Superbike World Championship has lived huge trouble for three years and everyone there is working hard to make it great again, including Yamaha. The Japanese manufacturer will continue supporting Crescent Racing (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team), but will also back the WorldSBK debut of GRT Yamaha. The Italian squad have stepped to the top class after just three years of life, but they already boast the Supersport World Championship title won in 2017 with Lucas Mahias. We decided to interview Filippo Conti (GRT Yamaha Team Owner) and it definitely was the right choice, as we got to know someone very determined and lucid, a man who’s aware of his role and the expectations he’s expected to meet.
Why have you named your team as GRT? Does that G come from “Great”?
«No, no delusions of grandeur (laughs). I’ve always been a good friend and fan of Mirko Giansanti, both when he raced and when he later retired. Some years ago I mad a promise to him: if I stop my mass retail business, I’ll create a team and involve you in it. And it went like that. So, I decided to call it Giansanti Racing Team and hiring Mirko as Sporting Director.»
Yamaha Motor Europe Chairman, Éric de Seynes, said that you’re a “very loyal person”. What does it mean in motorcycle racing?
«When someone as important as de Seynes speaks so nice words about you, you feel just thankful, emotional and proud. He refers to the fact that partnerships are not just about contracts, but also about respect and appreciation. I’ve always believed in such principle, also when I was an entrepreneur. De Seynes is more than just a motorcycle racing lover, because he knows very well every single aspect of this sport. He’s the typical right man in the right place.»
Did you expect to achieve such a high level, when you started your team?
«I’ve always conceived my team as a business. Don’t get me wrong: passion is very important, of course, but it’s also important to face this world with the right mindset. Things must be arranged at best. Fortunately, we can boast an amazing team: since we’ll race in World Superbike with Melandri and Cortese, some key men have entered our team. But the basis is still the same: exptreme professionality. Yamaha will provide us full support, but we’re also part of an important project that Yamaha and us strongly believe in. When we decided to enter racing, we set a medium/long-term partnership with Yamaha and everything was arranged in the most careful way: this is our model, so let’s see whether it brings results. And then, if we get the results we aim for, we’ll think of how we can grow.»
Why have Yamaha decided to provide factory support to two teams in stead of one?
«Yamaha’s goals are very high: on our side, we know we boast a great rider like Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese, someone Yamaha believe in very much. I can’t deny that expectations are very high: we can do great things, but now it’s up to us to make them happen. The two Yamaha teams will compete against each other, but have different goals. Our goal is to grow riders supported by Yamaha, while Crescent will continue the work they started last year. In any case, I’m very happy with lining up Marco Melandri: he will help us a lot in finding the right direction and raising youg talents.»
What happened with Lucas Mahias ?
«Lucas is a friend and a great rider. He can win in different championships and he’s also a model for racing fans, as he’s a strong, authentic rider. Remember, for example, when in Portimao he entered the pits with a destroyed tyre, despite two crashes. We wanted to take him to World Superbike, but he took a different decision, as he’ll stay in World Supersport to win the title with a different manufacturer. We respect his decision, also because finally we were joined by Melandri.»
What do you think of World Superbike? Do you like the new changes?
«I don’t want to judge them before we live them in real life. This is our first year outside World Supersport and now we need to adapt to a different world. Anyway, the introduction of a third race is good for racing fans and I don’t think that costs will increase that much. WorldSBK spectators are different from MotoGP ones. They’re purists and all the want is exciting racing. OK, this year there will be fewer riders on the grid, but the level of organization and professionality will be higher than ever and races will return funny and exciting. But we must beat Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki, since they’re very strong (laughs).»
Are we allowed to say that you’ve joined World Superbike as “winning rookies”?
«It’s your opinion, not mine, since I’m no “title man”. II can only say that we’re a very concrete team and we want to make the most of what we’ve got. We’re very ambitious, but we’ll see whether we’ll score results.»