Kazuhiko Yamano started working for Honda at just 19 years of age and, 25 years later, became team manager of the factory's Repsol Honda Team for the 2008 MotoGP season.

Yamano has worked his way steadily up the Honda hierarchy, initially working as a HRC mechanic, before joining Mick Doohan crew from 1991-1992 and then becoming Tohru Ukawa's chief mechanic from 1993 to 1995.

Management positions followed, including the role of HRC team manager at the Suzuka 8 Hours from 2002-2006 and the All Japan Road Race championship in 2007, when he was also project leader of the Suzuka 8 Hours entry.

2008 saw Yamano return to grand prix racing, as team manager for Repsol Honda, whose rider Dani Pedrosa currently leads the world championship standings by seven points heading into this weekend's French Grand Prix...

Q:
Tell us about your job as Repsol Team Manager - what decisions and responsibilities do you have?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
The bikes are an important tool, but even more important than that is the rider using the tool. What we want is that he can use that tool feeling as comfortable as possible. I think motorcycling is a sport that's centred on the person and we want the protagonists to be able to practice in the best conditions possible. We don't want them to get demotivated.

That's my job, providing the riders with whatever they need. And not only the riders, but also those surrounding them, that is, the mechanics, engineers, and the chief mechanics. To get all members of the team highly motivated, which results in greater stimulation for the rider. We try to create a good atmosphere to work in.

Q:
You have gone from being Doohan's mechanic to being Ukawa's chief mechanic, a member of Okada's and Gibernau's development team (in 1996) and then team management. Now you are in charge of one of the most powerful teams in the MotoGP World Championship. How have you faced these changes?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
My dream was to one day become team manager in the top category with HRC. Many people would like to get that job. But it was not only my dream. I've gradually climbed many steps since I started out as a mechanic and finally became team manager.

I've taken it step by step, and now I'm very happy with my post as team manager of the Repsol Honda Team, though I don't think it's my definitive goal. I don't have any goals, I just want to improve. In the past, all the team managers were engineers, but I come from a mechanic's background. I want to show all the young mechanics, and the rest, that a mechanic can make it to team manager if they are ambitious and work hard enough.

Q:
You have worked in many different areas of the team, and I suppose that gives you a much broader view of the team as a whole. Does that make your job easier?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
Thanks to my experience as a mechanic, I know how the mechanics feel, even the riders, because the relationship is very close. Even more so when you're the chief mechanic. Therefore, now I can understand all points of view within a team; what they are feeling, how they face problems, how to have a good relationship with the riders...

Q:
You have worked with a number of different riders. Who impressed you the most?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
I think that, to date, Mick Doohan impressed me the most, because after the serious accident he had in 1992, and the complicated injury, he recovered and won the championship on five occasions. His motivation was incredible, and he showed me that the important thing is to be highly motivated in order to win the world championship. His fighting spirit also impressed me a lot.

Q:
Despite a difficult pre-season, HRC's hard work was rewarded when Pedrosa finished a shock third in the Qatar season opener, won next time out at Jerez and is now leading the championship. Team-mate Nicky Hayden has also shown podium potential. How large a role in the team's early season success do you feel you have played?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
It's not only me who did all the hard work. As team manager, I did what was expected of me. There are many people within the HRC and we have to let everyone who is part of this company know what the actual situation of the team is, the complaints made by the riders, etc. Not just an approximate description, but a clear idea of what is needed. I just did my job, which happens to be that of team manager, but at the time everyone did what was expected of them.
Q:
Last year, the RC212V initially struggled against its rivals before enjoying a strong end to the season. A pneumatic-valve engine was planned for 2008, but is yet to be raced. What do you think of the current bike?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
Last year the rules changed and displacement was limited to 800cc. We'd made a new bike, and we didn't want to start all over again this year. So we made use of the work done until then to develop the bike, without any major changes. When I'm asked 'can the championship be won in this situation', I think it's a tricky question to answer. We have to try out new things, and that takes time; and though we're aware that the riders are expecting these developments, we're still carrying out tests.

Q:
What is your opinion on your riders, Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
Both riders are very strong mentally and are very talented, though with different characters, which we try to make the most of in both cases. I've learnt a lot from Dani, as he knows who to seize the chance in any particular situation. He's a very intelligent rider. Nicky is very aggressive, and thanks to his team's motivation and his own passion for the team, he also does some very valuable work.

Q:
You were there in the 500cc category, then the 990cc MotoGP stage, and now 800cc. How do you see the world championship right now?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
I understand well the change made to four-stroke engines, because four-stroke engines are more environment-friendly. And the subsequent change to 800cc is also easy to explain, as it was done to improve safety for the riders.
Q:
What is your opinion on traction control?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
I think what's most important is the riders' safety, so if traction control was introduced to improve that aspect, I understand why it was done.

Q:
Last year, Bridgestone was visibly one step ahead of Michelin, and some teams changed their supplier for 2008. Honda and Hayden won the 2006 world championship with the French brand, and decided to stay with them. Is the team satisfied with its tyres right now?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
I'm very happy. The overall performance of Michelin is very good. I don't know for sure what happened last year, as I was not team manager, but this year we've often met to discuss opinions and right now we're doing a good job together.

Q:
Can you tell us anything about the new (pneumatic valve) engine?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
Our job is to provide a machine that is capable of winning. It doesn't matter what valves it uses, whether pneumatic or standard. We try to produce machines that win races, and continue to work on both options to meet this goal.

Q:
Who do you think is in a stronger position to fight Honda for the championship: Ducati or Yamaha?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
Both are very strong, they have bikes that perform very well, and both have very good riders in their teams.

Q:
Fuel tank size is currently limited to 21 litres. What problems does this create?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
You need to find a compromise between fuel consumption and power, because if you try to get as much power as possible, you're out of fuel before the race is through. It's important to find a balance that gives you the chance to use all that fuel without risking a too-low consumption rate, because if you don't, you can tell the difference in power.

Q:
This is a world where many mature, seasoned people with years of experience are reliant on information given by riders in their early 20s. Do you ever think about that?

Kazuhiko Yamano:
Well, what I think is that, if I could, I'd race with Dani and Nicky, but that isn't possible, so I dedicate all my dreams, effort and work towards the goal of helping our riders win. Their age doesn't matter, but their work and talent is what has put them where they are, and my path has led me to helping them out from where I am now.

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