By Peter McLaren
“Would you like a coffee?” asks Masao Furusawa as we walk towards a table in the Factory Yamaha pits at Sepang. And he doesn't expect one of the hospitality staff to do it - Furusawa heads straight over to the machine and brings back an Espresso.
It's a small but telling glimpse into the character of the soon-to-be 60-year-old, who holds one of the most powerful positions within Yamaha - and MotoGP - but operates very much on a down-to-earth, get-things-done basis.
After his final race for Yamaha at Valencia last November, Valentino Rossi said: "I have to thank first of all Masao Furusawa, because we went through some difficult moments but we were able to improve the bike and make it the best machine."
In just over a month Furusawa will retire from Yamaha, having helped transform its MotoGP fortunes from a single podium in 2003 (“it was hell!”) to winning all three world titles for the past three seasons. Talk about leaving on a high.
Furusawa's official title is “Executive Officer, Engineering Operations, Motorcycle Headquarters”, but Rossi refers to him simply as “the number one at Yamaha” and he's also the man behind the YZR-M1's crossplane crank technology.
In this wide-ranging and often candid interview Furusawa looks back over his involvement in MotoGP, discussing riders such as Rossi (“like a King”) and new world champion Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha's mistakes and best moments, plus some of the cutting-edge technical challenges.
Furusawa also talks about Yamaha's long standing rivalry with Honda (“Many people in Honda want to kill me”) and even reveals the “hints” he gave Ducati, when they contacted him for advice after signing Rossi for 2011...
Mr Furusawa, it's good to see you here. Have you decided what your future plans will be?
I have another month and a half before retiring. We have had lots of discussions these past few years, one being should I stop? In the last few months the president of Yamaha Motors asked me to extend my job. And I said 'no' [smiles].
It's too long for me to stay in MotoGP. Because I really did not expect to still be here when I started back in 2003. At that time Yamaha was suffering, we had not won the championship for ten years, so I was put in charge of MotoGP to change everything.