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Q&A: Ronald Ten Kate – EXCLUSIVE

30 March 2007

Hannspree Ten Kate Honda has enjoyed a dream start to the 2007 World Superbike and World Supersport seasons, leading both championships - courtesy of James Toseland and Kenan Sofuoglu - heading into this weekend's third round at Donington Park.

Here, team manager Ronald ten Kate talks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about each of his four riders - and also comments on rumours that his team will move to MotoGP next season...


Q:
Ronald, both your World Supersport and Superbike teams have had a superb start to the 2007 season, tell us about James first...

Ronald Ten Kate:
In the winter we were testing a lot over race distance, we never went for a single fast lap, so if people looked just at the lap times they might have thought 'oh, they are a little bit far back'.

The first races have proven that this strategy was ok, but I must admit that James has also picked up his riding a lot - he is so determined on the bike now. The latest electronic [traction control] package from Honda has also helped a lot.

We're pretty fired up for this round. We come as the championship leader to Donington and we want to leave as the leader. We've got to work hard here.

Q:
And how is Toseland's new team-mate Roberto Rolfo getting along?

Ronald Ten Kate:
The first race and all over winter he was picking up the pace but, for whatever reason, at Phillip Island [round two] he had a full 'off' weekend. The start to the weekend wasn't too bad, he clocked times in the top six, but then after that something went really wrong as regards set-up and how he was riding the bike... It was just a disaster.

Q:
Reigning World Supersport champion Sebastien Charpentier also had a tough start to the season in Qatar...

Ronald Ten Kate:
Yeah. In the first race he had to race hard with his team-mate Kenan and I think there were a few more things at stake than just the race win there. It was the first race with the new Honda and everybody wants to give Honda its first win at world level, so there was a bit more to it than just the single race issue. And he crashed. So immediately he was a bit behind in the points.

Then Phillip Island didn't bring the step forward we were all hoping for, but we have changed the bikes quite a bit - that was also why we missed the Valencia test last week, because we were working hard on the bikes. We'll press the reset button here and see the new Charpentier starting here.

Q:
Kenan has been superb; did you expect so much from him given that he's your youngest rider?

Ronald Ten Kate:
Well, we always knew that Kenan was a force to be reckoned with from the end of last year, when he was winning races and also helping Charpentier with his title defence. Over the winter he was matured further and so we always knew he was going to be fast, but to be this fast and consistent is a little bit of a surprise even for me.

But of course I'm very happy with that, especially compared with early last year when people called him a 'loose goose' an 'unguided missile' etc etc. He had a lot of critics and I don't hear those people any more. For sure he is one of the established race winners in World Supersport and for a young guy his age that's quite remarkable, in a class dominated by older people.

He has a bright future ahead of him and we just need to keep working in the same direction and try to make him mature more and more and try to get more understanding with the set-up of the bike. Then it'll be fine for him I think.

Q:
The weather here at Donington is absolutely horrible at the moment, how is your wet weather set-up?

Ronald Ten Kate:
(Laughs) Err... Obviously in the first races we didn't have the issue of bad weather so we'll just have to work our way around it! I'm just hoping that either it will rain all weekend, so we can really work on the wet set-up, or that it'll be dry all weekend so that we can just enjoy the racing a lot more, as can the fans.

I hate it when all the practices have been dry and then five minutes before the race on Sunday the big clouds come in and it starts to rain. Then it's just like being at a casino, it's just a big lottery, a gamble. I don't like that. But if it does rain then we know that James can be fast. As long as we give him a good bike on Sunday then, even in the rain, he will be fighting for the podium.

Q:
Finally, what's going on with you guys and MotoGP?

Ronald Ten Kate:
Moto what? (Laughs). I'm getting this question more and more because people saw me wandering around in the MotoGP paddock at Jerez. My honest reason for going there was to discuss the latest version of traction control for the Fireblade and also to speak to the HRC people about the Suzuka 8 Hours, which James has been invited for, so we were making a schedule for that.

On the other hand, I must admit that we have also spoken about a MotoGP future for us, but it is really at the very beginning of things - we are just exploring budget plans and long terms plans like that, so I'm really not expecting any big news for the press or outside world until the second half of the season...

Q:
OK, well good luck this weekend.

Ronald Ten Kate:
Thank you very much.


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