When Ichiro Yoda joined Kawasaki's MotoGP project, from Yamaha, for the 2005 season, he brought with him more than 20 years of grand prix engineering experience.
For two years the Japanese engineer has been the driving force behind the development of Kawasaki's 990cc Ninja ZX-RR, a period that culminated in the podium finishes by Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano
in Shanghai and Assen respectively.
but for the 2007 season Yoda takes on a new role within the reorganised Kawasaki Racing Team. Having been responsible for managing the development of the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR that Randy de Puniet
and Olivier Jacque will campaign for the first time this season, a promotion to the position of race director means that, this year, Yoda is responsible for overseeing all aspects of Kawasaki's MotoGP racing activities...
There have been some big changes for the Kawasaki Racing Team since Kawasaki made the decision to bring the team 'in-house' for the 2007 season. As part of this reorganisation you've been promoted to the position of Race Director, but how has that changed your role for the coming season?
Now Kawasaki has brought their MotoGP team in-house, my role has changed significantly. Our Technical Manager, Naoya Kaneko, will now take responsibility for technical issues, while I take on more of the commercial aspects of running a MotoGP team, such as budget control. I will also be working closely with our Competition Manager, Michael Bartholemy, in other areas, such as human resources and logistics.
It's a big change for me, but I'm looking forward to my new role with the team. My biggest task this season will be to put in place the new way of operating as an in-house, factory team, as this will be different to last year. This year our only focus is on results and development.
Will you be based in Japan this coming season, or will you move to Europe to be closer to the team base in the Netherlands?
I will be based at the headquarters of Kawasaki Motors Europe in Amsterdam, which is about two hours drive from the team's offices in Heerlen.
Will your new role still allow you to play an active part in the development of the Ninja ZX-RR?
Development will continue in Japan, but that doesn't mean that we won't use outside suppliers in Europe for certain components. Because I'll be based in Europe I will be much better placed to ensure that we choose the best supplier for the job, and that the components meet our requirements, both in terms of quality and delivery time. So yes, I will still have some involvement in the development process.
Whatever your role now, you led the development of Kawasaki's new 800cc machine last season. At the start of the development process you must have had a list of design aims, but what was at the top of that list?