After a successful career as a rider which concluded at the end of 2021, Takahisa Fujinami assumed the challenge of becoming manager of the Repsol Honda Team. In his first year in charge of the team, with Toni Bou and Gabriel Marcelli as riders, he was part of a structure that took the TrialGP and X-Trial titles.
– What is your assessment of your first season as team manager?
“I have been lucky to be able to continue with this team, which is the best in the world, as team manager. I have to thank HRC for giving me this opportunity. Looking at the results, Toni is stronger than ever at 36 years old, but the important thing is that he hasn’t hurt himself. Ensuring that Toni had no injuries was one of the objectives for this season and for this reason I tried to make sure that he did not force things physically so as not to risk so much. I am very happy to be able to help both him and Marcelli. At the beginning of the year, Gabriel was quite nervous, probably because of the pressure of being part of the factory team. Everyone was paying close attention to him and he pushed hard to get results. He had to learn a lot of things to adapt his style to the bike, but it has only been a matter of time. In the end he achieved several fourth places and a win in the last race of the Spanish championship, so I am also happy with him.”
– What do you expect from Marcelli in 2023?
“His level of talent is quite high, but I think it is possible for him to finish on the podium in every race; we will have to fight for that, and also to also try to finish in the Top 3 at the end of the season.”
– Is Toni Bou’s objective to take two more titles?
“Definitely. We believe that he is very strong and is really intelligent. He has a big skill advantage over any other rider and, on paper, he can win both titles in 2023.”
“Toni Bou is stronger than ever and has a lot of technical advantage over any other rider”
– You have established different collective training sessions, with the participation of all the riders and mechanics. Is the performance much better like this?
“That was also done before, but it was only among the riders; We agreed to train together before, but now it’s a request from the team. We have a number 1 rider and the other Montesa riders can learn from him. The trust that is created within the team is important, and it is like a family.”
– The relationship with promoters or race organisers, with other factories and team managers was something new for you. Has anything surprised you?
“For me it has been like starting from scratch in many ways. For example, getting the license. Before, the team did it and now I have to handle it myself. My phone doesn’t stop ringing. It’s a big change and at first it seemed like I would find it really hard, but we’ve already adapted to it. Miquel Cirera, the previous team manager, had everything under control. Maybe I still need to learn something, but I think we’re on the right track, although with my own style.”
– What do you like most about this job?
“Helping. I like to help Gabriel and Toni with what I think they need. If the results come that way, it’s like a reward for everyone.”
– What do you like least?
“Office work! (laughs)”.
– You have recently been in Japan to celebrate Honda Thanks Day and spend a few days testing with the Japanese HRC technicians and engineers. What did you think about that?
“In the end, each rider chooses the bike they like best, with the engine and setup they like best. Then there is the work with the engineers so that they can provide everything that the riders ask them to do. It is a question of time to get exactly what everyone wants, but in general it was a good test.”
– The TrialGP World Championship seems to be back to “normal” next year, with more races and the return of Motegi…
“For three years now it has seemed that we are in “another world,” racing only in Europe and with one-day races. The pandemic has also affected the team internally, since HRC technicians have not been able to come to Europe -neither to the races nor to our tests. Now it seems that everything is going better and we believe that it will be good for everyone.”
– On Honda Thanks Day you were given a farewell tribute. What will happen in May in Motegi at the TrialGP World Championship race?
“Many people have asked me to ride again just to say goodbye to everyone, but obviously that is not possible. I would like to, but I’m not good enough for that and, besides, I have a job to do and I have to help the team.”
– This year you won the constructors’ title, making Montesa World Champions.
“Montesa have the only 4-stroke bike in the World Championship. People say that it is a heavy bike, but you get very good results with this bike. Perhaps in some aspects we have a handicap, but there are other aspects in which it provides advantages.”