Before Shuhei Nakamoto arrived in the MotoGP world championship in 2009, Honda was in a very dark period. Since the departure of Valentino Rossi from its ranks five years earlier, Honda had only won a single premier-class title, and that one was arguably due more to the mistakes of its rivals than its own merit.
Max Biaggi, Alex Barros, Nicky Hayden, Dani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso danced into and out of the official team during that period but failed to restore HRC’s previous domination. That appeared to convey a lack of direction, both organizational and technical. That’s when Honda decided to send Nakamoto, one of its most brilliant engineers, to MotoGP.
After spending nearly nine years in Formula 1, Nakamoto landed in MotoGP in early ’09. For two seasons, he focused on reorganizing HRC and making a competitive bike. One of his first moves was to sign Livio Suppo, who was until then the Ducati team manager, placing him as the “necessary Westerner.”
Nakamoto then signed Casey Stoner, who was also with Ducati. In 2011, the Australian won the championship for Honda in his first attempt. With the arrival of Marc Márquez in 2013, the Nakamoto/Suppo pairing added three more championships in four years, and Honda and its technology were once again the reference.
But the way in which the Nakamoto/Suppo duo managed the team and made critical decisions seemed to longtime observers as counter to Honda’s “normal” system of working. And in this case, “system” should be stamped in capital letters, meaning the way the company works, its philosophy.