Steven Cotterell, Yamaha Managing Director, talks 2016 Australian road racing plans
Trev: I’m here with Steven Cotterell Managing director of Yamaha motor Australia. Where at the Sydney motorcycle show. The announcement has just been made for the 2016 Australian SBK championship calendar, and also that Troy Bayliss Events will take Australian Superbike to a summer series that will start at Phillip Island MotoGP next year. Steve, in the Terry O’Neill managed 2015 Australasian FX Superbike Championship, we’ve just had the best domestic road racing season in the 16 years that I’ve been covering the sport. The way forward for everyone seemed settled, but now we’ve got the Motorcycling Australia managed Australian Superbike series, perhaps, set to make a resurgence. At this stage of the game, with so much still to be settled, what is your position in relation to Yamaha’s road racing activities next season.
Steve: I think we’re perhaps more on the fence then we’ve ever been. This season has been fantastic in Terry’s Australasian FX Superbike Series. It’s great to be racing against Honda and all the best riders in one high profile series. It’s been sensational and we’re lifting our act, and I’m sure Honda is enjoying the challenge as well. But the new announcements, the announcement that has just been made about the Troy Bayliss managed summer series, on top of the fact that ASBK is getting better, has just made it even more confusing. We’re not at the point to make a decision yet, but, like I said, we’re going to go back to the books and recalculate what the impacts of the ASBK proposal is, and just see where we stand. Unfortunately, right now, we are really on the fence.
Trev: And in regards to costs, Terry’s series is a controlled tyre, a Dunlop. You’re associated with Dunlop with your accessories arm, Ficeda Accessories. It’s going to be an open tyre rule in the M.A. series. There might be some issues there. You would stay Dunlop, no matter what, but it is fair to say that Pirelli is going to have an advantage at Phillip island, due to the WSBK history and development done there for that circuit in particular. Dunlop may have an advantage elsewhere. Is that going to play a part in your decision at all do you think?
Steve: Definitely. Of course, we are heavily involved and associated with Dunlop. And it’s a great tyre. At Phillip Island right now there’s some issues, and that’s pretty well known by everyone. So we have to really consider how we get around that. But what it means is that we will need to do more testing. And the extra costs that will come from the testing required at circuits that we’re not familiar with of late. So it’s clear about our tyre choice, and the costs are going to come mainly from that. There are some other associated costs moving to the M.A. series also.. Regarding the specifications of the bikes, and any changes required across a team of our size quickly adds up to a considerable cost. The change when you go to far flung venues too many times, all of this on top of the fact that the new summer series announcement is really complicated, it just means we are sent back to the budget books to see what we can do.
Trev: And from your viewpoint now, what’s the best thing that Terry could do to keep you in his series? And what’s the best thing the M.A. managed series could do? What’s the major thing the either organisation could do, to tip you one way, or the other?
Steve; There’s a few things and I know it’s difficult to please everyone. One thing that may sound controversial, is that I would like to see the rules the same in both promotors events, thus you could realistically enter either series with the same machine without being at a disadvantage. That may not be so important to us, but for the good of the sport it is. There are not many riders that can commit to a full series of either, due to travel constraints. But A lot of guys in say, NSW or QLD, have the budget for perhaps three or four rides. And that means they could pick from which series they ride. What that would do is effectively not form two individual camps of riders. Having to pick one or the other limits your opportunities. The same goes for us a bit. We would have more choices as well, I mean who knows, theoretically, we could start one series, then shift to the new summer series, or whatever. It just means that we are not totally reinventing the wheel. When you change your bikes it’s not just the cost of going with this or that. It’s then reassessing your whole bike. The tyres, the set up, the whole box and dice. There’s so much electronics involved these days. there’s so much variability in the set up, you effectively almost start from scratch when things are changed. One other thing that cropped up at the show over the weekend was the fact that the new summer series promoter, Troy Bayliss, is also going to be the part owner of a team. While I am not suggesting Troy might do anything untoward, it is certainly an issue when it comes to transparency and trust within that championship structure. It is not a good look.
Trev: Logistics wise, comparing the calendars, I see the calendar that’s been re-released today for ASBK, there’s not the date clashes there once were. Theoretically, if you had an endless pot of money you could do both. But I don’t think anybody realistically in this post GFC era is going to be able to do that. Logistically, the MA series involves more travel costs. I’ve always been a supporter of a W.A. round. But it is a long way to g,o and you’ve made it clear to me over the years that it’s a great impost on your budget, the same as other teams have told me before. That has to come out in the financial analysis as well. But you’ve also got a very strong market for Yamaha in W.A. and your dealers are going to want to see you racing there as well.
Steve: W.A. is a very good market for us, we’ve got some great dealers and they’re very innovative and they are at the leading edge across the whole country. The biggest thing is the travel. Not just travelling to the race, but travelling to test. ASBK have been accommodating with that, which is very good to see. But it’s just one of the issues.
Trev; Talking about accommodating, there has been some talks of the race weekend in those far away rounds should be an extra day, so you could fit the testing in immediately prior to that round, rather than having to travel a week or two, or a month before, and then travelling back across the country again.
Steve: Exactly, they have to find a way to do that. Not a one weekend, but a one week stint would accommodate all of us. But that’s not going to attract the local Sydney rider, the average punter, but that would suit the teams I think. Something like that.
Trev: And how long will it take before you can come back and commit to a series. There’s been a lot of stuff promised, so I guess you have to see the premise of that being delivered. So realistically, you guys are going to have to get sorted soon because you’re a factory team. For a lot of people it still might come down to three or four weeks out before season start. Or people might do the WSBK round, and then decide which way they spring. Is that the way you see it?
Steve: We love to do those big events like WSBK and MotoGP, and that’s what were talking about as well. We could still do the ASBK glamour rounds, if the classes were really the same. There’s all sorts of options we are considering now. I really think we’ll be hard pressed to make a decision before the end of this year. We sort of have to, because there’s a lot of time taken in set up, and signing riders, and it’s not fair for them. They’re all hanging on, wondering what’s happening next year, and what we don’t want to do, if one series is start cutting our number of riders if a series becomes too expensive, that’s the last thing we want to do. We really believe in bringing the riders through the team, and if the expense gets too much then that philosophy goes out the window, it just becomes a cost cutting exercise.
Trev: Of course you’re more talking your development riders, your YRD supported supersport riders, than your Superbike guys, I would imagine?
Steve: Yeah we really like to bring riders on with minimal support and hopefully then become part of the team. And on top of that, we have plans for real development activities in the future. Already we’re halfway through committing to M.A. on that. So even if the team goes somewhere, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to keep supporting the Motorcycle Australia managed Australian Superbike Championship, particularly in it’s growth,and also support Terry’s FX series. We don’t want to take sides, we see it as all good for the sport, and development is important and we want to be wherever it’s necessary to be, or wherever we deserve to be.
Trev: You hinted then towards a beginner class, like the Ninja FX300 cup which has been massively successful. You wanted to do something with YZF-R3, I guess that’s going to happen with ASBK 2016?
Steve: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s exactly what we want to do.
Trev: And is that pretty much along the lines of your aims to achieve for a YZF-R3 cup for 2016 with M.A.?
Steve: Yeah…..what makes it difficult is that we love to go race against more brands, and beat the Ninja and the KTM 390 for that matter, if we could, that would be great to see us all together. But the way it’s all structured now, it’s not possible, so we have to find somewhere to go racing with our R3, it’s that simple and we’d like to do something with our R15 as well.
Trev: Thanks for being so forthcoming Steve and we look forward to finding out about Yamaha’s road racing activities for the season ahead when those decision are bedded down.