The Pata Honda line-up for the 2015 World Superbike championship was officially unveiled at Verona in Italy today when Sylvain Guintoli and Michael van der Mark were presented to a large and enthusiastic crowd of Italian fans and media.
The two riders – both world champions in 2014 – have already tested their 2015-specification Pata Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP race machines this year at Portimao, Portugal and, earlier this week, at Aragon in Spain.
In spite of less-than-favourable weather conditions, both riders declared themselves happy with the development of the CBR, on which their Netherlands-based team has worked hard to meet revised technical regulations for the 2015 WSBK season.
Reigning World Superbike champion, Guintoli, 32, and his 22-year-old Pata Honda team-mate, van der Mark, who won last season’s World Supersport crown, will return to Spain tomorrow for a two-day test at Jerez on Monday and Tuesday next week.
The forthcoming season marks the third in which Pata, one of Europe’s largest and most successful manufacturers of potato chips and snacks, has supported Honda’s official entry in the World Superbike championship. Pata president, Remo Gobbi, a passionate follower of motorsport on two and four wheels, was alongside both Pata Honda World Superbike riders when the covers came of their CBR machines on Saturday afternoon.
Sylvain Guintoli – “Bringing the number one plate to a new manufacturer is a big deal, really, because it doesn’t happen very often. It’s symbolic for me, too, because I’ll be going for the title again on a different bike, the Honda CBR. I’ll definitely be wearing the number one with pride this year.
“But I’m motivated by the challenge and I’ve found a team that also wants it really badly. The bike has changed quite a bit over the winter and we have new regulations. The team has worked hard and we know it’s going to be a big challenge, but that’s what makes it interesting!
“The 2015 engine is quite close to last year’s specification and, if anything, is a bit smoother, which is good news for us because, built as standard, it suits the new rules.
“We’re still working on a few things like weight distribution and geometry but the bike is already quite different to last year. I’m very pleased with the work that has been done over the winter. There is still more work to be done, but the team is a big asset; you can feel the power of Honda, and it feels good.”
Michael van der Mark – “I’m in the same team as last year but, after winning the World Supersport title, I had to make another step and, for me, that was World Superbike. It’s maybe a little easier for me because I have the same team, but I still have to get used to the bigger CBR and its more sophisticated electronics and find a good set-up. I think the biggest challenge for me and everyone is the new regulations.
“At the moment the bike feels really good but we’ll have to see where it is after the first few races. I have to learn a lot, of course, but I don’t put any pressure on myself – I just want to do my best, make forward steps and see where we can get to. The weather hasn’t been great at the two tests we’ve had this year but my feeling with the CBR is much better than my first outing at Jerez. To gether with Sylvain, I think we have a great team. He brings a lot of experience as last year’s world champion, but I think we can learn from each other and that’s what we’ve been doing in the tests.”
Ronald ten Kate – “Our rider line-up is very good on paper with two world champions on the Honda CBR Fireblade. I think that would be unique for any team but certainly for us. There’s a lot of knowledge and experience that Syvlain is bringing to the team – he’s been on a lot of different bikes in different paddocks. On the other side, Michael has stepped up to Superbike and he’s the young gun. Apart from a few outings at Suzuka, he has no experience on the big bikes, so when you put those guys in the blender I think we’ve got the perfect team. You can already smell, feel, sense that something great is coming up.”
Carlo Fiorani – “The 2015 season has already started very well as we are the only team with two world champions in our garage – one from Superbike and the other from Supersport. Of course, our plan was to have a very experienced rider and a young rider with very good prospects. Our expectation is to have good results with Sylvain and, after a few races, to see Michael fighting in the top six. We want him to grow with the team and be ready to challenge for the title in 2016.
“The team has worked really hard with the new regulations but the CBR was already quite production-oriented. After the first tests we are quite satisfied and we expect Honda to be fighting for the podium once again.”
Kyle Smith to ride 2015 Pata Honda CBR600RR
British rider Kyle Smith has been announced as the rider to take on Michael van der Mark’s title-winning Pata Honda CBR600RR in the 2015 World Supersport championship.
Smith, 23, was born near Huddersfield in the UK but moved to Spain with his family aged six. He lives in Calp, 120km south of Valencia, in the region where he began his racing career.
After some years and regional championships in junior motocross, Smith had his first road race in Majorca in 2004, but it wasn’t for another three years that he began to race consistently, ending up in Spain’s CEV 125GP series.
After forays in Formula Extreme and Moto2, he competed in three European Superstock 600 races on a Racedays Honda CBR600RR in 2013, taking victory at Jerez in Spain before stepping up to the Superstock 1000 series last season.
With two podiums from the eight races, Smith’s performance earned him eighth place overall and the attention of the Pata Honda World Supersport team management.
Smith’s first test will be with the Pata Honda team at Phillip Island in Australia, just ahead of this season’s first World Supersport championship round on 22 February, and the young Yorkshireman is relishing the challenge ahead.
Kyle Smith – “This is a fantastic opportunity for me, I’ve got the bike, I’ve got the team behind me, I’ve got support from Honda, so I think this is going to be a year for me to prove who I am. I like CBR machines and although there is a bunch of new tracks for me to learn this year, I’ve not had too many difficulties learning new circuits in the past.
“It starts at Phillip Island which everyone seems to like and I’ve watched loads of videos of races there, so I can’t wait. Set-up is the big thing, of course, but, with the experience of the Pata Honda team behind me, I couldn’t be in a better position. I always put pressure on myself and I always race to win. That’s what I aim to be doing this season.”
Ronald ten Kate – team manager – “Supersport for us has always been like a breeding ground where we try to bring on young riders that we believe in. Kyle matches that requirement and he showed some quite exceptional performances on the Honda CBR in Superstock 1000 last year. He’s shown that he’s a proper racer and, on a proven bike in an experienced team, we really think he can do well. We’re hoping to get him at least on the podium, but I think sometimes he’ll be able to do even better than that.”
Carlo Fiorani – racing operations manager, Honda Europe – “After taking the World Supersport title again last year with the Ten Kate-run Pata Honda team, we accomplished our target of bringing a young rider, Michael van der Mark, from Superstock to Superbike. This is always Honda’s ambition and now we have a new challenge with another young rider, Kyle Smith. He’s a great talent and we’ve been watching him in Superstock for the last couple of years where he has done a good job. Our focus is to grow him up with the team and to fight again for the World Supersport championship. From a technical point of view we have the same team, but they are always looking to continue the development of the Honda CBR600RR, which we expect to be highly competitive once more in the championship.”
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