Pleasantly surprised by the early promise shown by the new-look JiR Team Scot outfit, Gianluca Montiron expects the team to make a sharp turnaround in fortunes in 2008.
Having not experienced the success predicted for previous collaborations with Makoto
Tamada and Shinya Nakano, the Italian has moved away from existing MotoGP competitors to back former 250cc star Andrea Dovizioso's premier class debut.
Initial test results with the Honda RC212V have seen Dovizioso make a quick transition to 800cc machinery, something upon which Montiron hopes that his rookie star can build in 2008.
“Sincerely, I didn't expect Andrea to be so fast right from the beginning, but he pleasantly surprised us by showing his good feeling with both the machine and the tyres”, the pioneering team principal explained. “From now on, Andrea will be more closely involved with his technical staff; we've built the team around him and the technicians can now take the time to learn the secret of our package alongside him. As with every year, we start the season with high expectations, and particularly this year I made a lot of organisational changes. I believe that we all have to be competitive.”
The nature of the bike to be used at the Sepang test next week is expected to be a progression of that used in November, although fellow satellite team rider Randy de Puniet this week revealed that the new 2008 engine would not be used by his LCR Honda outfit until the Official Test at Jerez.
Montiron will encounter a similar scenario with the JiR Team Scot machine, although he will be watching out for the competition on the RC212V and beyond.
“I think that all non-factory Honda teams will be using the same material with the same timeframe, therefore there will be no difference between what we have and what the other teams are running. I'm curious as to how the rest of the new machines will perform at the first test in Sepang”, he stated. “Andrea and the team will be getting used to the bike after the winter break, and we will be looking to find the base setup at this opening test.”
The look of the team's machine is another point of interest, with the entrepreneurial satellite squadron still open to further sponsorship to add to their new 2008 livery. One thing that will definitely be changing, however, is Dovizioso's plate number, with his preferred choice retired in the premier class.
“Andrea can't use his favourite number, 34, it is part of a group of legendary numbers having been used by former World Champion Kevin Schwantz”, Montiron explained. “So we are going to take off a number and leave him with just the 4 (a number vacated by retired MotoGP veteran Alex Barros).”
One of the more intriguing side-stories of the 2008 season will the continuation of the battle between Dovizioso and perennial rival Jorge Lorenzo. The Italian has been pipped to the title by his Spanish nemesis for the past two seasons in 250cc, but has thus far shown signs that he could turn the tables on the double World Champion as the two debut in MotoGP. Whilst the Italian is surely motivated by the prospect, his manager is looking even further past such myopic ambitions.
“Andrea doesn't just have to beat Lorenzo to be the World Champion….”
DORNA / CAPSIS International