Presiding over one of the most successful World Superbike and World Supersport teams, Ten Kate Honda team manager, Ronald ten Kate is a busy man heading into the 2009 season.
With a championship winning team underneath him, two riders that won Superbike races in their maiden seasons and another that has been straight on the pace in testing, Ronald may be busy, but he is certainly happy.
Keen to restore the Superbike success they experienced with James Toseland in 2007, as well as challenge for an eighth straight Supersport title win, Ronald spoke to Crash.net
shortly before he boarded a plane for the opening round of this year's season in Australia to talk about what he thinks will be an exceptionally close championship.
It has been a long few months out of action for the Superbike field, but with 2009 anticipated to be one of the most competitive yet, how are excited are you, as a fan, ahead of this season?
Ronald ten Kate
It is clear that World Superbikes
have made great steps forward in the past couple of years and I think this year is going to be the highlight of Superbike racing in the history of the series.
You're entering a slightly revised rider line-up this year – one rookie, two second-year riders. How much stronger do you think your line-up is this year compared to last?
All in all, I think the line-up is better. We know that Jonathan Rea is very capable of riding a Superbike and besides that, Checa and Kiyonari have one year of experience under their belt. Most importantly, though, the Fireblade is in its second year. Last year we received it very late, so that can't be an excuse this year and I really see this year as the year that we harvest all of the work we did last season.
How much did the new Fireblade bike put you on the back foot last year?
We only got the bikes just before Christmas, so that ruled out any winter testing at all. This year, we have done a fair amount of testing already by going to Kyalami, Portugal and now a two-day test just before the start of the season at Phillip Island. Last year we were developing the bike through the race weekends, which was frustrating, but this year I think the bike is capable of winning and the riders are capable of winning too.
Both Carlos and Ryuichi enjoyed race winning debut seasons last year - how confident are you that they will be fully fledged title contenders in 2009?