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Yoda: "2007 is more than a transitional year for Kawasaki"

Yoda: '2007 is more than a transitional year for Kawasaki'

Kawasaki's decision to go "in-house" with their MotoGP project this season, replacing former Project Manager Harald Eckl with existing Racing Director Ichiro Yoda, signifies a new era for the Japanese factory. Ahead of the team's latest test, the Official event in Qatar, motogp.com caught up with the new boss to find out what changes lie in store for Kawasaki in 2007.

Kawasaki's decision to go "in-house" with their MotoGP project this season, replacing former Project Manager Harald Eckl with existing Racing Director Ichiro Yoda, signifies a new era for the Japanese factory. Ahead of the team's latest test, the Official event in Qatar, motogp.com caught up with the new boss to find out what changes lie in store for Kawasaki in 2007.

What does the change in team management mean for Kawasaki, in both the structure and philosophy of the team?

As we have already announced, the Kawasaki Racing Team in MotoGP is now under the direct control of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. This means the factory now control the brand, the bike development and our MotoGP racing activities. Now all this is one package. In the past, we have contracted out the running of our MotoGP team to an outside company, whilst we took care of development. From this year we have brought everything together under one roof. We can now define a target for all the elements that make up our MotoGP effort, consider how best to achieve these targets and then follow the steps necessary to make sure that we do so. The new philosophy is that we are one team, all working towards the same goals.

Is 2007 a year of transition for Kawasaki, after Shinya Nakano parted ways with the team?

No, we are not in a transitional year. Shinya is a very good rider and he would have made a valuable contribution to the development of our new bike, but he decided to take on a new challenge for this year. However, we still have two outstanding riders in Randy and Olivier. Olivier has a lot of experience in the role of development rider, as well as being an accomplished racer. For me, Olivier has similar experience to Shinya when it comes to development and racing, so the change is purely one of nationalities, from Japanese to French.

Will you personally have much the same role as last year, or will Kawasaki bring in a new Racing Director whilst you take charge of the team affairs?

As before, I will establish our development direction with the new bike, but this year I will also be responsible for our racing results. It is not such a big difference, although I will be involved more in the racing activities this season, whereas last year I was responsible only for development. So now, I must also think about sponsors and feedback from the market, so the commercial aspect will be quite important. The biggest change for me personally is that I must move to Europe to live.

When do you think that Kawasaki will hit their peak in preseason testing, and what are your impressions of the 800cc project so far?

I don't think we will peak during the preseason. We started a little bit later than others but since we put the new bike on the track, the progress has been quite good. We still have some areas that need further and quicker development, but, so far, our bike is quite acceptable. We already know that we will start the season a little bit behind in terms of results compared to other manufacturers, as they have spent more time to set up the bikes. I am confident that we will catch up soon, though.

Is the change to 800cc something that favours Kawasaki, one of the smaller factories on the grid (in terms of presence)?

We are not a small manufacturer! It's just that our racing department is smaller than others. I think the 800's are easier for all manufacturers. The engine has less capacity, and power, and that means that automatically these engines are friendlier to the riders and to tyre consumption. They are easier for everybody and I think that, for us, has been a good change.

What different strengths do Olivier Jacque and Randy de Puniet offer the team? Have you been brushing up on your French for the coming season?

They are quite different riders. Their standing positions are different. Olivier has good experience with development and he knows many different bikes, so I'm sure that he will indicate the right direction to go and help to find out the best set up. After that, we will give this set up straight to Randy to see if it suits him as well. This will save time while Randy's strength is doing a good job in racing itself. Even though Olivier's speciality is development, I think he will improve throughout the season and I'm confident he will get a good result at the end of the season. Learning French? It is impossible for me. I can't speak any French at all. ‘Merci' is the most I can say!

Kawasaki's five year plan on entering MotoGP was to start being serious contenders in 2007. Have recent changes in rider, team structure and engine capacity set this plan back, or do you believe that you are still on course?

This year we start a new three-year plan. We have started a new era and we will be in a good position in 2009. Not just a serious contender but, who knows, why not champions...

Tags:
MotoGP, 2007, Kawasaki Racing Team

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