Last year they were a young team that entered the World Supersport Championship (WSS) melee with much fanfare, and backed by a big Indian name, a cricketer who has women swooning, and men puffing up. That’s Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni, for the uninformed.
A year later, the Mahi Kawasaki Racing Team India has established itself as a serious competitor. After all, it isn’t often that a newbie takes home the Manufacturers’ Championship and the annual team award for the most points scored by a two-man entry. And that is not counting the fact that 2012 world champion Kenan Sofuoglu and his teammate, 2002 world champion Fabien Foret, finished second and third respectively in the championship.
Not one to rest on past laurels, team principal Amit Sandill is now gearing up to take on the 2014 season. It will not be easy. There are new rules in place including the very puzzling EVO class. Let’s not forget Foret, who will now be competing for WSBK in the EVO class. It will be mad, and that is an understatement.
Chitra Subramanyam recently caught up with Sandill, and here are his comments about a variety of subjects:
Looking back at 2013
“It was a fantastic year – our first full year of racing, and we finished second and third with both our riders. We missed out on the first place, but we also won the team championship, and manufacturer’s title. That’s four out of five trophies, and it’s an exceptional performance for a new team.
“If you look at the second half, Kenan was very strong. For four out of six races, we had to come to terms with the electronics; we were running a new MoTeC system, which took some time for the engineers to get to terms with. Imola was the turning point, which is when we started getting stronger.”
The EVO challenge
“Fabien Foret will be running the EVO bike with full factory backing. It’s a lot more difficult and there are many untried parameters. We haven’t had too much testing time – every single part is after market. In fact, the only thing we are not allowed to modify is the engine. We can’t run high-end electronics and we are given a budget by the organizer. So currently, we are getting ready with the frame, the wheel, brakes, etc.
“The EVO class is a bit untried and slightly undefined. But I don’t think there will be any problems as Fabien is good on a superbike – he won the Le Mans 24 Hours last year. But we need to give him a good package, which will develop as the race goes on. It will be a little difficult initially, as we have only had one test, because of lack of parts. We hope to do reasonably well.”
The 2014 WSS Competition
“There is going to be some pretty serious competition in WSS this year. Last year, it was between Sam Lowes and Kenan. There will still be competition even though Sam has now moved to Moto 2. Jules Cluzel (Yakhnich MV Agusta), Michael van der Mark, Lorenzo Zanetti (Pata Honda)… Cluzel will be racing with the MV Agusta and he will be trying to bring it to the performance level of the Kawasaki. It will not be easy. But there is going to be enough fighting. These guys are top riders. We are definitely not overconfident, but there is confidence in Kenan’s ability.”
“Our days are going to be full. We will have the Supersports Qualifying, the Super Pole, and then on Sunday, the WSS race and two WSBK races… It’s going to be one hell of a ride. There is definitely a lot more stress involved. Time management within the box itself is going to be quite a challenge. It’s not going to be easy, but that’s just something that we will have to work with. Andrew (Stone, the team’s technical director) is going to be really busy!”
The 2014 Bike
“It is fantastic. The 6R is a beautiful package, once you have got the setup right. It is a powerful and quick bike. We did have some handling issues last year, but we have a good package. We have now changed the suspension and it is going to be easier this year.”
The India Round…Or Lack of One
“The cancellation of the round was pretty bad for the sport in India. There were supposed to be some big crowds and a lot of people were looking forward to it. The team got a taste of being the home team in Istanbul. The entire crowd was behind us, about 50,000 people screaming their lungs out. It would have been a far larger crowd in India and it would have done a world of good to the sport in the country. The team would have fed off the enthusiasm.”
The interview was originally published on www.ridingfastandflyinglow.comPublished 19 Feb 2014, 13:15 IST