Moto Media

with ... Robert Watherston

Copy and photo courtesy of: Massimo Zanzani.
Robert Watherston landed in London, from Scotland, in '96 with the aim to continue the relationships with the sponsors of the official team which raced in Superbike. His physical complexion betrays his past as a rugby player, but his smile and his gentle manners show that from the sport of his heart has only kept the character and determination. These characteristics are applied to his role as a sports coordinator, but also on the marketing and sponsorship. Fields that Watherston knows very well after working for Canon when they were with team Williams in F1 and for Alfa Romeo in the British Championship of cars.

RW: The 2011 season is the beginning of a new project for Honda. Throughout the last seven or eight years the philosophy was to support the teams which rode with our brand, but the in this last years the motocross profile has grown a lot thanks to the excellent promotion that Youthstream has done for the Word Championship as it is shown with the arrival of important sponsors such as Red Bull or Monster Energy. Not only the quality of the teams and riders has improved, but also the races such as the Motocross of Nations, which gathers together the best international motocross. This means that both the image and the sport have grown, so it is then the perfect moment also for Honda to have a different approach and a greater commitment in this discipline. With Honda World Motocross Team we want to have a team as strong as possible, and we have started this journey with the structure of Paolo Martin and a triennial program, which we hope it would be followed by a longer one, although I know it is difficult to establish it now due to the uncertainty of the current market."

Q: With the limited budgets that exist at the moment, it is probably complicated to make ends meet.

RW: It is difficult for everyone, and it is not different for us. At any rate in Honda Europe we think that motocross has a good future, and for this reason we have reviewed our duties and we are tightly linked with a consistent commitment as we were in the past.

Q: Do you think that it will be more difficult to beat your Japanese rivals or the KTM that at the moment is fierce on all fronts.

RW: The Austrians are dominating thanks to a well done job, but all the Manufacturers have the same mentality and they all want to win. In fact, in a racing level they are currently the number one and our target is to beat them, it is a passionate challenge and we will see good racing.

Q: Now that you are back at the first row it just remains one regret: not having done it a year before when Antonio Cairoli was available.

RW: Timing is everything in life, and then we were not yet ready for a program such as the one we've done for the next three years. It is not only to have this or that rider, but having a complete package which also includes all the technical and logistic aspects necessary to race the World Championship and is based on the continuity. For this reason, our plan is to have a long-term program. We were flattered to have so many requests from teams and riders, but then everything clashes with the problem of the investment. It would have been fantastic to have Tony in the team with us, and he might be with us some day, but last year we were not yet ready and it is wrong to rush if there is not a well defined program.

Q: Which are then your objectives for the following three years?

RW: The main one is win again the World Title. 2011 will help us to set up the structure and our plans, although we would like to be the number one, we know it will be a difficult and transitional year.

Q: What will be your working relations with the Japanese?

RW: The base of the CRF which we will race are prepared by the Research and Development department of Hamamatsu, while the field development will be operated by Martin Racing Technology team supported by the engineers that will come from Japan during the racing season. We will then combine the strength and the experience of the Headquarters with the speed and flexibility of Paolo Martin's team which we need on the field. We will take full advantage of both parties.

Q: Will the United States be involved in this team work?

RW: Yes, the base of their bikes is the same as the one used by the official riders in Japan and the one we will use for our Grand Prix riders, directed by the project leader Taichi Honda. Overseas the technical regulation is a bit different, so their CRFs will be slightly different, but the big change is that the three sides will now work together and will pass the information and experience over to just one end, the R&D of the manufacturer, with the target of developing a winning bike and transfer also the improvements to the mass production. There will be more people in charge from Japan in the Gran Prix's and a more effective exchange of information.

Q: Will the choices done by Honda Motor Europe and the decisions taken during the GP autonomous or they will have to be approved to the will of Japan?

RW: We have done the new plan in a completely autonomous way, but the program that we have been studying for a couple of years before, we have illustrated it to the Headquarters and their R&D. Ultimately, we are autonomous, but we also work in full synergy with the Japanese because the work of developing the bike is done together working hand in hand.

Q: Your program is based on the MX1, which prospects do you have for the MX2 instead?

RW: For us the 450 is our priority because the budget does not let us expand to more fronts, so concerning the competitions, at the moment we'd preferred to focus on the main category which in terms of media exposure is the most important. However, the development of our 250 is also going ahead, and when it will be precise moment, we will also be present in this category.