The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Honda's MotoGP program, Tetsuhiro Kuwata and Shinichi Kokubu. Nishimura conducted the interviews in Japanese, and translated them into impeccable English. I then edited them in English for style. Any inaccuracies or errors are therefore mine. - David Emmett
In 2017, Honda achieved the triple crown in MotoGP; manufacturer, team (Repsol Honda Team), and rider’s title (Marc Marquez). Above all, the fierce battle between riders for the championship went on until the final race of the season, which fascinated people all over the world. Tetsuhiro Kuwata, director and general manager of Honda Racing Corporation, and Shinichi Kokubu, general manager of Technology Development Division in HRC, unreservedly looked back how tough their 2017 season was. They also give a frank view of their expectations for the 2018 season, which is already well underway in the laboratories and offices of the HRC race department.
AN: The 2016 season saw very spectacular races with nine riders winning one after another. In 2017, we had another exciting season that the championship battle went on until Valencia. Did you expect such an intense and close championship?
Kuwata In the past, there were many seasons that the championship was decided at the final round of the year so that the hard fight was within our expectations. On the other hand, regarding our performance, it was a difficult year for us because there were ups and downs during the season.
AN: It was the first season for you to manage the MotoGP championship. What was your priority to work on?
Kuwata I set my target to have excellent communication. You know, we always have a good communication all these years, and I tried to make our relationship closer and tighter between each other of us; team, riders, engineers in the racetracks, and development members working in Japan.
AN: How did it work?
Kuwata I think we did it very well. I hope you will see its consequences in this year and next year’s race results.
AN: Did you change something from Nakamoto-san’s days?
Kuwata I don’t think I have changed something in particular, because our target is always making our team and Honda more competitive. It hasn’t changed since Nakamoto-san's days, so I kept on doing this by my approach.
AN: Kokubu-san, in last year’s interview, you said “the 2017 engine is not so-called ‘big-bang’.” Now that the 2017 championship has finished. So, is there anything that you can disclose about the difference between the 2016 and 2017 engine?
Kokubu Yes, the 2017 engine is different, but this bike is the natural evolution of the 2016 one. In 2016, we found a good direction, and we modified the engine to move forward the way we have found. So, I don’t think we have radically changed something on our bike for the 2017 season.
AN: What is the “good direction” you have found?
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