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U.S. GRAND PRIX: Bridgestone's Venture Into The Unknown

23 September 2000

By David Treffer
Contributing Editor, The Auto Channel
In June, during the Formula One media tour for the Indianapolis Motorspeedway, a question was posed concerning the type of tire compound that Bridgestone would develop for the new circuit. There is good reason for concern.

Two problems confronted the Bridgestone tire engineers. The first hurdle was to develop a compound that would withstand the strains and heat build-up caused by the banking and longest straight (6/10ths of a mile) on the F1 world tour and at the same time maintain flexibility for adhesion on the slower multiple turn sequences that comprise the 13-turn 2.6 mile course. The second hurdle confronting the tire designers is the differing asphalt surface that the race will be conducted on. Hopefully, both issues have been addressed. Everyone will find out tomorrow.

Bridgestone has brought two tire compounds to Indianapolis. The compounds will be closely watched especially for the loading and unloading sequence that each car will go through entering and exiting the Indy Turn 1 (Turn 13) banking. Bridgestone has developed the tire compounds without any testing on the actual surface.

The first practice session on Friday will be a venture into the unknown for everyone involved. Bridgestone, the FIA and the Formula One teams will be placing observers around the circuit to videotape the sessions (which they do every race) but scrutiny will be placed on the tires. The videotapes will be played and replayed in slow motion to give feedback to everyone. Driver debrief and input will also be a critical component to the Bridgestone engineers evaluation.

Formula One practice session on Friday's have, of late, become almost insignificant affairs. Tomorrow's first session will be a critical first step to determine if the engineers and tire designers from Bridgestone found the right formula. It will be interesting.

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