It’s not often senior personnel from the Japanese manufacturers visit World Superbike races, but at the previous round of the championship Suzuki’s Racing Group Leader Mr Fumihiro Ohnishi attended the German race.
Mr Ohnishi spoke about Suzuki’s close and ongoing links with Alstare Suzuki, next year’s riders and the new technical regulations, which will see 1200cc twins racing in 2008.
MCN: Why did you visit the Lausitzring World Superbikes round?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “Last year was the first year of my new job as head of racing activity and I visited the MotoGP race in Valencia - as that was my priority then because of the new regulations. After that race, I went to the Alstare headquarters in Belgium and met Mr Francis Batta and the staff.
“So this year I wanted to come to a World Superbike race and I went to Lausitz.
“My job is MotoGP, World Superbikes, All-Japan Championship, British Superbikes and USA AMA Superbike. In Superbikes, the World Superbike Championship is my priority.
“Before 2006, I was a designer for production bikes - GSX-R1000, GSX-R750, Bandit etc., and other big bikes. I did not work on small bikes or scooters.”
MCN: Do you find any difference in atmosphere between MotoGP and World Superbikes?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “There is a different atmosphere in MotoGP compared to World Superbikes. World Superbikes are based on production bikes , so there are very many interested fans in the bikes and our bike specially I think. I find both series very exciting and I am happy to be at the racetrack.”
MCN: What level of support will you give to Alstare in 2008?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “We will give Alstare the same level of support as this year. Both technical and financial levels will stay the same. In the middle of this season, I introduced two Japanese engineers into the Alstare team and next year we will continue this same level of commitment.”
MCN: Will you change your level of support depending on Alstare’s level of sponsorship?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “We will maintain the same level of support and assistance (technical and financial) whatever happens to Alstare’s sponsorship.
“If they do not get a sponsor for whatever reason, we will still be with them. We must be involved in this championship and that means we will be involved with Alstare, because they do a good job.”
MCN: Do you think you support Alstare at the same level as Yamaha and Honda?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “I do not know what kind of support they get, but I would think the level of support is about the same.”
MCN: What about Max Biaggi for Alstare Suzuki in 2008?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “The decision about Max is up to Mr Francis Batta to make. I am satisfied with Max Biaggi and Yukio Kagayama.”
MCN: Yukio Kagayama has had an up and down season. Maybe it is time to get another rider?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “Yukio is a very valuable rider for Suzuki. He tests many bikes, including MotoGP and Superbike and his information and feedback is very good and very helpful for us. His racing results are not so important because of the great feedback he gives us.”
MCN: 2008 will see 1200 cc Ducatis, do you have any particular strategy about this?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “We will keep the same strategy for 2008 as this year. At the moment this is our plan. If the 1200 cc bikes have too much advantage, we will wait and see what the FIM do about it. The regulations are written about this idea, so we will wait and see what happens.
“The Suzuki racing department is small enough to be able to make changes quite quickly if required.”
MCN: Do you plan to help or support any satellite teams in 2008 or the near future?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “We have no plan to do this. Our priority is to get the best result in this championship and we feel that this is best achieved by working with one good team - Alstare. So we will concentrate our efforts in this direction - with Alstare.”
MCN: Would you consider offering kit parts to other teams?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “If our company wanted to make kit parts, I think it could be a good idea, but at present there are no such plans.
“If we were to think about making kit parts for other race teams, we would need to discuss it with our sales department first but, as I said, our priority at the moment is to work with one strong team - Alstare.”
MCN: How many people work in the Suzuki race department?
Fumihiro Ohnishi: “I can say that maybe the ratio of people who work on MotoGP to Superbike is probably about 60 to 40 per cent. But some engineers work in both areas depending on requirements.
“For example, when we made a new bike for the MotoGP class, the chassis engineer worked more on that project. As there are no regulation changes in MotoGP next year, this engineer can spend more time on Superbike if required. We have quite a few people who work in both areas.”
MCN: Are there any riders you would like to see riding for you in World Superbikes?
Ohnishi: “I have very little experience in this matter really. Normally the rider is chosen by the team, so I am not involved.
“But if another rider was needed, I think maybe it could be a good idea to go for a young rider and try and help him develop in his career.”