With the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team back from a successful week of testing in southern Europe, and bringing with it the vast array of vital data collected, we took a moment to sit down with visiting Yoshimura Technical Manager, Yohei Kato, to discuss his thoughts on the season ahead in what, for Yoshimura, is a very special year.
Firstly, for those who are not aware, what is your relationship with the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki Team and why was it important for Yoshimura to become a team partner?
“Yoshimura wanted to participate in the eni FIM Superbike World Championship to continue the development of our technology, but it is difficult for us to attend WSBK by ourselves, due to limited budget and the logistical challenges being based in Japan. We have always had a good relationship with Crescent as a distributor, and also as exhaust supplier for the British Superbike race team. It was very important for us to be able to develop engines at such a high level, the partnership with the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki World Superbike team allows us this opportunity; and we are very happy with the relationship and the steps we have taken so far. I am not able to attend every race in person, so I rely on the Crescent technicians to service and prepare the engines, while we concentrate on the engine development from our Japanese base.”
The Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team has recently returned from the pre-season test in Portimao, Portugal, which you also attended. How do you feel after the two days on track?
“The test in Portimao for me was a pleasant surprise, with such a good result. We started with the Crescent team in 2012 and initially struggled with engine performance. In 2013 we began the process of updating the engine, with significant improvements, and the team has focussed on further tuning these developments over the winter period to enable the steps forward shown in the recent tests. Yoshimura has also been working on developments in Japan and, after testing in our own engine dyno, I am here in the Crescent HQ to work through that data with the team to decide on which direction we should proceed for 2014.”
What are your hopes for the 2014 Superbike World Championship season?
“Racing is very difficult to predict and to maintain success; there can only be one winner! We are a young team, having only joined the World Championship in 2012, but we are starting to show our competitiveness. We hope that we are in a position to fight for podiums consistently throughout this season and be able to show our development. We have a good machine with the Suzuki GSX-R1000 and good technology supporting that, so we are looking forward to a promising season.”
What are your plans for 2014 for Yoshimura themselves?
“For Yoshimura Japan, our main focus is the Suzuka 8-hour race. To allow successful development in our racing programme running up to this event, we compete in the Japanese National Championship. Last year’s performance at Suzuka was positive, we ran very close to the eventual winners, despite suffering a crash and the resulting 30-second penalty, and finished second overall. 2014 is a very significant year for Yoshimura Japan as we are celebrating our 60-year anniversary, so we are pushing hard to achieve an excellent result at Suzuka to help us celebrate this. We are hoping to be in a position to run two teams at the event this year but have yet to finalise the details and so will announce that in due course.”
What are your thoughts on working with a race team based in the UK?
“Travelling around the world and especially to Europe is very hard for me as I am based so far away, but I always look forward to coming to the UK and to the WSBK races. I really enjoy my racing and there is always a lot of fun waiting for me with the Crescent team.”
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki takes to the track for the first round of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship on February 23rd at Phillip Island in Australia. Yoshimura’s Japanese Superbike team begins its national campaign at Suzuka on April 18th with the all-important Suzuka 8-hours World Endurance Championship event on July 27th.