Éric de Seynes is one of the most important personalities in Yamaha: with 58 years of age, he’s the current Yamaha Motor Europe Chairman and CEO and the first non-Japanese to play such an important role. The Frenchman has been working in Yamaha since 1990 and before replacing him, he was the trustee of former Chairman Kazushiro Kuwata for many years. He doesn’t just watch motorcycles, but he likes to ride them as well, as he often attends historic motorcycle rallies (especially those dedicated to racing). Former Hermés Supervisory Board member, he prefers style rather than substance: he usually wears a motorcycle jacket rather than an elegant one and the same concerns boots. He proudly owns a Yamaha OW53 (and sometimes he rides it at motorcycle rallies) and recently he was interviewed by French website paddock-gp.com about the results achieved by Yamaha Racing in 2018. Here’s what he said, with a great touch of honesty.
PROVOCATION – The first question sounded like a “provocation”: was it hard to dominate in World Supersport? Here’s how he answered: “Its always hard to win, especially in a world championship. Such a high level of motorcycle racing needs respect and so we have to put all our effort on it. Even if we’re manufacturers, our budget is considerable, but not infinite. I’m extremely careful in keeping it like that, because it’s the best way to save it and grant our commitment in the long term. I like racing and I strongly believe in its values. It’s the best place to show what is sold to our customers, but especially to excel and to share and develop our human values in love for motorcycles and search for performance.”
DOMINION – One of the topics of the interview is the “queen” of Supersport World Championship: “Yamaha YZF-R6 is probably the best bike ever. Not by chance Johann Zarco used it to train when he was in Moto2 and then, it’s always been a reference point in 600cc national championships for 20 years! When 2017 version came out, I found it obvious that we should comeback to World Supersport.” For what concerns WorldSSP Yamaha riders, de Seynes proved to know them very well: “I’ve been following and supporting Lucas Mahias since 2014. In 2016 I offered him a seat in Superstock 1000, but he preferred to race in Supersport with a private team. It turned out to be a wrong choice, so me and Christophe Guyot brought him to GMT94 and there he won his first World Championship title in Endurance. And he even won some STK1000 races in that same year! Since then, he was on top of my list for our WSS comeback. About Federico Caricasulo, we signed him for his young age and his talent. Finally, we chose GRT because we knew Team Owner Filippo Conti, a passionate and very loyal person. GRT had done very well with MV Agusta and wanted to change manufacturer, so that’s how this collaboration started. The bases of new Yamaha R6 were already great, but we had to work hard on both engine and electronics. This put a lot of pressure on us when we tested, because it felt like we had too little time! 2017 season was very intense, rich in great moments on both human and sport side, and finally we won both riders and manufacturers titles, like we did also in 2018!”
DEAL – But why not to participate as a factory, like Kawasaki is doing? De Seynes explains why they prefer to support two teams in Superbike and Supersport: “These championships are great opportunities for riders and teams, who have not enough money to race in MotoGP. They’re the best where to showcase what manufacturers sell and this philosophy represents Yamaha’s DNA. Today our YZF R3, R6 e R1 are like the TA125 e TZ 250/350 o 750 we used forty years ago.” De Seynes is strongly concerned by the increase of costs in MotoGP: “The evolution of MotoGP World Championship made it more similar to F1 and now they use unique motorcycles, which are extremely expensive and hard to implement. It’s fine, since we can show our technology, but I think such elitarism hurts motorcycle racing. We should keep World Championships affordable, so that everyone can compete with reasonable budget and fight for the win.”
ORIGINALITY – The philosophy determining Yamaha’s racing strategy is different from the one they follow at Kawasaki: “I didn’t want to create ‘factory teams’. Why should we look for the best electronics, crew chief and private teams’ technicians or invest on hospitalities, when you can find all this in highly professional private teams? Why should a manufacturer destroy what a team achieved by working hard for many years? I don’t want Yamaha to fight against the teams we support and so we came back to Superbike and Supersport by supporting private teams: Crescent in WorldSBK, GRT in WorldSSP. When I look at what we achieved in the past two years, I think we can be happy with our results and the spirit in which we got them.”
MELANDRI – De Seynes’ mind went to next season, as he believes that all Yamaha riders have “huge potential”. “In Superbike, we must improve! We must achieve first or second place in both riders and manufacturers standings. In Supersport 600, we must retain the crown in both standings. In conclusion, in Supersport 300, we hope that the balance of performance will be much better, so that we can fight for both riders and manufacturers championships.” De Seynes also talked about one of his regrets: “It’s important that Supersport 600 World Champion is supported in reaching the top class. This happens every year in Moto2 and MotoGP and I hope Yamaha will do it in Supersport 600 and Superbike. I had offered Lucas Mahias a seat for 2019 World Superbike season, but he preferred to stay in Supersport 600 and I respect his choice, despite feeling sorry for it.”
Translated by Alessandro Palma