Yamaha Motor Italia WSB team manager
Massimo Meregalli has been team manager of the Yamaha Motor Italia WSB squad for the last four years.
At the end of this season the team lost both its top riders Noriyuki Haga and Troy Corser, who were replaced by two talented
newcomers to the WSBK racing scene, Ben Spies and Tom Sykes. This radical change has been greeted with enthusiasm in the factory Yamaha team, which is currently gearing up for what promises to be an interesting 2009 Superbike World Championship season.
With a new bike and two new riders, what are your aims for next year?
"We are very confident. The YZF-R1 that we tested at Portimao immediately gave positive results, even though it is a bike that really has very few differences from the production model. This means that the bike has considerable potential and it will be up to us to get it to express that potential".
And what about the new riders?
"Ben Spies showed his qualities right from the start. He is a determined guy but has his feet firmly on the ground. He wants to do things in stages, and is already hard at work. He looked impressive on the bike, and without knowing the track he was already lapping at Haga's race pace on day 2. As for Tom Sykes, he concentrated mainly on establishing a good feeling with the bike and all things considered his times were satisfactory".
Might the fact that they don't know most of the tracks be a bit of a handicap?
"I feel sure that top riders know where to put the bike on the track after a couple of practice sessions. The tests at Portimao were a clear demonstration of this. Both Ben and Tom will be put in the best conditions to be very competitive right from the start".
How did you manage to convince a rider of the calibre of Spies, who appeared to be heading to MotoGP, to join up with Yamaha?
"He wanted a professional team and a competitive machine and when we made a proposal to him, he didn't waste much time in accepting.
He decided to come to SBK because he wants to win and joining Yamaha seemed like an excellent opportunity".