At a recent Supercross, we had the chance to sit down with Shuhei Nakamoto, who's the Vice President of Honda Racing Corporation (HRC). Mr. Nakamoto has worked for HRC since 1983, and has a ton of experience across all forms of motorsports, including being one of the main guys in Honda's F1 program from 2000 - 2008. These days, his position has him overseeing many forms of racing, including motocross, Supercross, rally, GPs, and Moto GP, where he serves as Team Principal.

What has brought about HRC's renewed support of Motocross and Supercross?

Honda is a family company and HRC is a part of this. Our role or mission is to support all of the Honda racing. HRC wasn't involved for some time because of the budget, but now HRC can continue its involvement as the budget is available. For motocross, the most important race is here with Supercross. So this why we decided to help Honda America in this activity. At the moment, the Supercross team is all controlled by Honda America, and not by HRC. HRC supplies engineers for these races, and also some help with parts to these teams. HRC are dreaming of winning all of the motorcycle championships - Moto GP, Moto 3, World Superbike, motocross, trials, and also Supercross here. This is the main reason we start to help this team.

What is the timeline that you hope to see Honda take home a championship?

To win the championship is not easy, this is even more so in Supercross. If within three years if we can win the championship, we are very happy. So our goal for now is three years.

Are you able to take technology and parts from the other championships and apply them here?

Yes. For some motocross in Japan and Europe you can use prototype machine, but for Supercross, we use the production machines. For many of our new ideas, we test on prototype bikes. Then if the results are good, we bring them to the production CRF. For the suspension, we can use factory on the team's bikes but we still learn new things for production. The suspension development is very, very important for Supercross here.

How much do your HRC engineers work with the actual production bike R&D staff?

The same people are involved in both departments.

So the guys we see at the races, are also at the test track developing the future models?

Yes. When they arrive back to Japan, they also work the production CRF.

So you want to win races and you want to win championships, but how important is a rider’s popularity to the team?

For HRC, rider popularity is obviously important, but rider speed is most important. For motocross races the result is maybe 80 or 90% the rider. Only 20% popularity, we need a strong rider.

If you’re deciding between two riders that are about equal in speed but one is very popular, how much does that factor in to who you hire?

Depends on the contract fee (laughs).

For motocross and off-road models, how far ahead is R&D planning with HRC? Three, four, or five years?

HRC planning for only for the upcoming year and the next year. Usually, R&D waits for results from HRC's testing. This is because HRC is in charge of the technology. Because of this, we don’t have plans for five years or even ten years of development. But if we have a new idea, we will start planning immediately. This is our style.

Are we going to see an expanded Supercross and motocross team, such as more racers in the next few years?

On this I have no idea, that is a matter for those teams to decide on budget and riders.

Is there always an HRC employee or engineer present now with Honda in the US? Are there HRC employees in contact with the team at every race?

Two of the HRC engineers are at all races here, but we have some for Europe, Rally, and other races for HRC. The Japanese engineers cannot stay over 180 days outside of Japan. This is one of the Honda and Japan rules for travel outside of the country. Minimum two engineers will stay here with the team at every race.

Being able to be that heavily involved with Europe, U.S., and Japan, how much do you feel that helps Honda with HRC being able to share the information between all these major race teams? Is there constant contact between all teams?

On the technology side we collect everything. For HRC, technology is very, very important. For team organization, they decide the riders and the people involved there. For riders, of course we like to have a strong rider.

So HRC somewhat stays out of organization there?

For motocross sponsorship, that is a matter for those teams to decide on. For Moto GP, we organize everything, rider, mechanics, engineer, sponsorship, everything.

What is HRC’s stance on two-stroke, any development whatsoever?

Zero.

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