Ilmor - no regrets

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Ilmor MotoGP boss Mario Illien says he has got no regrets about embarking on the costly and difficult challenge of trying to be competitive in the MotoGP world championship arena.

Despite a nightmare opening to the season in Qatar, with British rider Jeremy McWilliams missing the season's opening race through injury and Aussie Andrew Pitt retiring with engine problems while he was cut adrift at the back of the field, .Ilien said he was still confident and optimistic that his Formula One-inspired 800cc V4 machine would be top ten competitive in 2007.

“We are still aiming for that and I think that is still realistic, “said Illien.

That follows the Northamptonshire-based getting a rude awakening in winter testing, with Andrew Pitt and Jeremy McWilliams struggling off the pace.

Illien has pumped millions of his own money into the project in a bid not to become another Formula One flop in MotoGP, and he said: “I’ve no regrets. You have to go through bad times and as long as you use it to motivate people to move forward then even negative experiences can be positive. I have been there before with other projects and you have to pick yourself up and make things work.”

A new engine was tested for the first time at the IRTA test Jerez last month, which helped cure some of the problems encountered with an earlier spec on the V4.

An aggressive power delivery has been tamed to some extent but Illien said more improvements were essential.

“We still have an issue going into the corner on braking and coming clean out of the corner. We have been collecting a lot of data and once we have cracked those issues we should see a reasonable lap time. We are obviously playing with engine braking and there is always a delicate balance between sufficient braking, over braking or pushing into the corners. We need to get that absolutely right for every corner and condition. We are not quite there yet. On the wheelie side that now looks ok but still when they pick up the throttle initially it is still too aggressive and that is something we need to address and get the measure of. The new engine has a lot of changes. We have cleaned up everywhere but the biggest single difference the throttle control and the inlet system.”

Illien admitted though that he was much happier with progress recently than he was after the February Sepang test in Malaysia. Former Yamaha World Superbike rider Pitt was barely on 250 lap record pace and Illien said: “It was very disappointing. We went there to get some miles and we didn’t expect to be so far off. It was very sobering to be that far behind, We were nowhere near that find behind last year in Estoril and Valencia but that was very disappointing.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt