“Our goal is to demonstrate that Kawasaki is serious”
After three years as the Team Coordinator under the old regime, this season Michael Bartholemy steps up to fulfil the role of Competition Manager within Kawasaki's new MotoGP racing organisation.
No easy task
under normal circumstances, but Bartholemy has been the catalyst that has allowed the new organisation to move from a paper plan to a paddock reality in just three months.
The 38-year-old Belgian has brought together the personnel, the resources and the equipment to ensure that Kawasaki go into the 2007 season with the strongest team fielded since the Japanese manufacturer made its full time return to Grand Prix racing in 2003.
Kawasaki has announced a new, in-house racing team that will contest the MotoGP world championship in 2007. Can you explain the structure that has been put in place?
”This is a fresh start for Kawasaki in MotoGP with the factory race team now part of a new operation to be known as Kawasaki Motors Racing. Commencing officially on April 1 this year, Kawasaki Motors Racing will be the structure that operates the MotoGP team, although in the future KMR will have the ability to enter other motorcycle racing activities. In line with other manufacturers, the MotoGP team is now a full factory, in-house operation.”
Can you explain the reason behind this new strategy as Kawasaki enters its fifth season year in MotoGP?
”The strategy has been set by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. and this will enable KHI to have control over the team in all areas, including budgets, staff, resources and management. It is completely normal that if KHI are providing the backing for the Kawasaki MotoGP project, that they also have control of the business.”
Does Kawasaki have a long-term plan for MotoGP?
”Yes, and there is support within the company for a very long-term view of participation in MotoGP, which is the number one motorcycle championship in the world. There is already a five year plan in place through to 2011 for Kawasaki Motor Racing, which will show that MotoGP has become an important marketing tool for the company.”
There was obviously a big change in a short period of time to set-up the new team, what was involved?
Yes, a very big job and difficult to relate. Let's just say that what was achieved by a small group of people in two months at the end of the last year was really amazing. On the November 8 last year, which was when we began putting together the in-house team, we did not even have one screwdriver - we did not carry over any infrastructure from the previous years.
None of this could have happened without a lot of dedicated work, not just from team members, but also from the staff who came to Europe from Japan and also Kawasaki Motors Europe.”
A number of new roles have been created within the new team. What will your role be as Competition Manager of Kawasaki Motor Racing?
”The role of Competition Manager was one that Kawasaki had been considering for some time, even before the changes at the end of the 2006 season. The concept was to have someone controlling the racing activities in relation administration, operations and team management, to coordinate all the key roles to ensure the smooth running of the team. In the future the role may even expand to other motorcycle racing activities but for now it is only MotoGP.”
What are the goals that you would like to achieve in 2007?
” Overall, our goal is to demonstrate that Kawasaki is serious about competing at the top level in MotoGP, and that by the end of this season I would hope that we can achieve Kawasaki's best results since entering MotoGP in 2003. At the end of last season we faced some criticism for our performances, and for some of the changes we were undertaking, but I'm sure that everyone will now see the team operating at a high level.”
The riding line-up is all French this year with Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque, is there a particular reason for this set-up?
”The selection of two French riders is not connected to any specific strategy, such as marketing or promotion, and some people might say it is better to have two riders from different countries. With a new bike for the 2007 regulations we needed a rider to assist with both development and racing and Olivier Jacque has done some great work for us over the past two years as test rider. And Randy de Puniet was already signed on two year contract, so I think we have a good balance in our rider line-up.”
As Randy de Puniet enters his second season of MotoGP with Kawasaki, what are you expecting from him?
”For sure Randy is one of the emerging young stars of MotoGP and he will benefit a great deal from what he learnt during his rookie season. He had some bad luck with injuries, but his race performances were also not as consistent as they could have been. But, he showed that in qualifying he was fast, he just needs to convert that speed into some strong results and I have no doubt he will realise his potential this season.”