January 7, 2005 at 2:38 pm #9323GixParticipant
The 2005 MotoGP World Championship will see the debuts of a new outfit, the Konica Minolta Honda team. Led by team manager Luca Montiron and with Makoto Tamada in the saddle, this newly formed team could be a major threat for the crown holder, Valentino Rossi.
Montiron explained that his new team is basically the same structure as the one he managed last year under the Camel Honda colours: “We have the same staff as last season. All those people already worked with me in the past. The technical director is Giulio Bernardelle and the chief mechanic is Yutaka Hirano.”
For Tamada, the main change is the switch to Michelin tyres. Over the past two years, the Japanese rider played a key-role in the development of the Bridgestone tyres and brought them their first pole position and win. However, for Montiron, moving to Michelin was a crucial move in order to allow Tamada to be a consistent challenger.
“I made this choice as it was the best option on a political point of view.
If we remained with Bridgestone, they would have considered us as a ‘simple team’ and they would have focussed their efforts on the factory teams, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Ducati,” said Montiron. “I could never accept this kind of situation for my structure. We are here to win, not to make up the numbers.”
“After two years, I decided to put an end to our collaboration with Bridgestone. We started with them from scratch and we brought them at the top of the field a couple of times. Now I want a new challenge, and I want Makoto to be in the same conditions as the main challengers for the title. Our experience could also be very useful for Michelin.”
Makoto Tamada’s relationship with Honda goes back a long way, as he started his professional career a decade ago aboard a NSR250, before rising up through the ranks of the All Japan Championship and eventually moving to MotoGP in 2003.
“Makoto will receive the same treatment as the other Honda satellite riders. After a few races, if he’s at the front, he could probably receive extra support from HRC. I believe it will be the same for all the Honda riders. In addition, Makoto should be the HRC test rider.”
As winter testing will resume in a couple of weeks in Sepang, the Konica Minolta Honda team is set to go through a heavy workload, as switching tyres basically means starting up from scratch in terms of set-up. However, Luca Montiron is confident, as Tamada already matched the pace of the regular Michelin riders on his first outings with the French tyres, during the November tests held at Valencia and Jerez.
“His lap time is the best way to describe his feeling about the Michelin tyres. He was very fast from the beginning,” continued the Italian.
Last season, Makoto Tamada snatched three poles and two wins. Montiron thinks that, after only two seasons in the blue riband class, the Japanese ace will emerge as a consistent title contender this year.
“To beat Valentino, you need a very strong mind – and Makoto already showed he has what it takes… remember the race at Mugello last year? Makoto will show his strength, and I believe we have the potential to fight for victory. We created a dedicated structure with only one rider because we strongly believe in our technical capacities and with major partners as Honda, Konica Minolta and Michelin, we could have the winner package.”
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