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Q & A with Ichiro Yoda

Q & A with Ichiro Yoda

Q & A with Ichiro Yoda

Ichiro Yoda joined Kawasaki as MotoGP Technical Director at the start of the 2005 season, after spending his last four years with Yamaha heavily involved in the development of their YZR-M1 MotoGP racer. At the dawn of a new challenge with the Akashi-based factory, he talks about his move from Yamaha and his new role.

Q: After more than 20 years with the company your name is almost synonymous with Yamaha. Why did you make the decision to switch allegiance to Kawasaki after such a long time with one manufacturer?

A: Basically I wanted a new challenge, which is why I quit Yamaha at the end of last year. I wanted to stay in racing, because I enjoy working in this environment and this is where my experience lies, so when Kawasaki approached me about working on the Ninja ZX-RR project I was very interested. After visiting KHI (Kawasaki Heavy Industries) I decided that this is what I wanted to do; it was the new challenge I had been looking for.

Q: You've only been with Kawasaki for a very short time, but what are your first impressions of the company as a whole and the Kawasaki Racing Team in particular?

A: Kawasaki Heavy Industries is a big company that produces many products, not just consumer products like motorcycles. They are involved in engineering projects in a wide variety of areas, from aerospace to shipbuilding. This involvement in such a range of engineering projects means that KHI has a good level of engineering expertise in many disciplines. And while the number of people working on the MotoGP project is only small compared to other projects, I believe we have the engineers necessary to make the Ninja ZX-RR a success.

The Kawasaki Racing Team has a lot of experienced and well-motivated people. Everyone in the team has the same goal of improving our results on the track. It is a good environment in which to work and I think there is great potential for the future.

Q: You've worked closely with both Shinya Nakano and his crew chief, Fiorenzo Fanali, in the past. Do you think already having a good working relationship with key people in the team makes the job of developing the Ninja ZX-RR any easier?

A: Definitely, because we have worked together in the past it is very easy for Shinya, Fiorenzo and myself to exchange ideas and communicate our opinions on the development of the bike, and this speeds up the whole development process.

Q: The development of the 2005 Ninja ZX-RR was well underway by the time you joined Kawasaki. Will you have a major input on the continued development of this year's bike, or is your focus more on the 2006 season and the next variant of the Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP machine?

A: Of course, I have to look to the future, but I also need to develop the bike we have now because this is the bike we will race this season. The tests we've done so far this year have allowed us to identify very clearly the development direction we need to take with this bike, and what the requirements are for the first race. I think that, with this knowledge, we will be in a position to achieve some good results by the midpoint of the season.

Development can also be dictated by your competitors; if they've made significant advances during the winter months then your own development programme has to be flexible enough to reflect this if you are to remain competitive. It may be that we have to revise our development plan when we see what level our competitors have attained going into the new season.

Q: Shinya Nakano has the smooth style typical of riders who cut their teeth in the quarter litre class, whereas Alex Hofmann has a more aggressive style on the bike. The two also have very different physical characteristics; Shinya is small and light while Alex is tall and 20kg heavier than his Kawasaki teammate. How difficult is to develop a bike that is suitable for two riders who differ to such an extent?

A: it is sometimes difficult to change the basic ergonomics of the bike to suit the physical characteristics of both riders, but we have managed to do this with the Ninja ZX-RR. Once we've identified a good base setting on the bike I think both riders will be able to fine-tune their individual set up to suit their physical characteristics and their individual riding styles.

In terms of the engine, if we can provide as smooth a power delivery as possible then I think this will suit both riders. I don't believe a difference in riding styles really has any affect on the direction we take with the development of the engine.

Q: On the strength of what you've seen of the Ninja ZX-RR and the Kawasaki Racing Team's two riders during pre-season testing, what are your goals in terms of results this season?

A: Racing is winning, so we must always aim to win. We're not here just to make up the numbers, so it is important that we have a clear goal, and I like to keep our goals and targets high. First we must develop the bike into a race-winner and then we must put riders on the bike who are capable of winning races. If we can do this then I think we will see some good results this season.

MotoGP, 2005

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