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Aspar on ‘difficult season’ and plans for future

At almost the halfway point of the 2014 season, Jorge ‘Aspar’ Martinez discusses the ups and downs of the campaign thus far, as well as looking towards the future in an ever-changing age of the World Championship.

Talk us through the year so far…
Back in October, we had very high hopes as we announced that our 2014 line-up would consist of Hiroshi Aoyama and Nicky Hayden, complete with a Honda project. However, so far things have not gone quite as we had hoped. We are second and fourth in the Open category, but without doubt we had expected more. In terms of lap times, we are better than we were last year, but the MotoGP™ category in general has made a big leap forward with regards to the overall pace.

And it hasn’t been helped by the wrist injury for Nicky Hayden…
That is the big problem we’ve had: Nicky’s injury. Despite not having any crash, this wrist injury has reared its ugly head. I know he had that hand operated on at the end of last year, but the scaphoid injury just seems to have reappeared. Until Jerez, things had been looking up for us; Nicky finished tenth there and only five seconds behind (Andrea) Dovizioso in fifth place. So, we had even come close to a Factory bike. Unfortunately, the ordeal has really set in since then. The truth of the matter is that this has been a difficult year, but because of Nicky’s hand; not really because of anything else, because as a team and with the bike we were closing in on our targets.

Has the Open specification Honda proven to be a disappointing choice?
No. It is a completely new bike, which works very well and which is far superior to the best CRT bike of last year – and I think that was the objective for Honda. What has happened is that Yamaha, using the current regulations, have managed to provide a team (in this case, Forward Racing) with a successful lease package. That bike has proven to be far superior to ours, especially with Aleix Espargaro at the helm. I think that has been the big problem for us, but I am confident that Honda – if not this year, then next year – will give us a much more competitive bike.

It does look as though Honda is promising that, doesn’t it? That the 2015 Open Honda will be more competitive than that of this year. There is also talk that it could arrive before the end of this year…
Yes, Honda has told us that next year’s Open bike will be practically the same as the Factory bike, but without the seamless transmission and obviously using the Open electronics. If that proves to be the case, then I am convinced that we can make a huge step forward with this bike. The bike we have at the moment works very well; it is just that we need more power - and in that case we would have that extra power. With the Open rules (with the softer tyre, 12 engines per rider, per season and 24 litres of fuel) I think it would be very competitive. I hope we are able to do a race with that bike before the end of this season; it would definitely come as a breath of fresh air towards the end of this difficult year.

You recently commented on the need to refresh the team looking towards next year, naming riders such as Aleix Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista – two riders who have already been part of your setup in the past. What can you tell us?
It is true that we are looking into all possibilities for riders ahead of next year. I wish we could have Aleix Espargaro! We know him, both as a rider and as a person, and we know what he could do. We know it is difficult. He is one rider interesting a lot of teams at the moment and we will fight to get him back, but we know it is not easy. Alvaro Bautista could also be available. Or why not Tito Rabat? There are many riders whose names we would like to sign. These are not just ideas, either. We have already spoken with all three of them. We know signing them wouldn’t be easy, but they are obviously possibilities for us.

I would also like to make it clear that we have a two-year contact with Nicky Hayden and that he has absolute priority. We are delighted with him as a rider, as a person and as a professional. I just hope his hand will recover in order for him to push 100% with us - that would be the best news for me. But, as I say, we are looking into all possibilities. The same goes for Hiroshi Aoyama. We are very pleased and he is having a good season; he has put in some great performances, such as being the leading Open rider in Argentina. We just continue to look into all of the possible options, because MotoGP™ gets faster by the day and we just want to make the best possible choices for our future.

Away from your role of team owner, how do you gauge the 2014 season?
With MotoGP™ 2014, you can say a lot, but I take mainly two things from it: one is what Marc Marquez is doing and how he is a real revelation for the World Championship. He is putting down a marker that just didn’t exist before, not least in this new era of equalising things…an era in which we sometimes have only half a second between the first and tenth position in qualifying. The other thing I would highlight is Valentino Rossi. He’s a guy with nine world titles to his name, he is 35 years of age and he is second in the standings. I think that is worth of admiration and I really believe that what he is doing is just incredible.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2014, Hiroshi Aoyama, Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar

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