Alberto Puig has shrugged off concerns that Repsol Honda is not at the same level of competitiveness as arch-rivals FIAT Yamaha and Ducati Corse speeding towards the beginning of the 2010 MotoGP campaign in Qatar next weekend – insisting that the championship is not a sprint but rather a 'contest of stamina'.
Dani Pedrosa – one of the premier class' four established 'Aliens' and an anticipated title contender this year – has struggled during pre-season testing, and wound up a lowly 13th out of 17 at the close of play in the final test at Losail last month, more than one-and-a-half seconds shy of the outright pace.
A lack of stability and issues with the rear of the new RC212V have been the principal reported problems, but on the same prototype, the likes of Andrea Dovizioso and Randy de Puniet have been considerably closer to the sharp end of proceedings.
Twelve months ago, Pedrosa headed into battle still afflicted by an injury sustained during the season build-up – for the second consecutive year – and a lowly eleventh place under Qatar's floodlights was the price he paid. However, with the 24-year-old Spaniard fighting fit in 2010, his team manager Puig is confident of a far better result this time around.
“As with every year, we have to be prepared for a long new season,” he told the official MotoGP website. “Qatar is the first race, but in the end this is an endurance championship of eight or nine months, and we have to be prepared for that. We're going to Qatar to begin this contest of stamina.
“Last year we were physically depleted when we started; [Pedrosa] went out injured, and we couldn't improve that. This year at least we arrive at the first race with a rider in good condition, and that's already better. That was our aim in the pre-season – to start without any problems with the rider.
“Obviously, we want the bike to be at its best and the rider to have the most comfortable feeling with it, but so far it has been testing. That may give an indication of what it will be like on the track for the race, but it's not something decisive. What really counts is what happens on Sunday – race night – in Qatar.
“I know what problems we have had, and we intend to solve them as best we can during the weekend. We are dealing with different elements, and we're going to see if we can put everything in-place and overcome these small problems we're having.
“I see the times, and those that have registered them (Yamaha and Ducati) are fast. We have different things to test, and maybe we have to do that during the grand prix weekend, but the one thing I can say is that we're not going to Qatar with our heads down at all. In every race we go out to win; the mentality of the official Honda team is to win races, and we go to Qatar to do the best for the team and for us.
“We must concentrate on our rider and bike. If we are focussed, we'll go out and give the maximum each race, then we'll see who can be up there. It could be the same as last year or with some new riders, but the aim remains the same – to be as high as possible, regardless of who is in front.”