Jack Valentine gives his predictions for the season ahead
As the 2008 British Superbike season draws ever nearer, Rizla Suzuki team boss Jack Valentine shares his opinions on the year to come…
Are you excited at the prospect of the first race with your new team?
Absolutely. We've got a pretty intensive test period, which is going extremely well, but you never know what to expect from the opposition. We're looking forward to the Easter test at Snetterton, which will be our first opportunity to check our progress against all the other teams.
Obviously to be in contention for the championship. I think that we have an excellent chance with Tom Sykes. As for Atsushi, he's going to get stronger and stronger as the season progresses and he gets to know the tracks.
I think our strength comes from improving on a reasonably good set-up from last year. We've had the guys working on attention to detail - a key phrase in the team. As for specific improvements, we've put on factory Showa suspension parts, the same as those used in the American series. We've already got a great engine, but the new lighter spec engine is racking up the kilometres in testing and is looking really good. We are hoping to be up there with the likes of Ducati and Honda. I already know the strengths of Kawasaki and Yamaha from my previous roles and think that we can be really competitive.
I'm very happy with the riders we have. It's a nice blend - the rookie of the year for 2007 in Tom Sykes, then the Japanese Superbike champion Atsushi Watanebe, who will be great for factory relations.
The usual crew - I expect the Airwaves Ducati and HM Plant Honda teams to be up there with us.
I've always gone racing to win. Last time around with Foggy Petronas we knew we didn't have a realistic chance of winning. That was the hardest project I've ever been involved in as it is difficult to motivate people when there is little chance of actually winning. The problem was with the reliability of the bike. I want to take those motivational skills to Rizla Suzuki where we have a real chance of achieving success.
When I say 'hands on' it's not necessarily getting my hands dirty working on the bikes! What I mean is that from my experience in the industry I understand how a race team operates and how they blend with the retail outfit. Also, when I think something isn't going as it should I'll do my best to get it sorted myself.
I'd like to think I've given them direction and something to work towards, but most importantly a passion and a motivation to go out there and win races consistently.
Do you think the single tyre rule will be beneficial or detrimental to BSB?
It's not going to be a big deal. We've already matched the Dunlop times we had in testing in November. The Dunlops were very good tyres and probably just had the edge over Pirelli in terms of grip. I don't think the new tyre rule will affect the outcome as it'll still be the top teams competing for the serious points. I also don't think you'll get moaning from the teams in the middle of the field, it'll be a level playing field and the teams that will benefit are the ones that have the best set-up for Pirelli tyres.
It's always busy, but there's always time for a round of golf! In all seriousness, it's a different business in the off season. The day is filled with tasks like sorting leathers out, the team gear, the trucks, pit boards, booking hotels. It's not my idea of a fun job, but it's just as important as making the bikes go quickly. Throughout the off season you are just looking forward to going racing again.