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EXCLUSIVE Andrea Buzzoni (BMW) - Q&A

4 August 2013

By Christian Tiburtius

Crash.net:
Hi Andrea, thanks for talking to us, firstly, can you clarify the team organization?

Andrea Buzzoni:
Basically there are two parts involved; BMW Motorrad racing in Munich which is the R&D department for engines and electronics with a staff of 18 or 19 and then there is the operations racing sports management which is led by BMW Italy. BMW Italy has a contract with a service provider, Feel Racing. BMW Italy together with Feel racing as a partner are in charge of all the operations, staff, logistics and development. Operational staff, which include the riders, have a contract with and are employed by Feel Racing, the exception being Marco as he signed a two-year deal with BMW Munich last year which is still in place. Personally, I am employed by BMW Italy.

Crash.net:
And how was the team organised last season?

Andrea Buzzoni:
In the previous years we had two separate teams, BMW Italy a factory supported satellite team which later became GoldBet and then the main Munich factory team. The main team also worked with a partner, Alpha Racing, who dealt with operations the same way that Feel Racing does with us.

Crash.net:
Where did the decision to withdraw from WSBK come from?

Andrea Buzzoni:
It's the decision of the top management in Munich who decided to redistribute financial resources in a different way within BMW Motorrad.

Crash.net:
When you say 'redistribute', does that mean the budget is going to a different racing project?

Andrea Buzzoni:
No, the company decided to invest the amount of money previously used in WSBK in product development. Apart from the reinforcement of customer sports and national championships. The whole racing budget has been reduced substantially, it's a strategic decision.

Crash.net:
So the budget isn't going to an as-yet-undisclosed racing project such as MotoGP?

Andrea Buzzoni:
No, it isn't. It will be used for product development. There are no plans for MotoGP.

Crash.net:
Why did BMW get into racing and what has changed now to make that invalid?

Andrea Buzzoni:
The tactical reason was to support a new range of sports orientated products which were unknown to our tradition. The old school says that if you launch a Supersport bike such as the 1000R you should support it and give it legitimacy by going racing. Furthermore, I would say that BMW didn't have this racing DNA and wanted to build a racing image. It wanted to get to a new target group of buyers, people who wanted a dynamic bike and had not previously been involved with BMW. On one side you have the tactical support of a product and on the other you have a strategic brand value enlargement. We were previously recognized as producing exclusive touring motorcycles and now we are recognized as producing sports motorcycles.

The decision has nothing to do with anything inside the racing environment or to do with economics. Also it has nothing to do with the changes that Dorna are going to make in WSBK. We are currently having the most successful half season of racing ever, but the decision is a strategic business one made entirely outside the racing world to do with company priorities.

Crash.net:
Was the consolidation of the previous two teams into this season's GoldBet team part of that decision?

Andrea Buzzoni:
No, at that time it was simply a clever decision to merge and rationalise the teams. There was no knowledge of this decision at that time. I was involved in that project to basically try to put together the best from the two teams. I believe the current team has the core of technology from the mother company and we are also taking advantage of Italian racing experience and competence. You will notice that 60 or 70 per cent of the paddock is made up of Italian staff.

Crash.net:
When operations cease what will you do?

Andrea Buzzoni:
For me personally, I will be working on other projects in BMW Italy. I will finally be able to do just one job rather than two! Don't get me wrong though I have a great passion for this role. I came from the BMW business and it has been a very intense time. I feel I managed to merge a business approach which is sometimes missing in racing with the passion which is sometimes a bit excessive. A business approach avoids adventures and the passion allows you to understand the environment.

It's important to understand the passion though because if not you can't create the relationship and atmosphere you need because in the end it's a sport. You do have an organisation chart, but it's not like in the office. A department in the office is a department but a department in the box is a family and must be treated as a family, the relationships are different. It's a family around the two children who are the riders and it's important that the two riders feel it. As the man in charge I have to create this atmosphere.

At the beginning of this year I didn't start with the atmosphere I wanted because of the merged structure but now the integration of the team components is fantastic and from this point view the decision is a real pity. It's been a very positive experience though.

Crash.net:
How about the staff and mechanics?

Andrea Buzzoni:
The race environment doesn't offer the same stability as other environments and the staff will have to find and follow new projects. They are employed by Feel Racing though and I'm very confident that they'll be successful as they are some of the best in the paddock. I'm confident that with their track record, Feel Racing will have something arranged for next year. Our two riders contracts both run out at the end of the year.

Crash.net:
Do you know the situation with Marco and Chaz's rides for next year?

Andrea Buzzoni:
No. They only received the telephone call from me recently. It was a difficult call to make. They may have had doubts but I think it was a surprise for them and most people. They're now starting to look. I'm not doing anything officially, but unofficially I will do what I can for the sake of our relationship

Crash.net:
What will happen as regards BMW in Superstock or other series such as BSB?

Andrea Buzzoni:
Superstock we have to see as next year could be the last year of Superstock anyway due to the changes. For series such as BSB there will still be a motorcycle sport division at BMW and we'll seek to cater for what BMW call customer sport. Customer sport would mean all national championships. How exactly that's going to happen I'm not sure, but probably there'll be central technical support with maybe local contact points.

Crash.net:
Are you aware of which changes Dorna are going to make?

Andrea Buzzoni:
When you change things people tend to be scared, but I see no negative aspects to them. Let's be clear, a WSBK bike isn't a production machine, it's a prototype, and we're talking about 240bhp here so a Superbike has nothing to do with the production bike.

When BMW projected the S1000RR we wanted a bike to win on the market and we did it, and you can see how difficult it has been to go from a market winning bike to one that wins on the track. Other companies projected a bike for Superbikes and then derived the road bike. If you see the cost of going from a very successful road bike to winning on track you can see why the changes are necessary.

The question is 'Does the spectacular show of WSBK depend on horsepower?' and I believe the answer is 'No'. Likewise, if you ask 'Does the spectacular show of WSBK depend on electronics?', I would also say 'No'. Look at British Superbikes, that's a great show. The concept works.

The Dorna plans are not similar, but have some relationship to BSB - you'll have 200 or 205 horsepower and you'll have the stock engine and electronics. The difference between Marco Melandri (Superbike) and Sylvain Barrier (Superstock) is more or less two seconds - 0.8 is probably just the tyre, the difference between Superbike and Superstock if you use the Superstock engine and electronics is probably just 0.5 seconds and the cost of the 0.5 is embarrassing!

From what I know, the new regulations should be Superstock engine and electronics with a free chassis and Superbike tyres, though that still has to be confirmed.

Crash.net:
Thanks a lot Andrea.

Andrea Buzzoni:
It's a pleasure.


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