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Yamano experience benefits Repsol Honda

Yamano experience benefits Repsol Honda

Kazuhiko Yamano joined Honda at just 19 years of age, and 25 years later he is the Repsol Honda Team Manager in MotoGP.

Having joined Honda in the early 1980s, by 1991 Kazuhiko Yamano was working as a mechanic with the legendary Mick Doohan and has since worked with the likes of Sete Gibernau, Taddy Okada and Tohru Ukawa.

His impressive CV also includes four years working at the HRC Factory Team Manager at the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours event, with his vast experience leading him to his current position as Repsol Honda Team Manager in MotoGP, overseeing the work of Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden.

You have gone on from being Doohan´s mechanic to being Ukawa´s Chief Mechanic, a member of Okada´s and Gibernau´s development teams, and Team Manager. Now you are in charge of one of the most powerful teams in the. How do you face these changes in responsibility?

`My dream was to one day become team manager in the top category with HRC. Many people would like to get that job. But it was not only my dream. I´ve gradually climbed many steps since I started out as a mechanic and finally became Team Manager. Though I don´t think it´s my definitive goal. I don´t have any goals, I just want to improve. In the past, all the Team Managers were engineers, but I come from a mechanic´s background. I want to show all the young mechanics, and the rest, that a mechanic can make it to Team Manager if they are ambitious and work hard enough.´

You have worked in different areas of the team, and I suppose that gives you a much broader view of the team as a whole. Does that make your job easier?

`Thanks to my experience as a mechanic, I know how the mechanics feel, even the riders, because the relationship is very close. Even more so when you´re the Chief Mechanic. Therefore, now I can understand all points of view within a team; what they are feeling, how they face problems, how to have a good relationship with the riders…´

You have worked with a number of different riders. Who impressed you the most?

`I think that, to date, Mick Doohan impressed me the most, because after the serious accident he had in 1992, and the complicated injury, he recovered and won the championship on five occasions. His motivation was incredible, and he showed me that the important thing is to be highly motivated in order to win the World Championship. His fighting spirit also impressed me a lot.´

In Qatar, Dani Pedrosa said, `now I´ve seen the real meaning of being with HRC´. There were difficult months during the pre-season, but at that moment Honda made an enormous effort and the riders got what they had asked for. Some people say that the important figure behind all this, is you. How do you feel about that?

`It´s not only me who did all the hard work. As Team Manager, I did what was expected of me. There are many people within the HRC and we have to let everyone who is part of this company know what the actual situation of the team is, the complaints made by the riders, etc. Not just an approximate description, but a clear idea of what is needed. I just did my job, which happens to be that of Team Manager, but at the time everyone did what was expected of them.´

Last year, the RC212V had more problems than expected and the bike continued developing. What do you think of the bike at the current stage of development, and what potential do you think it has?

`Last year the rules changed and displacement was limited to 800cc. We´d made a new bike, and we didn´t want to start all over again this year. So we made use of the work done until then to develop the bike, without any major changes. When I´m asked `can the championship be won in this situation?´, I think it´s a tricky question to answer. We have to try out new things, and that takes time; and though we´re aware that the riders are expecting these developments, we´re still carrying out tests.´

What is your opinion on Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden?

`Both riders are very strong mentally and are very talented, though with different characters, which we try to make the most of in both cases. I´ve learnt a lot from Dani, as he knows who to seize the chance in any particular situation. He´s a very intelligent rider. Nicky is very aggressive, and thanks to his team´s motivation and his own passion for the team, he also does some very valuable work.´

You were there in the 500cc category, then the MotoGP stage, and now 800cc. How do you see the World Motorcycling Championship right now?

`I understand well the change made to four-stroke engines, because four-stroke engines are more environmentally-friendly. And the subsequent change to 800cc is also easy to explain, as it was done to improve safety for the riders.´

What is your opinion on traction control?

`I think what´s most important is the riders´ safety, so if traction control was introduced to improve that aspect, I understand why it was done.´

Last year, Bridgestone was visibly one step ahead of Michelin, and some teams changed their supplier. Honda won the last few championships with the French brand, and decided to stay with them. Is the team satisfied right now?

`I´m very happy. The overall performance of Michelin is very good. I don´t know for sure what happened last year, as I was not Team Manager, but this year we´ve often met to discuss opinions and right now we´re doing a good job together.´

Can you tell us anything about the new engine?

`Our job is to provide a machine that is capable of winning. It doesn´t matter what valves it uses, whether pneumatic or standard. We try to produce machines that win races, and continue to work on both options to meet this goal.´

Who do you think is in a stronger position to fight for the championship: Ducati or Yamaha?

`Both are very strong, they have bikes that perform very well, and both have very good riders in their teams.´

MotoGP, 2008, Repsol Honda Team

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