The Pata Honda line-up for the 2015 World Superbike championship was officially unveiled at Verona in Italy today when Sylvain Guintoli and Michael van der Mark were presented to a large and enthusiastic crowd of Italian fans and media.
The two riders – both world champions in 2014 – have already tested their 2015-specification Pata Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP race machines this year at Portimao, Portugal and, earlier this week, at Aragon in Spain.
In spite of less-than-favourable weather conditions, both riders declared themselves happy with the development of the CBR, on which their Netherlands-based team has worked hard to meet revised technical regulations for the 2015 WSBK season.
Reigning World Superbike champion, Guintoli, 32, and his 22-year-old Pata Honda team-mate, van der Mark, who won last season’s World Supersport crown, will return to Spain tomorrow for a two-day test at Jerez on Monday and Tuesday next week.
The forthcoming season marks the third in which Pata, one of Europe’s largest and most successful manufacturers of potato chips and snacks, has supported Honda’s official entry in the World Superbike championship. Pata president, Remo Gobbi, a passionate follower of motorsport on two and four wheels, was alongside both Pata Honda World Superbike riders when the covers came of their CBR machines on Saturday afternoon.
Bringing the number one plate to a new manufacturer is a big deal, really, because it doesn’t happen very often. It’s symbolic for me, too, because I’ll be going for the title again on a different bike, the Honda CBR. I’ll definitely be wearing the number one with pride this year. But I’m motivated by the challenge and I’ve found a team that also wants it really badly. The bike has changed quite a bit over the winter and we have new regulations. The team has worked hard and we know it’s going to be a big challenge, but that’s what makes it interesting! The 2015 engine is quite close to last year’s specification and, if anything, is a bit smoother, which is good news for us because, built as standard, it suits the new rules. We’re still working on a few things li ke weight distribution and geometry but the bike is already quite different to last year. I’m very pleased with the work that has been done over the winter. There is still more work to be done, but the team is a big asset; you can feel the power of Honda, and it feels good.
Michael van der Mark
I’m in the same team as last year but, after winning the World Supersport title, I had to make another step and, for me, that was World Superbike. It’s maybe a little easier for me because I have the same team, but I still have to get used to the bigger CBR and its more sophisticated electronics and find a good set-up. I think the biggest challenge for me and everyone is the new regulations. At the moment the bike feels really good but we’ll have to see where it is after the first few races. I have to learn a lot, of course, but I don’t put any pressure on myself – I just want to do my best, make forward steps and see where we can get to. The weather hasn’t been great at the two tests we’ve had this year but my feeling with the CBR is much better than my first outing at Jerez. To gether with Sylvain, I think we have a great team. He brings a lot of experience as last year’s world champion, but I think we can learn from each other and that’s what we’ve been doing in the tests.
Ronald ten Kate
Our rider line-up is very good on paper with two world champions on the Honda CBR Fireblade. I think that would be unique for any team but certainly for us. There’s a lot of knowledge and experience that Syvlain is bringing to the team – he’s been on a lot of different bikes in different paddocks. On the other side, Michael has stepped up to Superbike and he’s the young gun. Apart from a few outings at Suzuka, he has no experience on the big bikes, so when you put those guys in the blender I think we’ve got the perfect team. You can already smell, feel, sense that something great is coming up.
The 2015 season has already started very well as we are the only team with two world champions in our garage – one from Superbike and the other from Supersport. Of course, our plan was to have a very experienced rider and a young rider with very good prospects. Our expectation is to have good results with Sylvain and, after a few races, to see Michael fighting in the top six. We want him to grow with the team and be ready to challenge for the title in 2016. The team has worked really hard with the new regulations but the CBR was already quite production-oriented. After the first tests we are quite satisfied and we expect Honda to be fighting for the podium once again.