Ronald ten Kate has thrown down the gauntlet to his team's rivals in the 2011 World Superbike Championship, proclaiming that the strikingly-liveried new Castrol Honda CBR1000RR has 'the look of a winner' about it and asserting that he is 'confident' his eponymously-named operation can lift the laurels again.
The new machine was unveiled at the Castrol Technology Centre earlier this week [see separate story – click here
], and the revival of one of motorcycling's most iconic partnerships through the ages has captured the imagination of practically the whole paddock.
The old adage does say that if it looks quick, it will be quick, but if he is feeling the pressure of needing to live up to the illustrious heritage of one of the sport's most successful relationships and achieve the same kind of results, then ten Kate is keeping his anxieties well-hidden
“Sometimes you start to paint a bike because you have a new colour scheme and usually some of the mechanics like it, some of the mechanics don't like it – but I think this is the very first time we have had the bike painted and the whole staff was unanimous that it's a good-looking bike,” the Dutchman told Crash.net
. “It's a fast-looking bike, as well, and I hope that we can not only make it look quick but also make it go quick. For sure, though, it's got the look of a winner.
“There is always enough pressure around when we go racing, because our aim has always been to win. You could say there is a bit more pressure because we know what the name, fame and reputation of the previous iconic Castrol Honda team was and we want to have the same standards – but the pressure to win and do well, that's already coming from inside us.
“When we started this team in the mid-nineties, there was one team that was a clear example I think in motorcycle racing to everybody, by their standards, the name, fame, reputation 'n' all – and that was the Castrol Honda team. We are now following in their footsteps, and that really makes us feel proud that we have the opportunity to do so. Castrol is a great partner to have – technology-wise they are also bringing us something better – and to have a sponsor coming to the sport like this really shows that World Superbikes is on the up.”
Be that as it may, the fact remains that aside from the factory effort, there are no privateer Honda entries on the 2011 WSBK grid, leaving Jonathan Rea and Ruben Xaus to fly the flag alone at Phillip Island next month. To put that into perspective, in the 2010 curtain-raiser Down Under there were four, and a year earlier still there were seven. ten Kate admits he is baffled by the lack of interest.
“If you look at the field that we have now, you basically have all the manufacturer teams there and then there are a couple of privateer/satellite teams,” he mused. “It's just people's choice – if they want to do it or not. Honestly, I can say with my hand on my heart that the bike that we are building is coming from the dealership floor, and together with the HRC kit parts, some good tuning guys behind you and a good team around it, it's still possible to build a winning bike as a privateer.”
Nonetheless, in the absence of any more CBR1000Rs, the full weight of expectation from Japan will fall squarely upon Castrol Honda's shoulders in 2011. Can the team deliver? ten Kate replies with not so much as a moment's hesitation.
“We're confident we can win it.”
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