By Neil Morrison

The PTR Honda squad have endured a frustrating World Supersport campaign in 2013.

Having lost both Sam Lowes and Jules Cluzel from their rider line-up in the off-season they entered the first round with a five-man squad, blending youth and experience, while hoping to push for championship honours.

Yet a series of misfortunes and injuries blunted lead rider Sheridan Morais' progress and the team's younger recruits, including class rookies Matt Davies and Nacho Perez, have struggled to consistently finish in the points.

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Their short circuit misfortunes, however, have been buoyed by a successful road campaign, having supported Michael Dunlop in the Supersport category at the international events.

The year has yielded three international road race wins for the team, including a stunning 600 double at the TT. spoke with PTR team manager Simon Buckmaster at the Ulster Grand Prix - just before the team announced that Morais would leave the WSS team and be replaced by Danny Webb - and began by talking about the Dunlop partnership...
How did the deal with PTR and Michael Dunlop come together?

Simon Buckmaster:
Honda Racing supplied the bikes for him to run his own team. With all our work in World Supersport building Hondas - and I know this year has been difficult - but we're the most successful team over the last four years there. So we built the bike for him and then the deal to support him at the road races was between PTR and Michael.

I've known Michael for a few years, I like him, I think he's a very talented and determined guy so it's a pleasure for us to come and work with him at these major road races.
Sometimes he comes across as quite carefree in the media but when you see him ride there isn't any doubting his commitment. How have you found him to work with?

Simon Buckmaster:
I find him a joy to work with. He's very focussed and has quite a good feel for the bike and he knows what he wants with it. You know he's always giving 100 percent and when we all give 100 percent you know you've done your best and that's all you can ask from anyone.
After he won the two Supersport races at the TT you said you would love to see him test his talent on the world stage. Is there still a possibility of Michael competing in a World Supersport race with PTR in 2013?

Simon Buckmaster:
It's something we'd like to do because he's a better rider than maybe people think, I don't know. I think he'd do a good job and would go a lot better than people think. Whether he can or not before the end of the year I don't know. I'd be interested to see what happened though. If we can we will and that's all I can say really, that I think he'd do a good job on short circuits.
Would an appearance in your team depend on finding extra funding or sponsorship?

Simon Buckmaster:
No, no. More than anything it depends on the other commitments he's got and the availability of bikes to do it. We can't just run a sixth bike; we'd use his bike. We just have to wait and see if we can find the opportunity for him to do it before the end of the year.
Turning attentions to your World Supersport campaign, it's been a difficult season. It certainly wasn't helped by Sheridan's injury at Assen.

Simon Buckmaster:
In Sheridan's case right at the start of the year in Australia we got all the bikes for him. There was an outside part supplied to us that we've used loads of times before and there was a mistake in it. We had some HRC people with us for two days asking, "How can it do this, we never have this trouble" but we eventually found the problem. But that cost us in Australia.

Then in Aragon he qualified fourth which wasn't bad and got knocked off on the first lap. In Assen he crashed and got shoulder ligament damage and he was injured all the time. Since then we've been ok, for example he was fifth in Portim?o, to be fair all the circuits that have got a decent straight on them, like he was sixth in Monza and he really wasn't fit there. He looked like he could finish third at Donington but the strength in his shoulder was bad and finished seventh.

From his point of view and our point of view the results are not what they should have been. We've improved our bike a little bit and there's no doubt, as it has proven before, that it's capable of competing for victory.
You're running four other riders in a five-man squad. Do you feel it was too much of a step up for the younger riders in your team?

Simon Buckmaster:
I would say in all honesty, in the case of the other riders, they're young riders coming into the team and we threw all the eggs into Sheridan's basket. We have a really good bike but I possibly underestimated it and thought that if you're on our bike you should automatically score points. To win is always the same, but as it turned out the depth of field in this year's Supersport championship is big.

You can see when Glen Richards, who normally runs in the British Supersport championship, wild-carded at Donington last year and finished fifth. This year at Silverstone he was 17th. So two things really; the young riders have found it to be a big step up in level, and then the Sheridan situation has made it not the season we wanted.

But with four rounds to go we'll keep doing our best. We've got a great bunch of lads in the team, it's still a good bike and a great team, it's just these things happen to everybody, in all walks of sport. But everyone has a bed spell and we'll keep going the best we can in a way that we know works.
Sheridan's expectations and those of the team were very high at the beginning of the season. You all seemed confident you could push for the championship. Without the bad luck and injuries would you be in that position now?

Simon Buckmaster:
Last year we ran Lowes and Cluzel but we didn't have the budget to have that situation. We personally managed Sam and he was offered a three year deal with Yakhnich Motorsport and it wouldn't' have been fair for us to stand in the way of his career because we couldn't offer or guarantee a Superbike deal, like they could, going forward.

With Jules, he had just about agreed to sign with us and then a turn of events with Guintoli jumping ship, Jules was offered a Superbike ride at the last minute. Was it the best thing for him to do? I don't know because I think he could have been World Champion this year. No offense to Paul Denning or Crescent Suzuki, but it's not the best bike on the grid. But they're doing a good job.

So to say could Sheridan have competed for the title I'd say 'no.' In all honesty, Kenan is Kenan and Sam has been consistent this year and done a good job. Could he beat them even if he is fit? It'd be hard. Should he have been third every week? Yes. But these things can be affected by injury and confidence.
Will you continue with a similar set-up next season, with five riders in the Supersport class?

Simon Buckmaster:
Next year I'd like to run four riders, not five. We've looked at the 'EVO' Superbike class and it's something we'd be keen to do if I can find the budget because everyone wants to step up a level. Who those riders are, we're working on at the minute. We'd like to have at least one front-runner but also we have to work within the budget we've got to go racing.
A lot has been said regarding the new 'EVO' rules in WSBK. Do you feel the organisers have got them right?

Simon Buckmaster:
I think there are things that could be slightly different. I have a lot of respect for Gregorio Lavilla and what the organisers of WSBK have done for the world championship. I've had loads of chats with Gregorio and said 'Whatever you do someone's going to be unhappy.'

The problem I see with it in year one is because of the standard engine rule it's hard to get away from the fact that it's going to help one or two manufacturers.

With Supersport if you have a Yamaha, Honda or a Kawasaki and to a degree a Triumph and Suzuki, you can compete because you're allowed to tune the cylinder head and that evens the field.

That's the only problem I feel, with standard engines it could lead to one or two manufacturers struggling to be competitive because they don't make one-off, special road bikes.
Are you hoping to continue with Michael on the roads again in 2014?

Simon Buckmaster:
He's currently talking to Honda so hopefully a deal will come together there. Everyone likes working with a winner and he's a winner. He's won three races out of four for us this year at the big events where we've been supporting him. He's a joy to work with and it'd be a pleasure to work with him again in 2014.