Ten Kate and the 2015 effect

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With a flatter and more accessible technical landscape that is certain to help the push of the CBR1000RR in WSB in 2015, and two new talented riders to boot, the Pata Honda WSB team has already seen a change in its overall expectation levels all-round for the new season, despite losing their best rider of the past few years, Jonathan Rea, in the winter.

After a fourth place in race one at PI and then leading the second race for a time, rookie WSB rider Michael van der Mark came close to blowing the roof off the early season expectations of many, even within the Pata Honda team itself. Especially at a circuit that has not been great to them in the recent past.

In a the post-Rea era for the only official Honda team in the WSB paddock we asked team manager Ronald ten Kate about what is a very much changed landscape for the team that won the 2007 Riders’ world championship with James Toseland. And in particular about the amazing early pace of their compatriot and protégé van der Mark.

“I think it is basically because Michael has the talent there,” said RTK. “He gels really well with his crew and his machine. Normally Phillip Island is not the most favourite track for the bike as we can see from the historical results. So we were a lot bit surprised by what he put on show.”

The new tech rules are also hard at work already, in RTKs’ opinion.

“The rules have definitely arranged a more level playing field,” he stated. “In the past certain bikes would have a benefit of more than 20kmph on some other bikes down the straight, but that has passed now. So, yes, the new rules just make it all a lot closer. We are in a lot better position than in previous years because the bike has become stronger and the changes we have made have worked out quite good as well.”

There may also have been strong early results at PI for reigning world champion Sylvain Guintoli, were it not for the after-effects of his heavy testing fall still lingering as two 22-lap races unwound.

Said ten Kate about his other great hope for 2015, “With Sylvain we could see that he could just hang onto the leading group until his injury played up again and he had to lose a bit. But I am quite sure that when he is fit again we will have two riders in the bunch.”

Ten Kate, with van der Mark as a home grown Dutch rider and a package that seems competitive again already working in harmony, must feel that there are noticeable differences inside his team already?

“I can honestly say that we have already worked as hard as possible,” affirmed the plain speaking Dutchman. “If we were top ten, top five or winning, that aspect does not change an awful lot. But it is a lot nicer to be at the front. The motivation comes from within. Having a Dutch guy on board for sure is nice, because there is a lot more patting on the shoulders of the individual people. But it does not change an awful lot. It does not mean that we can spend more money or more sponsorship has been coming in, nothing like it.”

“We have also lost our little secret language…” joked Ten Kate about having a Dutch rider in the WSB garage for the first time. “In the past, every now and then we could communicate in our little secret language. We cannot do a ‘quick one’ in front of the rider anymore!”

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Gordon Ritchie

By Gordon Ritchie