In addition to the in-depth explanation which Lucio Cecchinello gave us about his single-event sponsorship model, which we published yesterday, the former 125cc race winner and now boss of the LCR Honda team also spoke to us about a few other topics. We discussed the role that the Bridgestone tires had played in limiting the number of crashes Randy de Puniet has had this season, and how LCR is trying to keep the Frenchman at the team for next season, but we started out talking about how the engine limits affected the team, with just 5 engines to last 7 races, and next year, 6 engines for all 18 races.
MGPM: We have the engine limits coming up, where you only have 5 engines for the last 7 races. Does that worry you at all, or are you getting enough life out of your engines already.
LC: Yes, at first Honda technology is already in a condition to guarantee us to have 2000 km per engine.
MGPM: Which is 2-3 races per engine.
LC: Yes. With 6 engine you will have quite have a good chance.
MGPM: And for this year, you're not even worried, it won't even be a problem at all
LC: No. This year, we can finish the season with 3 engines, we have 5, so ...
MGPM: I'd like to talk about the changes which Randy has seen. Last year, Randy crashed, this year he hasn't crashed...
LC: Except for the last race! [At the Sachsenring]
MGPM: Yes, but that was the first crash in, what, 14 races?
LC: Let's say that the number of the crashes are drastically reduced. We have worked very much with him to try to improve that weak point. I can only say that the Bridgestone front tire compared with the previous one is performing quite well. And especially for Randy's riding style, he likes it much more, because he can have the right feedback. For sure the bike feels much heavier, for sure it is much harder to get the bike into the corner, but at least it is reliable. With the previous tire, Randy always loved the performance, but unfortunately, for some reason we couldn't find the best set up to allow him to understand the front tire limit. That's why he crashed a lot and maybe 80% of the time always it's the front tire.
MGPM: It's almost ironic, because before Randy, you had Casey, who had exactly the same problem.
LC: And what happens? Casey changed the tires and he stopped crashing. So Casey immediately said to everybody, "I don't crash any more because now I have a better team!" (Smiles) Of course, I was not happy to hear that, but I accept it. But also I can say that now I have another clear reference, with another rider doing exactly the same thing. So, Randy until the middle of this season crashed 3 times, and Casey in the middle of the 2007 season crashed 3 times, instead of 30, or what we have done with Randy last year, almost 40.
MGPM: Have you thought about who will be riding for you next year.
LC: We are very keen to reconfirm Randy for next year. Now of course we have started some negotiation with his manager, and hopefully we will find an agreement in a few weeks.
MGPM: I talked to Herve Poncharal yesterday, and he said the economic crisis had one beneficial effect, in that it put pressure on rider salaries, the riders couldn't go on like you said, when the tobacco money was here...
LC: Everybody! Companies, manufacturers, riders, employees ...
MGPM: And that's over now. Are you noticing in your negotiations with riders, are salary demands becoming more realistic?
LC: We already had let's say a realistic deal with Randy for 2008, 2009. Of course we try to negotiate with possibly a little bit less amount, and cover the gap with more performance bonus. So I don't want to say to the rider, you are going to be paid less. Of course they have to understand that this is a tough period, so their basic fee will be a little bit less, but if they win and they are doing a good job, then they will have even more, you know. Which is something also more reasonable for us, for if we have good results then we can afford to pay him more.
MGPM: Especially with the new pay-per-view program. Better performance means more TV minutes.
LC: Yes. Exactly. If the rider does better, the team does better and the sponsor does better.