ON THE RECORD: Shuhei Nakamoto

HRC’s Vice President talks about Marc Marquez, Casey Stoner, MotoGP electronics, and more.

Shuhei Nakamoto

When I joined HRC, Soichiro Honda was already retired. In 1984, I was checking the weight of some parts when a hand from behind picked up one piece. Don't touch! I shouted. I turned and I was shocked: It was Soichiro Honda. I hadn't realized that someone was behind me and I couldn't imagine that it was Soichiro-san. "Sorry," he said. He was clever enough to understand that I was so focused on my job that I hadn't seen him. I apologized of course and I keep this very good memory of Soichiro Honda.

I started to work in Honda in 1983. I was chassis designer for production racer machines. I worked 17 years at HRC as chassis designer and Large Project Leader on many successful assignments in World Grand Prix and Superbike racing such as the RS125, the RS250, and the NSR250 or the RVF750 and the VTR1000 for Superbike. Some years I was working at three projects simultaneously. I won many championships but I haven't counted them. Fausto , Emilio , and Lucio used my babies!

From 2002 to 2008, I worked in F1 as Technical Director, before returning to the two wheels in 2009 as HRC Executive Vice President, overseeing all areas of HRC's participation in MotoGP.

Where does this passion for designing and building vehicles to go faster and faster come from? My heart.

HRC 700 wins celebration

I have always been a leader. Even when I was young and I was playing baseball or football, I was the leader. I don't know the reason. I have always been chosen to play a role as a leader. For example, when I was at school and I was 9 years old, I was playing football and the manager came to me and he told me that I had to be the captain of the team. I don't know the reason, but it happened all the time. Strong determination, team building. I don't know the reason, but it was not my choice.

Formula 1 or MotoGP? They are not two different worlds. The main differences are the number of the tires and the size of the budget. There is a huge difference. The F1 budget is almost 10 times bigger than MotoGP. I brought many things from F1 into MotoGP. From the technical side, for example, I brought the engine control system, other inside parts of the engine, the seamless technology, many things. From the organization side, an F1 team is much bigger and I ran a lot of different cultures, the Japanese side, the European one. In MotoGP we also have a squad that features a good combination of different nationalities.

We also brought our F1 know-how in electronics to MotoGP,  but this doesn't mean it's complicated. It's the opposite: At the trackside the Honda's electronics is more engineer-friendly. It is easy to change.

Honda was against the single ECU because the first proposal didn't give us the chance to continue the development of the software. Honda would never have agreed with these conditions. But Carmelo changed his mind a bit and we had the opportunity to develop the software together with Ducati, Yamaha, and Magneti Marelli. So we agreed.

Shuhei Nakamoto, Marc Marquez, and the HRC Team

Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez are kind of animals. They are kind of special. Like a lion, when they see something, they grab it immediately. In the same way, when Marc and Casey find a good set-up, they go on track and they bang! They are able to set an incredible lap time. From this point of view, they are very similar. Of course they have a different personality. Also the approach is different. But overall I can say that they are very similar.

Casey is not so easy to build a relationship with, but once you make it and you have a good relationship, then it can continue for a long time like a family member. On the contrary, Marc looks easier because of his personality. He smiles and makes jokes all the time, but sometimes it is difficult to understand what he is really thinking. Anyway, they are two great champions who are able to take advantage of the situation.

Marc Marquez and Casey Stoner together could be the perfect Honda dream team? Maybe. For sure not next year, but I don't think Casey will return to racing full time.

The Suzuka 8 Hours is one event, a race that Casey wanted to do and was fascinated about. Ten years ago, the Suzuka 8 Hours used to be hugely popular in Japan and worldwide. The race is still the biggest in Japan, but the reason why Honda asked Casey to join was to bring the race back where it used to be in the past and to make it more international. We knew it was not going to be easy this year as Yamaha did a new and very competitive machine.

There were a lot of expectations for Casey's return. It was a very unfortunate incident . Casey and the whole team were showing good pace and I'm sure they would have been fighting for a good podium finish. However, we had a problem on the bike—a malfunction with regard to the throttle. We have ceased to use this throttle specification and are in the process of designing a new one. We are sorry for Casey and the whole team and grateful that Casey was not more seriously injured.

Marc Marquez and Shuhei Nakamoto celebrating at Indy

Marc Marquez's results were not as good as we expected during the first part of the season, but this year we had so many unlucky things like bad timing, weather, and so on.

Marc was complaining about an aggressive engine. This means that the torque or the engine power were more than what he wanted. As we couldn't touch the engine, we needed to work on the electronics and the chassis. But if you have power, you can tune the engine. On the contrary, if you don't have power, you can't do anything. If Marc had been asking for more power, it would have been impossible to support him in this request, as the engines are frozen.

At the beginning, Marc was using a first step of the chassis that was too much concentrated on the braking aspect, losing a bit in cornering performance and machine stability. Last year, Marc's braking was better than any other rider, so there was no need to reinforce this aspect. From Le Mans, we started to use a chassis with different specifications.

What shall we expect for this second part of the season? Winning every Sunday is obviously the main target. He is riding more comfortably now on the bike and has found a setting that works, so we will support him however we can and never give up.

A win is always a win. I don't have a special one to remember. The best victory is always the next one.

I'm always moving but when I want to recharge the batteries I go to my house in the mountains of Japan. How do I relax? I do so in the mountains, where I have my chalet. I also cycle. I still go to work by bicycle every morning. My house is around 6.2 miles from the office.

Shuhei Nakamoto.

700 wins.

Marquez and Nakamoto at Indy.

Nakamoto and HRC Team.

Nakamoto and Livio Suppo.

Suppo and Nakamoto.