Do you work with some of your suppliers the same way the production side of Honda does? One of the things I've come to learn about Honda is that they work with the suppliers to get their quality up to Honda's standards, have you done any of that with the suppliers on the Superbike side?
Most definitely, most definitely we adjust stuff, The perfect example is camshafts. We went through five or six versions of camshafts and worked with our camshaft vendor. A tweak here, a little thing there, they add their experience, we add our desires and our experience to come up with a product that works.
Probably the biggest thing we strive [for] is reliability. We do not, do not, absolutely positively cannot have a failure during the race. It makes us look bad, it makes Honda look bad and it really pisses off the riders.
I can imagine!
Its ok for them to throw it on down the road but its not ok for us to have them break something.
Ok, so there are currently several teams running CBR1000's around the world, Ten Kate, the BSB team, Renegade Honda, Klaffi Honda, and I believe there are some teams running in Japan. Do you guys interface with them at all or exchange notes with them?
We have a guy on the team, Daisuke Hashimoto who has spent some time in Europe working on GP stuff so he has some real good connections with those guys. Earlier in the year when we were struggling trying to find a good baseline he actually did a two week trip, went to a couple of races, interfaced with all the Honda teams. They were very generous with their data all the way down to valving specifications and everything like that. He took pictures, he cataloged everything, we knew where everyone was at around the world that was racing Hondas. So to answer your question, we do keep close track of what the other guys are running, how it's working, and things like that.
If you've got a big information pool and you have access to it you'd be silly not to use it you know? I mean, I've always had a philosophy that kinda goes against maybe what some guys do, but I've always said: good ideas, always steal ‘em. Why reinvent the wheel? Somebody's got a good idea there's no sense in breaking your back trying to do something on your own just because you want it to be your own idea, that's silly. Steal a good idea, use it, move yourself forward, move on.
So with the development effort on the CBR1000's how do you guys tackle it? Do you say ‘OK we're gonna develop the engine in parallel with the chassis' or ‘we're gonna concentrate on the chassis for a couple of months until we get something sorted out'? Do you kind of look at where the shortcomings are and take on a shortcoming at a time?
Exactly, you hit it right on the head, we get ‘em out on the racetrack and circulate the racetrack, look at your lap times. Ok, why can't we achieve better lap times? Initially it was the suspension package. Ok, more power isn't going to do us any good, we can't use what we have now, we need to concentrate on the chassis. Now we're at the point with the chassis's such that we need to get back to engine development. We'd like to run everything in parallel but, this being our first year we're not adequately staffed. We recognize that as something that we need to do next year to stack up the development side of things much more intensively
Speaking of the staff, you have about 10-12 mechanics out here, what do they do in between races?
We do a fair amount of testing, we do 18 races this year--17 or 18 races I'm not quite sure on the superbike side of things but we've tested a dozen times. So we test almost as much as we race. Typically when the transporters gets back to the shop everything gets torn down, inspected, refurbished and that's done both on the chassis side of things and the engine side of things Then we prepare everything we need to look at for our next test. We actually stay pretty busy. People say, ‘oh how can you consider it a full-time job?', well come on, I'll show ya. Particularly the engine side of it, the engines have to come down after every race and the guys spend a lot of hours in the shop. Chassis is not so bad, lots of suspension stuff going on all the time. So, it's a full-time job and at the shop I probably put in the least amount of hours of anybody on my crew and I'm still easily putting in 12 to 13 hours a day. Sometimes I feel guilty going home at 6 o'clock, but then I get home to my kids and I don't feel that bad.
There's a lot of hours that go into it. Continuously. People aren't really aware of how intensive it is. They stay busy all the time.
Tell me a little bit about data acquisition. Are they MoTEC systems?
On the FX machines we use MoTEC for the engine management and data acquisition. We started out that way on the superbike but we couldn't quite get where we wanted with throttle response and smoothness of delivery through the corner. So we made a midseason change back to the Honda kit system, and we kept the MoTEC on for data acquisition. So on one hand the FX bikes are completely run by MoTEC, we've got kind of a hybrid system on the superbike where MoTEC handles all of the data acquisition and the HRC kit pieces handle the actual engine management.
The things that a facility like Honda R&D has is they can put a couple of engineers on a dyno and stuff for days and days and days and days and come up with a mapping that is just flawless. Whereas--we at this point just don't have the manpower to put that much time into that particular area. That is a thing that we'll change soon.
With MoTEC is it a solution that's tailored to motorcycles? I know that MoTEC does a lot for sports car and GT racing but they don't have roll and lean angle added into the equation, is that something your system picks up?
Well its in the software, the car guys don't use it, we do. We use the MA80 which is the same computer and engine management system that probably everybody is using right now, it's the latest and greatest. All of those features are in the software, you just pick and choose what is suitable for your application. The same stuff the car guys are using, we're using - we're just picking different parameters.
Is there a lot of pressure to perform with you guys. *Al laughs*, I mean I know it sounds silly but is it more of a cultural thing (the culture of Honda) or is it that the big wigs say ‘Hey, what happened last week?'
I think when you get to this level the pressure comes from within. There's not a guy on this team that wants to take second place. The beauty of Honda is they will give you all the resources you need to do your job. The flipside is they expect you to win, which adds additional pressure. But its hard to say, ‘we didn't have this' ‘we didn't have that' so we couldn't win. Well the next week we have this, we have that. 'Okay, now why didn't you win?' So, Honda realize things are very fluid, very dynamic, what worked one week might not work the next and they're willing to back us up with what we tell them we need.
Like I said I think the real pressure comes from within, from within the riders, it comes from being the crew chief, it comes from the chassis guys, and it comes from within the engine builders and all that. Everybody, every time they're doing something, 'how can I make this better?', 'how can I make it work better?' I'll give you a perfect example, at the beginning of the season we got a new guy from Japan [who said] "Third place really sucks." Guess what, there are 28 or 29 guys that would've liked that third place. But if I've got a guy that settles for third place I've got no use for him. That's not what we're here for, we're here to win races. Its been a very frustrating season on the superbike side of things just because of that but then you've gotta put things in perspective. Even though our goal is to get on the podium, we still wanna win. Once you get on the podium, its like 'OK, what do we got to do to get those other two spots?' I think at this level the pressure comes from within. Nobody's gonna do this job if they're not here to win. Work this kind of hours, for this kind of pay, to just piddle along and not get a real job you know?