Interview with Bridgestone's Mr. Yasukawa
Planet earth is said to be facing environmental crisis. It is evident that climate change is progressing. If we leave this matter unresolved, the level of sea water could rise and lead to the collapse of our ecological system. Natural resources are limited though a great deal of effort is being put into developing substitute energies for petroleum. Although we cannot deny that automobiles play a major role within this issue, it is not appropriate to feel hostile towards automobiles themselves. These vehicles have a number of benefits for us and have ultimately helped us to overcome many challenges. These benefits are all a result of innovative technological developments.
It is true that motorsport has contributed greatly to the development of automobiles. Adverse views that motorsport wastes huge amounts of petroleum for example have been voiced worldwide. Motorsport is however at the forefront of technological development, with some of these technologies being utilized within our road cars, as well as tires. Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Department, talks about how the company’s motorsport activities, including Formula One, have responded to such issues.
Environmental issues are the focus of global concern, and in such circumstances some people say motorsport is rather meaningless as it just wastes energy. What is your view regarding these opinions having spent so many years working in the world of motorsport?
I believe environmental and energy-saving issues are what we must focus on and these are two areas in which we have worked very hard to develop. I presume the people who say motorsport wastes energy do not understand the essential quality of such sport. We must recognize at the same time that we have not provided these people with relevant information about the sport. Today I would like to talk about these issues.
Where would you like to start?
Let me start with Formula One car technology. Formula One shows us the real thrill of motor racing. Current Formula One cars use a 2400cc engine, which produces more than 800 horsepower. This horsepower has been achieved by outstanding technological progress and is four times as big as that of a road car engine with the same displacement. What makes this possible? Good engine management is the answer. Engine power largely depends on whether the combustion is good or not. Big horsepower requires good engine combustion. Good combustion means that there are fewer impurities in the exhaust gas. If combustion is almost complete, emission of NOx should be low.
The core of the motorsport related issue is fuel efficiency. How do you explain this issue when many people believe that motorsport uses fuel like water?
That idea is not correct. It may be true that Formula One cars are less efficient in fuel consumption compared to a road car. However, engineers and technicians who work on the development of Formula One engines’ horsepower and speed devote themselves completely to the research and development of engines. These engines produce large amounts of power and run long distances with as little fuel as is practical. Running long distances with low fuel levels means that the amount of fuel consumed is less and that Formula One cars can perform with a lower fuel load. It makes a Formula One car lighter, and as far as a Formula One car is concerned lighter is faster. Do you understand how this relationship works? The size of a fuel tank for a Formula One car is standardized. It means the load of fuel within a tank is limited. Therefore fuel efficient engines are required to run a certain distance while maintaining the highest power at top speed.
It is widely known that lighter cars are more fuel efficient, isn’t it?
Exactly. It applies to road cars as well. Generally, if the same engines are used, the lighter car is more fuel efficient than the heavy car. Formula One just demonstrates this fact in races.
Some people have extreme views about motorsport generally. According to some people, motorsport, including Formula One, is largely to blame for the planet's environmental issues, but what do you think of that?
In terms of motorsport, you need to recognize that there are a great deal of people around the world who accept motorsport favorably, have wide interest in the sport and enjoy it. You must also recognize that motorsport is a stable business as well. As a matter of fact, Bridgestone has rapidly become well-known in Europe since it started its Formula One activities in 1997. Participating in Formula One is a valuable activity to boost our consumer tire business in the region. Also having Bridgestone shod teams winning many Formula One races provides proof of our tire expertise. Automobile manufacturers in Europe and USA have discovered our technological excellence via our Formula One activities and have decided to adopt us as their OEM partner. I believe these facts will help people understand the important aspects of motorsport activities.
Are there any specific environmental and safety-related actions undertaken by Bridgestone, as a part of such motorsport activities?
I strongly believe a clean environment and motorsport can co-exist and be compatible with each other. In terms of environmental issues, such as avoiding waste, Formula one implements a variety of measures. For example, the quantity of test tires allocated to each team has been decreased and as much as practically possible, the amount of waste on the production line has also been reduced. Test occasions and the quantity of tires for such tests are also currently strictly limited.
Please explain the safety aspects of your motorsport activities.
Safety is our top priority. Tires perform properly when they are used at the designated tire pressure. Tire temperatures are often talked about in Formula One. Fundamentally, optimum tire temperatures are reached when the tires are used at the correct pressure. This means that the correct tire pressure is linked to safety. If the pressure is not high enough the tires will not reach the optimum working temperature, which will result in less grip and poor lap times. The worst incident expected in these circumstances would be a burst tire. Therefore it is understandable for our technicians and team engineers to focus on these issues.
Do you believe people need to re-evaluate Formula One activities and come to a new understanding of the motorsport?
Today nobody can do business in any field without considering the environment and safety. Motorsport, including Formula One, is a field where such considerations are directly required and relevant actions are carried out. I think we should give the public more information about our actual activities, otherwise they might not understand essentially what we are doing in this field. I am pleased to be able to take this opportunity to talk about environmental issues and our activities. Formula One is a top category of motorsport in which global car manufacturers participate on a worldwide scale. These manufacturers cannot make light of environmental and safety issues and Bridgestone cannot, either. Motorsport will definitely contribute to automobile technology development. We are proud to make a contribution and will continue to make every possible effort in our motorsport activities in future. Source: Bridgestone