Alberto Puig was recently revealed as the new Team Manager for the Repsol Honda Team, and the Spaniard sat down with motogp.com to give his first interview since the appointment was announced. Puig, who began his career as a rider before moving into management and talent promotion, talks about his history – that of a rider, rather than a bureaucrat – fitting in at Honda, and the future of the team as he sees it. He also analyses the team’s two riders, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, as well as giving his thoughts on big rivals Yamaha and Ducati.
First up, Puig’s relationship with Honda stretches back more than 25 years, and he now heads up the Japanese factory’s MotoGP™ effort. How does that feel?
“I’m eager to get started,” says the Spaniard. “It’s a world I know, although I wouldn’t say it will be more of the same. But I know the environment and in previous years I’ve had to take on the role of Team Manager. I know the dynamics of the job, but I’m happy about the confidence they’ve put in me. I want the action to start.”
So how and where do you go about improving an outfit that has just won the title? Puig explains that the exterior results don’t always reflect the internal reality. “Sometimes that doesn’t reflect any problems that may exist. Sometimes, results don’t show the reality of the situation and when you win, it doesn’t mean everything is perfect. In recent years, Honda has been helped out a lot by the rider.
"Honda have been winning races forever. When you enter into the management, you can’t just look at the present – you have to see things more long term. That’s my idea; looking to the future to see what the possibilities are.”
For Puig, that means a structure that not only creates a winning reality – it must also be a sustainable one. “The changes in the regulations in recent years, which have tightened the category, have been a success,” says the Spaniard. “But we must prepare for possible changes at a human and technical level. In the short term you have to try to win, but you also have to create a structure that allows us to go forward with options at victory. What worries me is how Honda starts. We have to focus on ourselves and be as smart as possible.”
That outlines the new Manager’s vision for the team, then – but what about Honda’s expectations of him? Puig says his CV is why he is there, and that he’ll be playing an active role. “Honda is the manufacturer with the most race wins and they know perfectly what they have to do. I come from racing, not from behind a desk. I’ve been a rider, manager, coach, trainer…which I think means I have a lot to contribute. I think my profile is a good fit, and my intention isn’t to go in there and look – it’s to act.”
With that in mind, what was the reaction of the riders – Marquez and Pedrosa, two of the most successful on the grid – when they found out he would be the new Team Manager? "I don’t know, but for me the important thing is that HRC believes that I can be here,” he affirms. “I'm sure the riders understood it. I have a clear idea of who both riders are and I think they understand what kind of person I am - and what I have in my mind.
"I believe that the big factories have to have two riders at a super high level. I don’t believe in having a good rider and a bad one. You have to have two of the best, which is the case with this team. We have an interesting combination; one of whom is more of an expert and the other of whom has very high potential.”
Puig goes on to talk about the two Repsol Honda riders further, as well as giving his thoughts on key rivals Yamaha and Ducati. Check out the video to see more, and tune in for the Sepang Test on January 28th as he publicly takes the reins for the first time. The immediate target? Something quite concrete: "The races are incredible, but we’re here to win them."