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23 days ago
By Honda Team Asia

Toba talks about tough 2017

The Honda Team Asia rider faced an unexpectedly difficult debut season

After finishing 10th in Moto3™ at the Argentine Grand Prix, Kaito Toba was almost always swamped in the back groups during the 2017 Championship season, and unable to live up to his potential. Through these hardships, however, the 17-year-old Japanese rider learned a lot, and has now become a more determined young man, as a rider and as a person.

Kaito Toba: “The 2017 season was my first world championship year, and everything was new to me. That’s why I struggled a lot. At the beginning of the season, I had some good finishes and expected I would be competitive as the season went on. But, it was not the case. I improved a bit after the summer break, then started struggling again. In general, my results in the 2017 season had many ups and downs and wasn’t consistent at all.”

What difficulty did you find the most unexpected?

KT: “The difference in feel between this year’s bike and last year’s. It was the most embarrassing thing. I wanted a good feel from my bike like last year and tried to find the right setup, but couldn't. That’s why I struggled and could not get good results this season.”

Was this the most difficult season in your racing career?

KT: “Absolutely. I’ve never experienced such a hard season. I think my racing career went quite smoothly before I came to the World Championship. When I started racing in the All Japan Championship, I could get some decent results. Also in the FIM CEV Repsol Championship and MotoGP Rookies Cup, even in the first season, I could score some good championship points. I haven’t had such difficulties before, and to be honest, I struggled very much to get out from there.”

These difficulties potentially made you anxious about your competitiveness as a racing rider. How did you manage, and control yourself?

KT: “I had no idea how to manage the mental side so my crew chief and the team staff all helped and supported me, which is how we could come through this tough season. I always tried to keep my confidence up, remembering the thrill of riding the bike for the first time and stay positive. But even so, sometimes I couldn’t manage by myself, and I felt down. During those times, my team encouraged me to get back to a positive mindset. For example, when I went to a track that I had raced in CEV or the Rookies Cup, and my lap times and results were worse than last year, I almost lost confidence. But looking at the data, there was always something positive, which was good to get my confidence back. And it also gave me the opportunity to learn where I had to improve. It was a very tough season for me because I didn't get any decent results, but at the same time, I believe that I will be stronger when I overcome these issues. I also learnt how to manage myself. So, I firmly believe this year’s experiences were an excellent opportunity to make me stronger.”

Even though you had spent a few weeks in Europe in the CEV and Rookies Cup, you had never been there for as long as you were this year. How do you find life in Europe?

KT: “I like the European lifestyle - the atmosphere and cuisine. But I had to fly to and from Europe, so I was also on a plane for a lot of the time! The problem with the distance and the hours spent flying, is I can't use that time to train. I think this is to my disadvantage compared to European riders.”

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a rider?

KT: “I have no idea! Let me see. I think I am a tough rider in a battle. I never give way to other riders just only to avoid contact. On the other hand, I might be a little bit too cautious when the conditions become tricky. It was possibly one of the reasons I struggled this year.”

What is your objective for the 2018 season?

KT: “My target is to win the Championship. When we look at the Moto3 Championship results in the past, riders became successful in their second year. So, I should get good results next year too. And to make it happen, I will train harder than ever this winter. I believe I have great skills and the potential to fight in the lead group. I will be able to reap what I have sown in the difficult 2017 season.”