The 2011 MotoGP Championship heads to France this weekend for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, which will occur May 15. At the Le Mans (French) GP, Bridgestone, the sole tire supplier in MotoGP, will introduce a new asymmetric rear slick tire. Bridgestone says the soft option rear is Bridgestone's first soft asymmetric offering, and features soft compound rubber in the right shoulder with extra soft compound in the left side. The MotoGP tire was initially schedule to make its debut at the Japanese Grand Prix, which was postponed due to the March 11 Earthquake. Bridgestone says the MotoGP tires provide better initial grip and warm-up performance and will provide better performance in the cold conditions that can be expected in France. The nature of the Le Mans circuit is also slippery which demands softer compound rubber to generate good grip.
Asymmetric rear slicks are required to provide good durability and stability through the nine right-handed MotoGP corners at Le Mans while not sacrificing warm-up performance in the left side of the tires, which is only used five times each lap.
Bridgestone says Le Mans can be called a stop-and-go MotoGP circuit, which is to say that rather than being a flowing lap it is punctuated by a succession of heavy braking points followed by hard acceleration.
Heavy braking places emphasis on the center section of the front tires, while the hard acceleration out of corners means good edge grip is important. Having said that, with its smooth tarmac and low temperature Le Mans is the least severe circuit of the 2011 MotoGP year for tires which is why the soft and medium front and rear slicks have been selected by Bridgestone.
The weather in the region is unpredictable and whilst last year was dry, in recent years the race has been interrupted by rain so Bridgestone have selected the soft wets for the fourth time this year in MotoGP.
Hiroshi Yamada (Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department) says: "The French GP is always popular with fans and is a large and important race for Bridgestone and our local sales companies too. I'm also pleased that we have developed a new tyre over the winter that we are using for the first time at Le Mans. It shows that we are not resting on our laurels and still working hard and constantly developing our MotoGP tires, listening closely to the riders in an effort to provide them the best possible tyres in terms both of performance and of course safety."
Hirohide Hamashima (Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tire Development Division) says: "Le Mans is a slippery and smooth circuit, and run early in the year when the track temperature is low, so softer compound tires are required to generate grip and this is why we will use our new soft asymmetric rear tire in France. We developed the extra soft compound at the end of last year and used it in Portugal and Valencia, but over the winter we have incorporated it into a soft compound asymmetric tire which is totally new. It is designed to work when the conditions are colder to warm-up faster and provide riders with better feeling in the first stages of use.
"The circuit has quite a stop-and-go nature, although the last part of the lap is high speed. Lateral loads placed on the tyres are relatively low but good stability under braking is crucial, especially into turns three and nine which come at the end of the two straights. The circuit has an asymmetric layout that uses the right shoulders harder, hence our choice of asymmetric rear slicks."
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear (asymmetric): Soft, Medium