Joint interview: Kazuki Watanabe and Yuki Takahashi

2021-04-16T11:06:46+02:00April 16th, 2021|2021, 24 Heures Motos 2021|

FIM EWC and All Japan Superbike championship contenders Kazuki Watanabe and Yuki Takahashi stepped on the podiums at Motegi at the Japanese season opener.

Kazuki Watanabe is a rider with Yoshimura SERT Motul in the FIM Endurance World Championship and one of the frontrunners in JSB1000 in the All Japan Superbike championship.

Watanabe got off to a brilliant start at the season opener on the Twin Ring Motegi in early April, scoring two podiums. He finished 3rd in the first race and took 2nd place in the second race in the saddle of Yoshimura SERT Motul’s Suzuki GSX-R1000R.

F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s Yuki Takahashi also triumphed at Motegi in ST1000 in the saddle of his CBR1000RR Honda Dream. This was even though Takahashi – the 2020 champion in the new ST1000 class – had started from pit lane because of an engine problem.
The next round of the All Japan Superbike will take place at Suzuka on 24 and 25 April.

The two Japanese riders give us their views on endurance and sprint racing.

What are your thoughts in the run-up to the races of the FIM Endurance World Championship?
KW: I have been a big fan of the Suzuka 8 Hours ever since I was a child, and Yoshimura has always played a major role in Japanese racing history, so I’m very proud to be part of the championship today.

YT: Our test in March went off well and we had a very good feeling for the race. We still have a few adjustments to make during race week. I’m sorry that the race was postponed.

What are you awaiting and dreading the most about a 24-hour race?
KW: I still can’t imagine riders doing the Suzuka 8 Hours thrice in one single race! The Suzuka 8 Hours is the longest race I’ve ever done and it’s hard enough physically and mentally. I think I have to first try and get a feel for the race. I’m looking forward to it all.

YT: It’s my first 24-hour challenge and I’m keen to ride for the win with a team that has the potential to win. I must admit I’m worried about whether I can hold out over a long 24-hour race.

Is your involvement in the All Japan Championship a plus for your involvement in Endurance?
KW: The race – no matter how long – is about speed. So our development is always focused on how to get fast lap times. In the All Japan Championship it is good to compare yourself to other competitors to know your weaknesses and strengths. But a bike developed for a sprint rider is not good for endurance races. It is completely different, so I’m always conscious you need to make a bike that’s more comfortable to ride rather than a bike that can go fast on the edge.

YT: Travelling to take part in two championships is not easy, but I think it’s an advantage. It’s very useful to do sprint riding in Japan and then carry over that experience with the new bike in EWC.

Is your commitment to Endurance racing another asset in the All Japan Championship?
KW: I’ve done one test already at Le Mans with Gregg Black. It was very good and important to know how he feels and how he rides the bike. I’m now adjusting my riding style to develop the machine with a better feeling for other riders during the development process, including races during the All Japan Championship.

YT: Spending a huge amount of time on the bike in endurance races helps you enhance your skills in sprint riding too, and it helps you get to know the new CBR even better.

How to attract other Japanese riders to FIM EWC?
KW: The FIM EWC is already very attractive to Japanese riders because they know the Suzuka 8 Hours. If the riders have more opportunities to connect to teams, many riders would like to ride in this championship.

YT: I think it’s up to us first of all to obtain good results in the EWC. That will help increase possibilities and opportunities for other Japanese riders. I hope my presence will help to increase the number of Japanese participants in the EWC.