HRC expects stronger challenge from Dani Pedrosa after crew reshuffle

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Honda management hope Dani Pedrosa can deliver a stronger title threat in 2015 after the Spaniard’s major crew reshuffle for next season.

The Spaniard axed long-serving mechanics Mark Barnett and Christophe Leonce, which in turn played a part in crew chief Mike Leitner’s decision to reject a two-year deal and quit his chief engineer relationship with Pedrosa that stretched back to 2004.

Pedrosa won only one race in 2014 and finished fourth in the final rankings, having been completely overshadowed by Repsol Honda teammate Marc Marquez for a second successive year.

Marquez won a record 13 races and finished a massive 116-points clear of his compatriot but HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto admitted he was surprised but supportive of Pedrosa’s decision to alter his crew.

The Japanese boss told MCN: “I was surprised but sometimes it can be good because Dani needed some new motivation. I am happy to change Dani’s staff, even though technically they are at a very high level. But this team has been together for a long time and with not such good results Dani was thinking of a way to try and do something different. Dani wanted to do this and I followed this idea and supported it, even if we are losing very good mechanics. Rider motivation is worth a few tenths and if a change helps then I support this.”

Valentino Rossi was galvanised by his ruthless decision to fire legendary Aussie crew chief Jerry Burgess at the end of 2013 to bring in Silvano Galbusera.

The Italian won two races and scored 11 podiums and Nakamoto said he will be looking for a step up in performance from Pedrosa.

He added: “I am hoping that he can raise his level. Valentino is a very good example because he is 35 and still improving and still trying to learn. He won two races this season and Dani is much younger, so let’s see if he make a step with some of the changes.”

Pedrosa will work with Ramon Aurin as his crew chief in 2015, who has been a date engineer with the Spaniard in HRC.

Eager to keep Barnett and Leonce’s experience at Honda next season, both have found other roles for next season. Barnett will work with Scott Redding at Marc VDS Racing and Leonce has moved to LCR Honda to work with Aussie rookie Jack Miller.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt