This year, Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado joined the MIE Racing Honda Team where he rides the Honda CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE in the WSBK Motul series. As the official satellite team for Honda, Tati works with MIE to help develop their bike further, under the watchful eye of team principal Midori Moriwaki. We’re almost at the end of a difficult WSBK season for Tati and his team. Time to catch up on how the development and the search for higher speed, better grip and championship points are evolving.
Tati, it looks like it has been a hard year of training and finding the right rhythm and speed on the new Honda CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE?
Yes, it’s been a totally different year compared to 2020. We were making good progress on the development of our bike. After the first race the team decide to stop for some races to develop the machine and we came back in Assen. Secondly, I missed one round (mostly) due to Covid. So, we started again in Navarra. Of course, this situation set us back quite some points for the final championship, which is a pity. In Jerez we managed to put our best qualifying lap of the season. We’re slowly closing the gap, but we still have a long way to go.
How fierce is the difference coming from Ducati to the Honda? Was it a difficult adaptation?
Yes and no. Compared to the Ducati, it’s a very different machine, as the Ducati is a stiffer bike. On the other hand, my racing experience with Kawasaki, which was also a four-cylinder engine, gave me a jump start on the Honda CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE. I adapted quickly to the new machine. In general, the Honda gives you more direct feedback while racing. We are currently working on improving the rear grip of the bike. Once we have fixed this, we can make the next step towards better results.
The new tyres are once again an evolution of last season's. Can you feel the difference in terms of grip and durability?
Yes, Pirelli definitely did a good job on the new tyres. It developed a new compound, which gives us more grip even during long races. Yet it remains a matter of choice. We tried new settings for the electronics together with a harder tyre specification, with the aim of not only increasing grip but also maintaining it over race distance. But it didn't feel completely comfortable for me. We went back to a softer tyre and took a step forward as a result. We are working hard on all the small details to become faster and faster in every race.
You currently have the 15th overall standing, somewhere in the middle of the racing field. How does this make you feel?
I really want to be more upfront on the grid. As I said, it wasn’t an easy season so far. In the last race we made a good step forward. Our target is to finish in the top 10 this year and step up our game next season.
The CBR-1000RR-R Fireblade has been under constant development. How much faster can the bike get do you think?
It can always be faster. Honda is working a lot on the bike and its overall performance. We still have many areas to improve, and our developers are constantly looking for every second that can help us attain better results.
For two years, you and the team have been using Motul as the preferred lubrication supplier. How do its products make a difference for you as a rider?
The Motul lubricants are very important for myself and the team. We race under very hard conditions, so the lubricants and coolants really make a difference. We’re happy with the support Motul gives us. In the end, its products are protecting the vital engine parts, which we rely on, especially at the angles and extremely high speeds we ride.
We are almost at the final round. Has 2021 been a weird year for you as a rider?
It was a strange year indeed with some bad luck, but that’s part of racing. 2021 was a year of progress, a learning year for me and the whole team. We made a big step forward with the development of the bike and the racing results. We are looking forward to 2022, where we really want to be in the leading pack of the races!
MIE Racing founder and team principal Midori Moriwaki added:
“I am delighted to have Leandro Mercado for the MIE Racing Honda Team in the WorldSBK Championship. ‘Tati’ is a gutsy rider who never holds back on track and in the pit garage. He is combative, fast, and determined to never give up, all aspects that fit perfectly with the story and philosophy of the MIE Racing Honda Team. I am convinced that, together, we will achieve positive results both in terms of our performance on the track and the development of the CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE.”