HRC Bosses Kuwata & Wakabayashi Interview, Part 2: On Swingarm Spoilers, Jorge Lorenzo, And Winning It All

In part two of our exclusive interview with Tetsuhiro Kuwata, HRC general manager of Race Operations Management Division, and Shinya Wakabayashi, general manager of Technology Development Division, address the aerodynamic innovations introduced by Ducati at the Qatar MotoGP race in 2019, and the possible effects that can have. They also talked about the challenges of balancing the performance of Marc Márquez with trying to help Jorge Lorenzo to succeed. The HRC bosses also discussed the input Lorenzo had on the development process, and how it was affected by his decision to retire. That leads on to a discussion of what to expect for 2020, for Alex Márquez, alongside brother Marc in the Repsol Honda squad, and for Cal Crutchlow and Takaaki Nakagami in the LCR Honda team.

Q: At the season opener in Qatar, Ducati introduced a swingarm attachment, the so-called “spoon” or swingarm spoiler, and it caused controversy among the manufacturers. Anyway, the fact is that they are very smart in finding loopholes in the regulations. Does HRC read the rule book meticulously like them in order to find something which hasn't been specifically prohibited?

Kuwata: Maybe you can take an approach to check if your good idea infringes on the regulations. And you can also take another approach from the opposite direction, but it makes no sense if you don’t have any objective with that loophole. If you have ten ideas and read the rule book carefully to check how many of them are legal, it will be a persuasive approach. I am guessing maybe Ducati is taking this type of approach. Probably, loopholes don’t come first, but I don’t know.

Q: Does the attachment have an aerodynamic effect?

Kuwata: I guess so, that’s why everyone uses it.

Q: The reason for attaching a “spoon” on the swingarm was said to be limiting the rise of rear tire temperatures. Does your data prove it?

Kuwata: It is a very difficult area to confirm because you cannot compare tire temperatures completely in identical conditions with and without the attachment. If the difference was 5°C or 10°C, you can say the attachment has a cooling effect, however if it was just 1°C or something, it’s very difficult to find such subtle differences. In any case, you can see airflow so that you can presume there would be some effect. Maybe you can do a simulation for this on your computer, too. However, I think it is difficult to measure the effect.

Q: Probably, the most important thing is whether the attachment has positive effects on a rider's feel and lap time.

Kuwata: You know, even a very small change can make a big difference in the end. Therefore, if there is a possibility to improve your lap time, you will use it unless it has an obvious negative effect.

Fabio Quartararo leads Marc Marquez at the 2019 Misano round of MotoGP

Q: Let’s move on to questions about your riders. Marc Márquez won the 2019 championship with a surprisingly outstanding performance. In fact, he said it was the best season in his racing career, even better than the 2014 season. Do you agree with him?

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Personally, I certainly don't share their optimism that Nakagami will be scoring top six results this year. Unless something has changed, he will be riding the 2019 bike, which by all accounts was a very tricky proposition.

Would like to have to had the question of Johann’s opinions of the Honda. If Moto2 championships are important to HRC Zarco has two of them, soundly beating Alex Marquez on the way to them. He also had experience of the Yamaha and the KTM. That would make his feedback to HRC a rich line of enquiry

if the interview was conducted in Japanese and translated to English?

And not to be rude, but Messr's Kuwata and Wakabayashi seem extremely well polished in corporate speak. But I guess it's to be expected at that level.

It was interesting to read the way the glibness ebbed and flowed as the interview progressed. "That is why it is very hard to define whether it is easy/difficult to ride the bike."

Everything's fine, nothing to see here. This is not the mass damper you're looking for. Move along.

A Japanese journo in 1st language actually gets great stuff relatively w their brass (yes, it was from Japanese). The Yamaha one is best of these. I love seeing the cultural stuff inlaid within it, fun to extricate.