blowing sand onto the circuit which can have a big effect on tyre wear, since the track surface becomes like sandpaper. This is a particular problem because the wind could change conditions suddenly and unexpectedly.
"And it's also possible that the track will become damp with dew, which could be another problem. So, it's going to be a very busy weekend for us," concluded Weber.
The cool Qatar test ended with only one Bridgestone rider, world champion Casey Stoner, in the top seven - and the Japanese manufacturer admitted that the results 'were not positive'.
"Based on our initial forecast and on last week's test, we expect track temperatures in the region of 15°C this weekend, which means we will be using softer specification Qatar compounds compared to last year's event," confirmed Hiroshi Yamada, Bridgestone Motorsport's manager of Motorcycle Sport.
"However, last week's test was our first experience of such low track temperatures at Losail and the results from the test were not as positive as at other winter testing venues, such as Sepang or Phillip Island, so it is clear that we have a lot more work to do here," he confessed.
Yamada added that he expects Michelin to offer a serious threat in 2008, although the exact power balance is unlikely to be seen until the first European round.
"This weekend in Qatar, I do not believe we will have a completely clear indication [of competitiveness between the tyre brands] because Losail is quite a particular track and the night race is a unique event," he declared.
"However, I am sure that from a tyre performance point of view, our rivals have come back strongly from a difficult season and will be very competitive from the start."