For 2012 the Fireblade has had many improvements, what has been the impact on race trim?
In BSB lots of the new features are replaced with after-market equipment. However, for Jason and Gary who are on the superstock bikes, they are able to utilise the improvements of the new Fireblade, and we are able to gauge this from lap-times compared to previous years.
How have the new regulations - including the standard ECU - affected your season preparation?
If you want to be at the front, at the sharp end then there is a hell of a lot of work to do. There has been a tremendous effort from the team in the off-season. Sometimes you have to start back-to-basics and that’s what we did. We used a controlled ECU and had a massive change within the engine.
The rule changes are something that we have known about for the last few years so it hasn’t been a shock. But things have changed for 2012, and so we started work as quickly as we could just with the engine development.
The facilities that we have at Louth are second to none. We have a fantastic dyno room with a rolling road and engine dyno, so we have been very fortunate that we have been able to put quality hours into the engine work to get us where we are today.
What has been your approach to pre-season testing?
We have just finished an eight-day test programme, which included two days per week through March. Having eight days on track in such a condensed period has been a very valuable. The riders have had a lot of track time but the way we have worked has also provided them with down-time to recover. This is important in their physical preparation.
How much has testing been focussed on Brands Hatch?
We started off setting up each motorcycle for each rider to get a good base set-up. By the time we came to the Brands test, we decided where we needed to be for each individual circuit.
Coming away from Brands we were up-beat. They were shocked at how easy the times came to them! The guys soon realised that they could control the bike, and we weren’t having issues with wheel spin, allowing us to get some good times. Michael came away top of the leader board and he felt that he wasn’t pushing it to the limit by any means. He commented that it just felt so easy to set a good time.
But we all know doing that lap times on your own on a clear track are very different from a race situation, with 30 other riders. So we came away not thinking we are unbeatable, we still have a lot of work to do but it is nice to know that what we’ve put together actually works. The proof will be at Brands on race day though.
How have the riders been preparing physically through the off-season?
They have been keeping themselves very healthy by doing a lot of off road bike fitness, cycling and hours of gym work. This is evident with all four of them, they are very fit.
Jason has impressed me most this year with his fitness, he has moved forward to a different level, so we are hoping for good things from him.
Michael and Jon used a lot of bike fitness on road, and mountain bikes, not just going to the gym, but having a strategy to cycle for a few hours.
How is Jason coping with his previous injuries that ruled him out of much of last season?
It has not bothered him one bit! I asked him a couple of questions at the start of the first few days of testing and he said: "I am absolutely 100 per cent." He had a couple of operations at the end of last year to extend his movement in his ankle as it was a little bit reduced and he hasn’t looked back, it is not a problem whatsoever.
The riders are now on Twitter and are very interactive, how has Samsung’s affiliation with the team changed the dynamics of the team?
The whole team has had a massive change in the last 12 months, from riders to mechanics and everything else. From a rider’s perspective they are able to operate in a social media, which is becoming increasingly important, as riders need to create and manage a loyal fan base. They use the media very well to gain support for BSB, the team and for themselves and that can only be a good thing.
What is the aim for the first round at Brands Hatch?
We want our riders on the front two rows. It would be fantastic to have them on the front in both classes. If we can get away clean, we hope for strong races and finishes. We have to get the longevity right for the tyre wear - that will be a key factor for a lot of teams this year. You want them to be strong at the end of the race, which we have had to work on in our test programme. It is important to get a good start as we aim to be championship contenders at the end of the season.