WorldSBK.com speak exclusively to Marco Chini, Honda’s WorldSBK Operations Manager
Following the announcement of Takumi Takahashi joining the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team, who will be stepping in for two of the final four rounds of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, WorldSBK.com exclusively spoke to Marco Chini, Honda WorldSBK Operations Manager – Honda Motor Europe. Following a testing season so far, we ask about the replacement riders the team have had, as well as the plans for the future.
Following the tragic death of Nicky Hayden back in May, the team have called upon the expertise of American Jake Gagne and Italian Davide Giugliano for two rounds of the season. Now calling up the HRC test rider Takahashi, who has also taken three Suzuka 8-Hour wins, they are hoping someone who has so much experience on the Fireblade will help with the further development of the SP2.
How do you feel the replacement rides have gone so far?
Both Jake Gagne and Davide Giugliano have helped the WorldSBK project. The new SP2 machine was delivered at the beginning of 2017; we had little time for testing and development early in the season, so their feedback later in the year helped us in this regard.
Have they (Gagne and Giugliano) been able to help you with the development of the Fireblade SP2?
Every replacement rider was a big help to the project, we need to collect data of different riding style in order to make a well balanced evaluation.
Do you know if you will have Takahashi riding for you for the remainder of the season?
Takahashi-San is only confirmed for the Portimao and Jerez rounds, and we are looking forward to seeing his potential in the WorldSBK championship. He is the rider with perhaps the most experience with the Fireblade, so we look forward to his feedback on the WorldSBK-spec machine.
We know the talks for next season are complicated, are you confident the team will be finalised soon?
We are working with Ten Kate about it and we are getting closer to next years vision. I’m confident we can finalize details in the next few weeks.
What is your ideal target for the rest of the season?
Unfortunately the current season is already compromised, but the main target at the moment is to make the CBR1000RR SP2 stronger in the WorldSBK series. Next season we want to be back in the fight for the leading positions in the championship, and our priority now is setting the best path for development.
How confident are you that you will be able to secure a strong team for 2018?
In 2017 we have learned a very tough lesson and suffered some bad luck as well. Considering all we have learned in 2017 - and the countermeasures we are adopting for next season - we should be able to make significant steps.