“We’ve got new items… a lot of faith that they’re going to work” – Escamez on Honda development

2024 has begun for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship but testing continues, particularly at the Supported Test in Spain. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is the host for two days of track action with plenty of teams and riders getting up to speed for the round as well as long-term development. For Honda, it’s a vital test; a disappointing start to 2024 in Australia has happened but new team boss Jose Escamez outlines Honda’s strategy to fight back and get closer to the front.

BRIEF ROUND 1 REVIEW: “Not what we expected or were looking for”

Starting with a quick glance back to Australia, it was a far from ideal introduction to WorldSBK for the new team principal: “The first round was not what we expected or looking for, but the important thing is that we got information in order to keep developing our new bike. Unfortunately, Iker had an early crash and that wasn’t in our plans, it’s not what we want. We got positive information in order to keep us going and we have the hope that it’s going to be much better during the season.”

Talking about Iker’s comments to the media about how the project has been going, Escamez was understanding in his response: “It’s obvious that a rider always wants something else. Other manufacturers have made a huge step and maybe we’re not at the same level yet, but I’m confident that we will get there and with all the information we got from Australia, we have a much clearer idea about the way we want to go and what the targets are. When you have a crash and don’t understand why, it’s normal to be upset so I really understand Iker.”

TALKING TECH: powerful engine but how can they profit from it?

“The engine is really powerful,” continued Escamez, with attention turning to how they can fix their underlying grip issue that has plagued the Japanese manufacturer since they returned to WorldSBK. “The only thing we are trying to solve in the short term is trying to have profit of this power. We can’t generate the grip, we struggle to stop the bike and then in the corners, we go wide. This is the main target and this is something we already faced in the past. In Australia, we got a lot of information that’s going to help us solve all this.

“We’ve got new items. We have a lot of faith that they’re going to work. It won’t be something that solves all our problems, it’ll be a little step that we’ve not tried on track. That’s why we’re here, to test them on track. It’s just to have more engine brake and it’s important to solve this aggressive response from the engine. It’s base setup and electronics, it’s something we knew. It looks like a pointless thing, but the way we lost a test day at Portimao in December due to rain, we delayed our development a little bit. We’re getting closer to where we want to be.”

NAGASHIMA PRESENT AND TESTING: Honda strengthen development programme

With test rider Tetsuta Nagashima in the paddock once again and undergoing a vigorous testing plan, Escamez put spotlight on the importance of data acquisition: “Nagashima will test something today that our riders will test tomorrow. We wanted to try it first on track. As much information we can get, the better. It’s part of our project.

“At the moment, aside from the electronics and power delivery, we’re still working on the base setup which is not bad but something we can still improve. We’re looking at little details to have the perfect bike… which is impossible! We didn’t get our proper base setup yet. Different tracks can adjust better.”

KUWATA MOVES ON: no knock-on impact expected

With a change in Honda’s organisation in Tetsuhiro Kuwata moving onto a new role in the company and being replaced by Taichi Honda as HRC General Manager, Escamez shed light on the situation: “This is a natural procedure in the company, which is nothing related and nothing wrong with that. He’ll get another role in the company, then Taichi Honda will replace him. I don’t think it’ll effect much. He’s a guy who’s supported us a lot and we can just say thanks for all his support, his knowledge but it’s not going to be a big change.”

NEW APPROACH “With this new planning and mentality of Honda… it’s going to be much better”

Confirming that working processes and procedures are a bit different and more efficient back in Japan, the new team boss highlighted that eventually, they’ll have better times: “Since this year they’ve improved the willing and the reaction, and working harder than before, maybe it’s not going to be as fast as we’d like but it’ll be much better than before. With this new planning and mentality of Honda, it cannot be an immediate reaction but it’s going to be much better.”

Finally, when asked about whether or not his experience in MotoGP™ – which dates back over 20 years, having worked with the likes of Max Biaggi – can help in WorldSBK and Honda’s project here, he was humorous as well as humble: “I really hope so! Otherwise, there’s no reason for me to stay here! It’s not something you think about, you just trying to give your knowledge from the best ones and I hope it helps us improve or at least be more effective.”

It’s been a tricky opening half a day for Honda in Barcelona, as both riders suffered technical issues at exactly the same time and in the same sector. For full live text commentary of the test, click here!

ROUND 2 OF THE NEW ERA AWAITS: enjoy it all LIVE with the WorldSBK VideoPass!

Source: WorldSBK.com

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