CMRVC continue their support of Team #109 ahead of 2021 World Championship campaign

On the eve of Team #109’s race truck departing for preseason testing in Catalunya with newly signed rider James McManus, I managed to get a few words with Team Manager Paul Tobin. The CMRVC have been a sponsor and supporter of Team #109 for a number of years helping to promote young Irish talent in motorcycle racing in the British and World Championships.

This is your second consecutive season competing in the FIM World Supersport 300 Championship and with the addition of young talent James McManus to your lineup what are the teams expectations for 2021?
To put it in to perspective for James, he flew into Estoril at 4 o’clock on a Thursday, never rode the bike before and never rode on slick tyres and had never even seen the track yet he still managed to finish in the top half of the entry list which is fiercely competitive given 60 riders lined up on the grids that weekend. It was pretty impressive performance in such a short space of time given he didn’t even know which way the track went! We we’re really impressed with James as he was consistently quicker with each session out on the track given he was thrown in at the deep end you could say. We had our eye on him at British level with a while and we could see how much he has come on as a rider and matured since joining the Affinity Racing Academy. The team has a 2-year plan in place for James as the move to the World Championship level for a rider in only his 3rd year racing motorbikes is a big task. This year will effectively be a chance for James to familiarise himself with 10 new tracks but that’s not to say he wouldn’t be capable of putting in performances capable of claiming Team #109’s first points as we have seen glimpses of this from Estoril last year.

The team has had a successful partnership with Kawasaki in the last few years most notably securing the British Junior Supersport title in 2018, how does the team feel the progress is coming along with the Ninja 400 for this season?
For us to go a win a British Championship on our first year on a new bike it was fantastic for us and Kawasaki. The bike was also performing well at a World stage at this time, so it has proven to be the package to be in the Supersport 300 Class. Since then, the bike has had some improvements over the year, and we have evolved with it but in effect the bike is the same model since 2018. The biggest change for us last season when we moved to the World Championships was the introduction of the electronics package which is a controlled ECU common to all the bikes in the Class and in effect is an equalising package across all manufacturers to level the playing field. The Ninja 400 has been a really competitive package for us, and we’ve been really happy with it so far.
Mairead & Dave Hurley accepting sponsorship from Club members, Rob, Luke, Jonathan & Glynn

You've mentioned before that the team have been fortunate to get support from the Japanese manufacturer and this year is no different. While you wouldn't necessarily call yourselves a "factory" team by any means but what level of support do you receive from Kawasaki?

Kawasaki have the same ethos as ourselves to promote young riders in the sport and this was shown to us in 2019 when we carried the #TeamGreen mantle for Kawasaki and also ran 4 bikes at British level that year for Kawasaki. Since we have moved on to the World stage this ethos has been held true with the introduction of the Affinity Racing Academy whom have picked up where we left off at British level to promote this young talent. As for support from the manufacturer we get technical help, discounted parts and discounted bikes which is great for the team. It might not sound like a lot but crashing is an inevitable part in racing and bikes are expensive to put back together so heavily discounted parts make it that bit cheaper to go racing at this level so they basically act like a sponsor and we do our do our best to repay them by getting the best results possible with the bike.

Team #109 will hope to compete in all 8 rounds of the Championship series spread out over the course of 32 weeks and 5 countries. Can you give us an insight as to the logistical challenges faced by the team in the coming months?
We have been really fortunate in that 1 of our team members Patrick Deehan lives in Spain so once the truck leaves Ballinhassig tomorrow for the season it will be based in Allicante once it’s on the continent and it won’t see home again until October. The next challenge is moving the team around so getting all the flights booked in as well as hotels and COVID hasn’t made it easy in that regard, but we are very fortunate that the elite sports are happening. It is a challenge, but it has become easier given we’ve had the experiences as well as what we’ve learned from last year and we are definitely more on top of things and better prepared as we have an awful lot of the planning done in advance. The most difficult thing really would be getting spare parts in and out in between rounds.

Having made the step up to compete at a World level brings great preparation for the team. With a year under the belt, has there been any changes to the backroom staff of who makes up Team #109?
You would think the step up in preparation and attention to detail to go from British level to World level would be a step but in reality it’s more like 4 times that. It can take from an hour to 90 minutes to strip the bike down, get it prepped again and everything is cleaned spotless and checked in between each session. It’s not quite Superbike level but everything is prepped to a similar level and everything has to be kept on top of. Then we’re allowed used 3 engines during the year so we’ll change them out at different times during the year as the mileage increases on them. Our Crew Chief stays the same in Scott Thompson who was formerly Crew Chief for Dan Kneen at TAS Tyco BMW on the roads and then moved on as Crew Chief for Alex Olson in Superstock 1000 with BMW which proved a great move as Olsen ended up with a ride for Smiths Racing alongside Peter Hickman. We were lucky to get Scott and he’s really enjoyed the move up to World Championship level as Crew Chief and we are all learning together. Our main mechanic is James Packwood from Bristol and was formerly a Superbike mechanic with Gearlink Kawasaki and has a good understanding of suspension also. When we first met James he was actually our WP suspension technician when we entered the RC Cup. So James takes care of our engines and suspension and the bike is only just back from Bristol having everything stripped down and prepped. Patrick Deegan is our driver as well as helping out with logistics, parts and engines. John O’Grady of JOG tuning comes along for our DYNO and tuning work and of course I’ll be there myself as manager. There are some restrictions on numbers allowed owing to COVID and we would usually have Colin Draper in the garage so he has done some work at home on the bikes but this year won’t be travelling with
us but essentially the nucleus of the team stays the same.

James will be riding for the Affinity Sports Academy in the British Championship. Is there a partnership in place there between yourselves and the ASA or how will James manage the calendar of races?
James is obviously riding in both Championships but 1 round clashed at the start of the season so while putting in the leg work to getting James signed we had a meeting with Leon Haslam to go through everything with him so we’ve now created a partnership with the Affinity Sports Academy which will allow some of their riders to come to us which will bring on the next British and Irish riders up to World level. From a World Championship Gran Prix level the governing body Dorna have created a number of stepping stones for younger riders to go from the National to World Championships but it can be hard so this partnership with the Affinity Sports Academy will allow riders to transgress if they want to do a wildcard or get a taste for the World level while also assessing riders for the following season if they want to step up. We’re both Kawasaki shod teams so it gives the BSB rider a great chance to step up to World level and obviously having Leon in the paddock will help James massively from a rider training perspective. The calendar has changed again, and you can only plan what is put in front of you while working under COVID so at the moment its looking likely that James may miss a couple more rounds so we may have to sit down and work through the ins and outs again but at the end of the day James will have a number of rounds completed at World level before British level kicks off and that will stand to him greatly.

James McManus' Kawasaki Ninja 400 albeit in last season's livery
Will James be on the same machinery in the British Championships?
James BSB Championship Supersport campaign is aboard a Kawasaki Ninja 400 which is more or less the same machinery, but we will have a few little extra addons in our package. Both teams utilise Ohlins suspension and the added link between ourselves and the ASA as well James’ Crew Chief Scott being across both campaigns will provide familiarity and continuity for him.

Unfortunately there isn't a British round in World SSP300 this season but is there a chance we'll see the Team #109 colours appear in the British domestic championships possibly as a wildcard entry during the year?
It is a bit disappointing for us not having a British round for us as with fans in BSB are usually allowed at World Superbike rounds as well. It would effectively be our home round along a few more British riders in the offer with the likes of Tom Booth Amos. But look hopefully next year when COVID clears up it would be great to get back there to Donnington Park and to see Irish fans there supporting us but it is what it is. It’s unlikely that we will make any appearance in the British Championships as its not in our plans at the moment but plans change and I’m not going to rule it but it certainly isn’t on the horizon. It’s also a cost factor to getting into the UK and probably our only opportunity would be July whereby were coming from Assen but never say never.
The journey starts out here in Ballinhassig and will finish some 2,500kms away in the Circuito Estoril, Portugal with many stops throughout Europe on the way.

For anyone reading this and wishes to keep up with the latest developments in the Team #109 camp where can they find out more?
The journey starts this Friday with the truck heading to Catalunya for the first of our preseason tests with James next week and it’s good to get going after a long hard winter. You can follow us on our new website as well our social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds. It is hoped that both races will be live on Eurosport 2 on Saturday and Sunday and there will also be a highlights package on ITV4 during the week. You can also keep up to date on the CMRVC’s website and social media. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the Club for all their support over the last number of years and to get Team #109 where it is now you know every bit of help helps. And just to say thanks to some of our local sponsors even though I hate to name names because I could leave someone out but thanks to, MMD construction, Kinsale Hotel and Spa, Kieran McCarthy Landscapes, Keohane Readymix and anyone else that supports us locally. Stay tuned and hopefully we can get a couple of good results this year and you never know Amhrain Na Bhfiann might be playing not just for Eugene Laverty but maybe for us too in the not too distant future.

Donal J. Arnold CMRVC PRO