Sepang: a grueling challenge for Bridgestone

Bridgestone Motorsport’s hard and medium compound Bridgestone Potenza Formula One tires take on one of the most grueling challenges of the season as they tackle the predicted searing heat of the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang on March 23rd.

The second event on the 2008 calendar will mark the tenth time the Malaysian Grand Prix has been held, with every race held at the 5.54 km Hermann Tilke designed Sepang circuit near Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian circuit offers a tough test to cars and drivers alike. From a tire perspective it is a severe circuit. Two long straights head into tight slow speed corners meaning heavy braking, and the changes in regulations for 2008 mean that tire locking could be more likely as ECU-controlled engine braking is not there to assist the slowing of the cars.

In addition to the two heavy braking zones, a wide range of corner types mean that the tires are kept under heavy loads. The circuit layout is not the only aspect that is tough on tires as the hot weather experienced here gives the tires a harsh test too.

Indeed, even when it rains in Malaysia, as it does frequently, temperatures remain high. To add to the challenge, the circuit has been resurfaced since the last Grand Prix, and the fresh tarmac could present different characteristics from those seen before.

Last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix saw the debut of the white groove marking which designates the softer of the two compound Bridgestone Potenzas at each event. Such has been the success of this marking that it continues in the 2008 season with the marking concept extended to include a marking on the extreme wet tire.

“We look forward to the second race of the season in Malaysia," said Hirohide Hamashima – Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Tire Development. “The Sepang circuit is one that has offered us many challenges over the years and it will be interesting to experience the new track surface. Sepang is quite severe on tires as we have two long straights leading into low speed corners, meaning heavy braking."

“With no traction control or engine braking control this season, drivers will have to be very careful not to lock their brakes and damage the tires. The heat is a major reason why we bring the two hardest compounds from our range. Mechanical tire grip is relied upon here as teams use low levels of downforce, and this puts the focus even more on the tires. Also, we have seen rain many times at this track so we could see our wet and extreme wet tires in use."

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