Crash.net caught up with Pata Yamaha team principal Paul Denning at Donington Park to assess the team's transition with Yamaha, coping with two injured riders and cast an eye over the British Superbike championship.

Crash: At the Pata Crescent Yamaha team launch you mentioned about matching the philosophy between Yamaha and your team. How would you assess the progress?

Paul Denning:
That element itself hasn't raised any issues, I would say there has been learning to do more on the Crescent side than on the Yamaha side in terms of understanding the working dynamic and the requirement where responsibilities are split and shared. That is the same with any new business relationship. In general, we are moving forward step by step.

We have had some challenges at the start of the season, both technical and physical with the riders, but the way in which the team and Yamaha are working together I couldn't be happier. Yamaha Europe have also done a very good job to encourage Yamaha Japan's interest and now they are supporting us more I think we are seeing progress quickly.

Crash: Looking back to the opening two rounds at Phillip Island and Chang International Circuit, how would you assess the team's early success in its new form?

Paul Denning:
Phillip Island was unfortunate for Alex because he is so fast there but had a crash in race one with an incorrect front choice and then a technical problem in race two, it wasn't a DNF but for all intended purposes it felt like a non-finish.

For Sylvain it was something like 3.4 seconds and then 2.5 seconds from the win in both races which is a ridiculously close result to the winner to only finish sixth and fifth. Phillip Island always produces closer racing and closer lap times inside the top ten rather than the technical circuits.

Thailand was solid as well, we qualified well, and again top six to perform well at a very different track. Alex had a bit of a black cloud hanging over him again with a technical failure.

Crash: Coming back to Europe you surprised almost everyone with Aragon qualifying both bikes on the front row but struggled in the races?

Paul Denning:
In Aragon we struggled with some unexpected issues which we didn't seen in terms of team performance and understanding to get the best out of the bike. We hadn't seen those problems in Australia, Thailand or winter testing so that took some time to adjust to. We had a full wet day of practice at Assen in only the fourth round of the championship and then no chance to set the bike up in the dry so it has not been as seamless as we'd like but we've made some very solid progress over the last couple of rounds.

The finishing positions are not really the point, it is the gap to the winner which is where we need to be closing down.

Then there was the huge negative of Sylvain's crash at Imola but we improved the bike a lot over the weekend to go from 13th on the grid to sixth in the second race which is very positive. Then it was a very good dry race in Sepang and when we'd gathered some real momentum, certainly on Alex's side while Sylvain was recovering, then we had the crash in the wet race two which broke his collarbone so badly which was another kick when we felt we were recovering from being down.

This year was always going to be a development year for the bike, the team and the riders. Let's hope now the bad luck, but I firmly believe in making your own luck, let's hope that is all part of the learning curve and in the second part of the year we can progress solidly because the potential of the bike is a world championship winning, there is no doubt about that.

Crash: Leading into that, having made some serious progress round on round were the injuries at the worst possible time?

Paul Denning:
I don't know if it was the worst possible time but it certainly slowed down the development. Alex was so desperate to ride here [Donington]. He knew that the bike had moved forward over the past couple of races and at a track that he understands so well and has so much more experience compared to the others. He knew he'd be able to identify even more clearly areas for improvement and on the Friday short runs he's been able to do with the injury clearly the speed is there having finished fourth, which is ridiculous considering the injury he is carrying.

We have to thank Alex for his enthusiasm and positivity toward the project and putting himself through it because he wants to be world champion on this bike next year as is willing to put the effort in to achieve that. Sylvain's range of injuries were far more serious and we've got to hope he will be back in time for Misano with a positive attitude and a fit body.

Crash: Injuries and problems aside, looking at the bike how important is it to have these issues sorted ahead of next year?

Paul Denning:
We need to hit the tests in November hard with the race bike package and I believe with the support of Yamaha there is a very clear programme for improvement on the bike. Every single component; engine, electronic controls, chassis and so on. There is a very clear and definitive programme to improve the bike.

The superb thing about the bike is that the base of the machine is good. The chassis we've modified nothing, it is a stock mainframe, no bracing or stiffening, it doesn't need it. It very much has the DNA of the Yamaha MotoGP machine. The turning and grip it produces is fantastic. We need a bit more power, a bit more of a refine electronic control strategy, predictable grip and all the normal developments.

Crash: Why was Cameron Beaubier picked as stand-in for Guintoli at Donington Park?

Paul Denning:
Yamaha wanted a rider already within the Yamaha global family and with no disrespect to any other Yamaha riders currently he is the best by a long chalk out of those available. On Friday he proved himself on the bike which is completely different to his AMA bike, tyres in particular, but also suspension and chassis parts. A very different feeling compared to the stiffer racing components in World Superbikes.

He was very consistent building up his pace and did a solid job. I had no real expectation of Cameron and having seen him race at Laguna last year he was clearly very determined and fast. How that would translate into this championship I wasn't sure but he has adapted himself very well.

Crash: Looking to the second half of the season what are the aims for results for the individual riders and as a team?

Paul Denning:
For Sylvain it has to be to regain his confidence and to regain his fitness to enjoy riding the bike. We all know he is a world championship with a silky smooth riding style. He has the ability to race with anyone in the field so I'm looking forward to getting him back to racing in that position.

For Alex, I don't think he will look to use the collarbone as any form of excuse in Misano. By the time we have the summer break, after Laguna, we will have quite a few development areas of the summer break and I'd like to think we can be challenging for the podium in the last three rounds.

Crash: Perhaps a win at the end of the year?

Paul Denning:
To win you only need to go down the championship standings and see you've got to beat Rea, Davies and Sykes on strong packages. What you've got to remember is Yamaha has not been in World Superbikes since 2011 so in that significant gap of time you lose so much knowledge, understanding and synergies between the team.

Ducati and Kawasaki are the class of the field right now as they've been doing the same thing with the same riders and same engineers learning from the good and bad stuff to develop package which can challenge for the world championship. We can't expect to do that inside six months but there is an opportunity to be competitive.

Crash: With the Yamaha package in its current form how do you rate it?

Paul Denning:
Power delivery, the way the cross-plane R1 engine produces power delivery much like the R1 in MotoGP, it is quite unique. It makes a lot of grip on the side of the tyre and on drive. The natural turning and chassis characteristics are superb. Those are probably the two USP's and the other areas need to catch up.

Crash: This is a loose comparison but in British Superbikes last year we saw once Josh Brookes tightened the R1 up and found a consistent set-up he stormed off at the front. Do you feel this bike has the characteristic?

Paul Denning:
I think it has the potential to be a winning bike yes, but as a big fan of BSB and having run a team in the series for many years, it is not quite a valid comparison because however good a rhythm Josh found last year he didn't have to beat factory Kawasaki World Superbikes or Ducati Corse or the depth of riders here.

While I believe there is the potential for this bike to challenge for the world title this championship is too strong to ever imagine you are going to take a step ahead to the extend Brookes did last year.

Crash: Keeping attention on BSB, what is your opinion on the season and how Tommy Hill's is doing with his new Yamaha team?

Paul Denning:
Tommy is doing a good job and I've been impressed every time I've spoken to him. He is obviously very hard working and doing a good job on the commercial aspects, presentation, covering all the bases and has a balanced view on the level of performance. He is not panicking, throwing out riders or technicians and he is trying to improve with what he has. It is a tough championship because you only need to be a little bit off and you will find yourself a long way back.

Crash: To wrap up, it is a three-year project with Yamaha so what is the situation for riders for 2017?

Paul Denning:
We are not in a position yet to comment on riders for next year but I think we could do an awful lot worse than the two riders we have at the minute.

Crash: Perfect, thanks very much Paul for your time.

 

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