MCN talked to the team’s two crew chiefs Adrian Gorst (with Ryuichi Kiyonari in 2010) and Chris Pike (in Brookes’ corner this year) to find out what they think about their rider’s chances in 2010 - and how the 2010 HM Plant Hondas will be developed this winter.
Adrian, you worked with Josh last year but you’re back with Kiyo. How do you feel about that?
AG: I’d like to have finished what I started with Josh. It can take a year to build a relationship with a rider – and you usually find year two brings better results.
But I worked with Kiyo for four years before and it worked well before. I think that’s why the decision was made to put us together.
Do you think Kiyo can be the force he was in 2006/2007?
AG: There’s no doubting his ability. Of the riders I’ve worked with, I’d say he’s a more natural rider than even Colin Edwards.
CP: I worked with Kiyo at Croft last year and it’s still there (his ability). I saw flashes of brilliance. The first race he was closing down on Josh and his lap times were spectacular.
Coming to ride an unfamiliar bike on unfamiliar tyres we didn’t expect too much from him in the really balls-out fast sector two but his sector one and three times showed how strong he was in the more technical parts of the track.
AG: He was always been strong in the slower sectors – the really technical nadgery stuff – though he’s never been weak in the fast stuff either.
CP: (On balance) maybe that’s why he was so strong in BSB before – our tracks have a lot of technical sections (compared to the faster, flowing world championship circuits).
AG: We’ll need to help rebuild his confidence. It’s a big risk for Kiyo coming back. It’s career over if he doesn’t perform.
CP: We’re confident he can do it but we won’t know until we’re working with him week in, week out.
Josh said last year he was always looking for one small missing element that would have put him with Camier and the Yamaha. What was that element?
AG: Circuit knowledge. Nearly all the tracks were new to him so we were generally a day behind each time.
It really showed at Mallory where he went out onto the bumps (in the braking zone for the hairpin, which ultimately caused the seven rider crash). He’ll come back stronger this year.
He also needs to adapt more. He needed to be able to be more flexible in the way he rode. He was trying to carry too much corner speed and you can’t always do that – but he was coming from a supersport ride.
CP: Thing is he has the circuit knowledge to work from now and he knows the rough spots – places where not to ride even if that seem like the ideal line. It’s stuff that comes from experience of the circuits.
AG: You know the boy didn’t do bad last year. He got 10 podiums out his 14 race finishes and overall, he fared batter than Kiyo did in his first season of BSB, though you could argue BSB was not at the same level as when Kiyo was riding in it!
What was the biggest single thing holding the Honda back last year?
CP: It doesn’t stop well. It’s not as bad as it was (because of changes the team has made since 2008) but it still needs to stop better.
That’s not simply a brakes issue then?
CP: Not at all, it’s something we have to overcome with weight distribution, suspension and electronics. It is possible to get it better.
Ten Kate made big advances last year (changing to Ohlins and electronics upgrades)
AG: It’s been a problem since we got the new bike in 2008. It’s not an issue as a road bike but it is when you build it in a racing format.
But we’re looking at a change in suspension character and electronics to improve the situation this year.
You have a new Motec system? What does it give you over the HRC kit system?
AG: There are more options for us to work with. We’ve had a form of traction control before but only in a very simple format.
And we never any kind of launch control. This is a sospisticated system and we have GPS, which enables us to have different settings for different parts of the race track.
CP: It means you can have corner-specific engine braking strategies. There’s no way (with the limited amount of pre-season testing) we’ll get everything working for the start of the year though.
The aim is to use testing to find a base setting then we’ll be able to explore the possibilities and develop the system as the season progresses.
What about engine spec for 2010. Will you chase more power?
CP: Horsepower is not an issue but we’ll be doing some camshaft testing (to alter the engine character).
We have two different engine specs – one with less power but more top end and the other had more bottom end, which Glen (Richards – Pike’s rider in 2009) preferred.
AG: Josh has tried both (at Mallory) and prefers the one with more top end. He just likes the push of the engine but the test was inconclusive.
The new Marchesinis? Simply to replace old stock or is there more to it than that?
AG: Our old wheels are strong but heavy.
These are lighter (to give marginal improvement in manoeuvrability) but the biggest gain is that they are said to ride and absorb the bumps better and give less chance of chatter as a result.