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29 April

The Yoshimura SERT Motul test team got off to a flying start to the season with double podiums at the first round in Motegi in the 2021 All Japan Superbike Championship. This was despite a few challenges, including the weather and Kazuki Watanabe missing the official pre-test. Team director Yohei Kato fills us in.

You had a great start into the 2021 season at Motegi, despite a few challenges. Can you tell us more about that race?
Soon after Yoshimura SERT Motul participated in the official practice at Le Mans in France, the Japanese development team took part in the opening round of the All Japan Road Race Championship at Motegi. Kazuki Watanabe, our EWC development rider, took pole position in both race one and race two qualifying, but ended up in third place in race one. Then the rain started in the middle of race two, but he led most of the laps and took a podium in second place.

How does a strong start like this impact the team – does it give everyone more confidence? 
I feel so. Of course, this time we are participating in a race for the purpose of development, but results are always required. Regulations such as bike weight are different between JSB and EWC. And we participated in the race with a bike that assumed the 24-hour durability of Le Mans and Bol d'Or. Under these circumstances, we were able to compete at the same level or better than the top Japanese teams such as the Yamaha Factory Team, which gave us confidence in both the Yoshimura SERT Motul development team and the EWC Race team. I think it became clearer.

How’s the rest of the season looking for you and how will you build on this great start?
The development team stayed on for two days after the race to evaluate the development items. This information can be immediately fed back to the Yoshimura SERT Motul EWC Race team, and helps us in our bid to win the championship next season in 2022. In this way, we would like to win the championship through strong cooperation between Japan and France.

What difference do you think using Motul’s lubricants has on the bikes’ performance and reliability? 
We have been making improvements to the bike with Motul for a long time, focusing mainly on performance in order to win the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race. The prototype oil is evaluated by measuring the friction and output with the dyno test, and the engine oil after use is investigated by Motul. Even when we decided to take on the 24-hour endurance race, we were able to achieve the highest output, durability and fuel efficiency by repeating this process with Motul. I affirm that these performances can only be achieved with Motul engine oils.

What does Motul’s partnership/sponsorship mean to you as a team? 
We have been building friendly and strategic partnerships with Motul for more than 35 years. Yoshimura and Motul are recognised by many fans and users as being iconic. For us, Motul is not only a partner, but also a family that fights the championship together as a part of the team, and if we win, we are happy together, and if we lose, we both regret it. 

What are your thoughts on the cancellation of the EWC at Le Mans, and what sort of difference does that make to the team morale?
Regarding the postponement of the Le Mans race, I feel that it is unavoidable to say that it is a medical response issue. Of course, the postponement of the race was disappointing, but we will not lose our goal. We will do what we can now, hoping that the coronavirus will not threaten the lives of everyone in the world anymore.

What are the best and worst parts of being a team boss?
When we were the best in qualifying, when we were able to win the race, it is an excitement that I can not experience in my daily life. But this pleasure and excitement is given equally not only to me, the boss, but to everyone on the team, as well as partners and fans. Also, I want everyone to share that emotion. As for the worst part. Most of managing a race! Operating the race team and participating in a race and fighting rivals is never easy. However, I hope that I can handle the stress of this part by myself, avoiding sharing it with everyone in the team.

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