Lucio Cecchinello is not a guy who gives up easily and, even after a season that would not be wrong to define as disastrous for Honda and his team, he manages to see the positive side of things. The classification leaves little room for interpretation, with Alex Marquez 17th and Takaaki Nakagami 18th in the championship, but the LCR team owner is sure that he can raise his head to return to positions more suited to HRC.
More than a summary of the season, it's better to ask him how such difficult moments are faced in the garage.
"In all honesty, despite the difficulties, I've always tried to take the bull by the horns - says Lucio - We were on point in all the Grands Prix, we never gave up but always worked and the LCR team was almost always the last team to leave the paddock in the evening. We never let our guard down and we always worked hard, as did Marquez and Nakagami. Even when the conditions were created whereby our collaboration with Alex would not continue, we never missed a meeting to try to improve even one tenth. Obviously, we didn't get the results and clearly it was a reason for dissatisfaction. When you arrive on Sunday evening and you've only scored in the points because a few riders crashed, it's not easy".
It must be said that it wasn't just a problem with your team, but with Honda in general, apart from when Marc Marquez managed to salvage things in a few races. Misery loves company?
“The standings speak for themselves, apart from Marc, who we know is a rider in a higher category than the average, Pol, Nakagami and Alex arrived one behind the other. Indeed, we had problems that exceeded our expectations”.
"Shinichi Kobuko is back in MotoGP, now it's time to rebuild"
Marc Marquez, in Austria, gave HRC a scolding complaining about the working method. Has anything changed since then?
“Yes, because a pillar of HRC such as Shinichi Kokubo has returned. He was the MotoGP project leader until 2017, then he remained in the working group but was also involved in SBK and Moto3. There hadn’t been such an important presence around until Marc made his requests, even though Honda had probably already thought about this move ”.
Will this be enough to turn Honda around in 2023 or will it be a year of rebuilding?
"I think that's the right term, I think it's utopian or risky to think that next season we'll be immediately competitive. We will take a step forward, I am very confident of this, but I think it will take time. Now in MotoGP it's complicated to shave tenths of a second and this job requires a lot of testing, but unfortunately there are limitations on test days. 2023 will be the beginning of a reconstruction and I hope that in the end Marc can be a winner on all circuits and then all the other Honda riders".
"Ducati and Aprilia know how to think outside the box, a new era has begun for MotoGP"
Now the MotoGP axis has moved towards Europe after so many years of domination by the Japanese manufacturers, did you expect this and what is the reason?
“Honestly, I didn't expect it. I think Ducati, with Dall'Igna and all his collaborators, had the genius of being able to think outside the box. Ducati managed to do this thanks to very good people but also thanks to the ability to draw on resources from other sectors. I think joining the Audi group helped them to draw on cutting-edge technologies and Aprilia did the same by hiring Massimo Rivola who applied ideas from Formula 1 in MotoGP. The Japanese are very schematic, it takes them longer to make a change, so it rewarded Italian brilliance in the first place. Until 2018, Japanese bikes were competitive, then Ducati brought real innovations, the wings, the spoon, the lowering unit, and Aprilia introduced the front lowering unit and studied F1-derived aerodynamic applications. In this respect, the Italian manufacturers thinking outside the box have started a new era of MotoGP in which aerodynamics are exploited".
Yamaha turned to Marmorini to develop its engine, do you think Honda will also open up to external consultants?
“I am not aware of future strategies, but I have just returned from Honda Thanks Day and I can say that Honda is capable of doing anything. At Motegi there were Verstappen's F1 powered by Honda, the motocross, trial, endurance, Dakar world champion bikes, so when they want to do things, they do them".
"Marquez's absence and the pandemic put Honda in a crisis"
So why is it struggling in MotoGP?
“I think there are two aspects that came into play in a negative way for Honda to lose its leadership in terms of technology. The biggest problem was Marquez's absence, which put them in a waiting position. With the 2020 bike, in Jerez, Marc was virtually a second per lap ahead of everyone, when he got hurt they waited. In fact, the 2021 bike was very similar to the one from the previous year. Furthermore, the pandemic played a role, because everything was late: the Japanese engineers could not travel, the heads of the technical department had to analyze the data without being able to come to the GPs to see what the European manufacturers were doing in the meantime. Marc's absence and the pandemic put Honda in a crisis."
As we wait to see the new bike in the Sepang tests, there have been big changes from the point of view of the riders with the arrival of Mir and Rins. How was Alex's first contact with Honda?
“We are very happy that Rins believed in our project, I am personally proud because he had the opportunity to race with Ducati and Aprilia, but he chose LCR, also because he would have had a factory bike with us. The first contact was positive from both sides and Alex started his apprenticeship on the RC213V. It wasn't easy, but he commented positively on several areas and indicated others to work on ”.
"Rins and Mir were the right choice, they will be able to give indications and win"
Will he and Mir be able to help Honda progress?
“First of all, I think Honda has the best line-up in terms of riders: there are two world champions in the factory team and Alex with us, who won two of the last three races this year, and I also hope Nakagami can have something more than luck. Choosing riders with some experience in such a delicate phase of relaunching the MotoGP project was, I think, the most correct decision they could have made. We will have riders who will be able to give an indication and win”.
Christmas is approaching, what gift would you like under the tree for 2023?
“I would like to receive it from our riders who manage to bring LCR back to the podium. Counting 125, 250, MotoE and MotoGP we are at 99, I really hope to be able to celebrate the 100th podium in the premier class. I would like our riders to be able to make me feel that emotion, that adrenaline, that enthusiasm of when you cross the finish line in the top 3. It would be fantastic to win... but a third place would also be good for me to start again".