What were your first impressions at Vallelunga?
The first day was more a shakedown than a proper test. The car is brand new, with very sophisticated electronics that we have mainly exploited so far to collect data and solve some normal initial issues. We are coping with a mix of different technologies and software that must all work together. On the second day we began to lap with consistency and worked on the chassis set-up. The car is very sensitive and responded to all the changes we made. All in all I had a very good feeling.
Have you set a target for kilometres of running during the development tests?
Our first goal was to make the engine work properly. This is the most important part and the most difficult to set up. It is a new challenge for Honda. They have used all the experience built up in the past with turbocharged engines, but it is a brand new project and in the beginning you need to complete a number of functional tests and collect data to identify the areas you have to work on. The number of kilometres is important. We have not completed a lot in this first test, but for sure our goal is to do many more.”
This programme marks Honda's racing comeback with a factory team. Can you feel the pressure?
Honda has huge interest in this programme. It is the first works one since they left Formula One. This means that there are many engineers involved and everybody is under great pressure - especially the people in charge of the project. They have already done a huge amount of work in a short time, but they still need to analyse all the data. There is a lot of work to do for developing the different areas of the engine. I am confident, because they have the knowledge to do it, and I saw that this first test was a great motivation for them.
You have built up long experience with WTCC engines. What do you think of the Honda one?
It is too early to say, but I have huge confidence in their research and development department. They are putting in all the best technologies and I’m sure the engine will be very competitive. Honda has a strong reputation in racing and Honda fans have high expectations, but we must not underestimate the task. It has been proven in previous years that it is not easy to join the WTCC and be at the front straight away. You need to work a lot and dedicate the right resource. Racing with a works team is not a guarantee of success. It happened to SEAT and Chevrolet before. They both needed to work hard to climb to the top. I’m sure it will be tough at the start, but when I see the determination and the challenging spirit of the team, I am convinced we will catch up quickly.