I had the privelage of sitting down with the 2012 line-up of the Ten Kate Racing Team, before their Dutch round of the championship. The team currently is formed by 2 World Superbike riders, Hiroshi Aoyama and Jonathan Rea and World Supersport star Broc Parkes.
INTERVIEW HIROSHI AOYAMA – WSBK
How did you start with motor racing?
I started out when I was 5 years old. My father took me to the racetrack, but at the time I didn’t really like it. My father pushed me with riding a bike and I started to like doing it. So from that moment I was on a racetrack almost every weekend.
You became the last ever 250cc World Champion, but it was a long fight to achieve this. How was that last race weekend in Valencia for you, when the title was still undecided?
I was very, very happy on the Sunday morning. I was always fighting for the championship, but every time I was losing the title 2 or 3 races before the end of the season. This time I was fighting till the last weekend, so I was very happy. It was a great weekend in Valencia, but of course I was also a little bit nervous. I just wanted to win the race. I was very close to the guy in front of me, when I went into the gravel. It was a nice race in the end.
You rode 2 years in MotoGP, first for the Interwetten Honda Team and then for the Gresini Racing. What was your nicest, greatest, or most unforgettable moment of riding in MotoGP?
When I was riding the MotoGP bike for the first time, it was a great moment for me. For every rider, it is a dream to ride MotoGP. The first team I rode with was really experience as well. I was not really successful in MotoGP, but I had some races in which I was fighting for my personal best result. I was enjoyed testing in Qatar and Malaysia, which was super fun with the team.
Last year during the GP of Malaysia, you lost your teammate Marco Simoncelli in a tragic race accident. I had a lot of respect for you and your team when you all went to Valencia to ride the race. With what feeling did you went to Valencia?
I still can’t believe that Marco isn’t here any more. It is difficult for everybody. We had the decision to race at Valencia or to pass. We decided to try to race for Marco. For me, it was such a difficult weekend, because Marco was always in the box next to me. That weekend he wasn’t and it was a really hard weekend. Marco was a really talented and nice guy. Everybody loves him, and it is a real pity that we must miss him.
This year, you are riding on the Ten Kate Honda in the World Superbikes. What are the biggest changes between MotoGP and the World Superbikes, and how is to ride this year’s bike?
I had thought there were much more differences between the MotoGP and the World Superbike bike. Of course the bike a little bit different, but not as much. My new Honda CBR1000RR is bigger and heavier, but the power of the engine is a little bit less. But not as much as I expected. The bike is more friendly, so I have a very good first impression. We have to learn a lot, but so far so good. The team has a lot of experience and that is good with helping each other as we can’t change a lot to the bike.
Philip Island Imola kicked off the season, and currently we are gearing up for Assen. How do you look back at the start of the season, and what are you expecting of Assen?
Of course, I could have done it better. Everybody was looking at me because I was coming from MotoGP and everybody was expecting something from me. I also want to do great, and I finished in 8th and 9th. For starting in the World Superbikes, I think it isn’t as bad. Of course, I think after the race that I could have done it better. Overall, the feeling was good. In Imola it was quite hard, because I didn’t know the racetrack and also the weather conditions were changing. It made it really hard for me. Both Johnny and I choose the wrong tire. It was a hard weekend for the team, but Assen is the home track of the team, so Johnny and I want to do a very good job.
The last years, you have been racing with the number 4. What’s the story behind the #4?
One year I finished fourth in the 250cc championship, so I decided to take that #4. Since then I like the number 4 and I won the title with it too. When I came here, I saw that Jonathan was using the number 4, but he told me that he was choosing number 65. So I took the number 4.
What are the expectations for the rest of the season?
Of course, I want to fight for the top 5, but it is a pretty though year with Kawasaki and BMW. Because they are street bikes, we can’t change a lot, so we have to do some work. It is just the beginning of the season and also for me a new experience in the Superbikes. Now I have to learn the bike and tires, but in the middle and end of the season I want to fight for the podium and finish within the top 10 of the championship.
INTERVIEW JONATHAN REA – WSBK
You already have a lengthy career. You started with motocross and raced in the British Superbikes. During your time in the BSB, you were one of the top favorites. How do you look back at that time, and what style circuit do you like better, BSB or WSBK?
I like the circuits of the World Superbike better, because they are more my style of riding. But my time in the British Superbikes was really good. I had a good teammate there when I was riding with Honda. Many of the guys I race now, were also in the BSB like Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes and Carl Crutchlow.
The photo of you on top of the Mountain at Cadwell Park is very popular around the world. It looked like you really enjoyed, and is it a bummer you’re not riding there anymore?
The circuit at Cadwell Park is not the most dangerous track in the world, but I must say I’m quite happy we don’t race there with the WSBK. Anyway, I have great memories of when I raced there. I like the circuit in BSB, and it is hard to get the jump right. For me, I only jumped if the bike wasn’t wheeling. If the bike was wheeling, then I made sure not to jump as it becomes too dangerous.
— Jonathan Rea (@jonathanrea) August 24, 2014
From the BSB, you joined the Ten Kate Team in World Supersport. How though was it to ride on all these new tracks?
For me, not so much. Normally my motivation is pretty high and I learn new tracks pretty quickly. I enjoy learning new tracks. In my first year in the Supersport I managed to win many races on these circuits I had never been before. I like to see it as a new challenge.
For the last few years you were racing in the World Superbikes with Honda. Has the bike changed a lot over those years?
Between the current bike and the ones I rode before, there is a big difference. The older bike has no traction control. Honestly, I like the Honda Fireblade. Every year we got some issues, but in general Honda’s package is really good. I don’t expect a revolution of the bike, as it currently is already good.
What’s your best, worst and most amazing moment in your career?
I think my best moment happened last year. I came back from injury at Imola, and I was able to win a race there. That one was very special. My worst moment was when I broke my leg in 2004. It happened at the circuit of Knockhill. Not a good moment.
This year your teammate is Aoyama, a very experienced rider who is coming from MotoGP. Do you learn from his experience?
We talk of course a bit about the bike, but ultimately I know what is right or wrong. At the moment I’m learning mostly from myself and I hope in the future Hiroshi will become really fast.
During the race at Phillip Island, you just missed out on the podium. Can you quickly adapt to take away the positives, or does it feel like a big disappointment?
It was disappointing because it happened on the last straight before the finish. The tire was completely destroyed at 3/4 of the race, but honestly the 4th place was OK. It is always disappointing when you miss the podium. We don’t like to think too negative about these things, we’re looking up to the next race and try to do it better.
Imola was a though weekend, how do you look back at that weekend?
Yeah, for sure, we need to improve the bike a lot. But everyone knows that, the team knows that, I know that, so together we are trying to work together and make the best bike we can. Imola was okay for race 1, we raced on used tires. I used the soft tire, which after the race was completely destroyed. In race 2 I had a bad start. After the first lap I was 14th, but I came back to 5th. This was a very strong race, and a strong ride. The bike was good and after the weekend we had a good test on the Monday. So in the end it wasn’t so bad, but we made a little mistake with the tire choice and me making a bad start in race 2.
INTERVIEW BROC PARKES – WSS600
This is your return to Ten Kate after riding for them back in 2004. How is it to be back?
For me, it is like a present to ride for Ten Kate. They are the best team in the World Supersport and the last time I was riding for this team was 8 years ago. I was quite young, but had a lot of success and I finished 2nd in the championship with them. I think I’m now much more ready to ride for this team than 8 years ago.
You are the most successful in the World Supersport. What makes this class so suitable for you?
Well, in the Supersport I have been the most successful because of the machinery and the teams I rode for. I had much better because I’m more recognized as some that can shine and battle for the championship. I guess I have been riding mostly Supersport, because there was never a team in the Superbikes, where I could battle for the championship. So I prefer staying in the Supersport, where I can fight for the title.
Throughout the years you rode for different manufactures (Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki) in the World Supersport. Isn’t it difficult to get used to the new bike and team each time?
Yeah, the Supersport bikes are always a bit different, because the bikes change all the time. Especially this year, because we didn’t have a lot of pre-season testing, as the deal with Ten Kate came quite late. But on the other hand, it is good, because you know how the bike works, and you can quickly change the set-up of the bike with that experience. It is a good and a bad thing, I prefer riding for a team for 2 years, because year one is always a learning year.
You were also active in the BSB and WSBK. What was for you more fun to ride and why?
I love to stay in the World Championship, but I have to say I was quite succesful when I made the move to the British Superbikes in 2009. When possible I prefer riding in the World Championships. I don’t like riding in the Superbike for a not competitive team and bike. It isn’t very interesting to ride just at the back of the field, it is much better to fight for the podium. When it comes to circuits it is a 100% the WSBK circuits. One of the main reasons is that some of the BSB are very dangerous. I’m now riding 11 years in the WSBK and WSS600 and I’m not thinking on going back to the BSB, I prefer going back to Australia.
This isn’t your first year that you not have a teammate. It can be good as you know the team is fully focussed in you, but the downside is not the sharing of information with a teammate. What do you prefer, having a teammate or not?
It is always good to have a teammate, but I think now with my experience on the bike and stuff I can do it myself. These days you don’t have to look too much to your teammate, because you find out a lot of information by just looking to the data.
Phillip Island was the first race of the season and you started with a podium. Must have been the ideal start of the season?
Yes, Phillip Island was really good. We didn’t have a lot of testing, but we took pole position. In the race I didn’t race as good as I thought and unfortunately we were 3rd. But it is still a podium, so it wasn’t a bad weekend at all.
During the race at Imola you had a lot of issues with the tires. After the good weekend at Phillip Island it must have been frustrating?
Yeah it was dissapointing, we had a good bike and also a good race weekend. The tire for the race was used, but also good. Inmeddiatly in the race the tire was bad and I was falling back. The tire was so much destroyed that I had to come in. Once I was back on track, I put the lap record and was even faster than the top 3. That was really disapinting and I’m still fired up about it. But maybe this is good for the race in Assen.
Assen is the next race. Are the problems of Imola solved and what are you expectations?
We didn’t really have issues on Imola, the problems came from Pirelli. We had a good test after the race at Imola and we were much faster than the lap record. I had a good bike. For Assen I want to win the race, I need to make a point. Also a podium would be very nice.
Almost every year you are riding with number 23. What is the story behind the #23?
It was the first number I ever got and I guess it has just been my lucky number in my whole career. There is not realy a story behind it.
Do you prefer yourself in a special way for every race?
I’m not really into those kind of things. I like to be organized in the team and also with the team. I have to relax and not make myself to excited about it.