Paul Denning feels Crescent Yamaha has the right combination of youth, experience and desire in its World Superbike line-up to make the new R1 as competitive as possible in 2016 before a certified world championship assault the following year.
As he embarks on a new adventure with Yamaha on the back of a fruitful 20-year relationship with Suzuki, Denning's garage will once again be occupied by Alex Lowes, while ex-world champion Sylvain Guintoli brings a high-level of racing experience to the outfit.
Working alongside Yamaha Europe's road racing project manager Andrea Dosoli, Denning said Lowes represented an “easy sell” as a potential 2016 candidate after his encouraging performance at the Suzuka 8-Hours race in July.
“[Rider choice] was very much a collaboration. It was a mixture of a very experienced rider, who has been there and done it. And a rider with the ambition and talent to ride at that level. We wanted to keep Alex because I've invested the last two years in him.
“Also from a Crescent point of view it just felt nice to continue with a rider that we believe in and to bring something to the party. Not just the mechanics and the trucks. It was an easy sell, especially after Andrea went to Suzuka and saw Alex ride there [in the 8-Hours]. He called me and said, 'OK, no problem with Alex.' He saw him lead the race for an hour and pull away from the R1, which was ridiculous.”
Although Guintoli's title defence in 2015 was less than ideal, with the Frenchman climbing the podium on just one occasion, Denning feels his approach in testing underlines his proven ability.
“The level that he's testing at now is between half a second and one second less than his full potential. He's being clever, easy, doing the work and all the time that we've been testing with Sylvain we haven't had the lap timer switched on on the bike. At the end of the run he would ask the lap time to understand whether the feeling had mirrored the lap time.
“It's quite a grown up approach. I think when a guy has won the world championship in 2014, as he did, and had a reasonable year – if not a very difficult one – last year, he sees this tool as something that can take him back to challenge for the title.”
Pressed on his own expectations for the upcoming season, Yamaha's first as an official manufactuer in the series since 2011, Denning revealed that he is hopeful a “step-by-step” approach can result in race wins before the close of the year, before a sustained assaul on the title in 2017.
“If you speak to him [points at Alex Lowes] he'll maybe give you a calm answer but he wants to win the first race. So does Sylvain. But from Yamaha's point of view and my point of view the target is to be able to be as competitive as we can at the start. If we finish sixth we improve more. If we finish in eighth then we have to improve quickly.
“The Pata agreement is three years. The Crescent agreement is three years. We have to make a start, see where we are and build up step-by-step to see if we can try to challenge for some race wins and try to be world champions in 2017.”