Team Suzuki Ecstar Project Manager Shinichi Sahara reveals his feelings during this tough time and opens up about how 2020 development and plans are on hold, adding ‘I hope we’ll be back in the paddock soon with all friends’.
“Well, none of us are living our best days right now and the COVID-19 crisis is hitting the whole world relentlessly. It is difficult to take it all in; no-one expected such a huge pandemic with such a rapid spread. So now is the time for us all to fight, not on the track as we’re used to, but in a completely different area of our lives.
“It is time to join together, to show solidarity with those who suffer the most, to remain patient, and overcome this outbreak in the best way possible by staying safe and keeping healthy. I really hope we will be back in the paddock soon, seeing our friends and colleagues, competing again, and feeling all the emotions that motorcycle racing gives us!
“In Japan, the situation seems somewhat a little less delicate than in other countries, but the decision has been made to postpone the Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021, and the emergency declaration for some areas the government announced made people more upset and nervous in our country in these days. But here in Hamamatsu, where the factory is, fortunately, there is not a high number of infections. Nevertheless, we are very much aware that we have to be careful with this virus; we’ve seen the sad damage it can do.
“This global crisis is affecting a large number of sporting, cultural, and social events. They are all being cancelled or delayed and this, of course, includes the MotoGP World Championship. Everything has stopped but we are living through a very important and difficult moment, restrictions must be in place and the situation must be taken seriously.
“We had to adjust some of our plans after the schedule has changed, but the idea is to try to continue with our development process, even if reduced, as best we can.
“From a racing point of view it was a pity not to start in Qatar because we felt really ready to fight in the top group from the first race onwards, so I am a bit disappointed. But it’s the same for all the teams and riders and we have to accept it. Above all, the most important thing to focus on is the safety and the health of everyone, much more than racing.
“We know that after everything was halted, the FIM decided, along with Dorna and IRTA, to freeze development to try and make the conditions fair for the European manufacturers, who are suffering more at the moment. This is a good thing because it means we’re all in the same boat in terms of progress, and it creates a more level playing field. We left the sample of the engine that should be approved and homologated in Qatar, and we sent the aero-package drawings for homologation. We understand that we can’t develop, but we may have time to produce more pieces of parts that we found were positive during the winter test sessions.
“As a team, we might also explore more opportunities to discuss deeply by telephone or web meetings what we need to do for the next step. We have a lot of ideas to improve, but even in the current situation, there is never enough time! In any case, with no riders on track, it is always difficult to develop and everything moves much more slowly.
“Now we are simply waiting for this pandemic to be over and for the world to recover, while Dorna is trying hard to reorganise the World Championship. I know some people were asking for another test before the season begins, and I can see the sense in that, but honestly speaking, the season is going to be too short as it is, so it would be better to just get started as soon as we can. Probably it would be a good idea to have a test session or two on Thursday in the same week of the first race. It seems that we are going to have much less time to test this year because we may have to cancel the rest of the tests, but I’m sure we will find a way to make everything work!
“I'd like to send my best wishes to everyone during this challenging time, let’s hope to meet on track again soon!”