MotoGP, Sahara admits replacing Brivio and developing the Suzuki was too much for him

After winning the title in 2020, this season didn’t go that well for Suzuki. Joan Mir couldn’t defend his number 1 and the Yamaha and Ducati were way ahead of the GSX-RR. In the end, 2021 began with the farewell to Davide Brivio and Shinichi Sahara, the technical director of the project, who also had to take on the role of team manager. A double commitment that influenced the results, as he himself wrote on his blog.

“We are at the end of a long and demanding season and I would say While we didn’t quite get the results we hoped for, the year was 60-70% what I expected.

“2021 was different for all of us. After winning the title and Davide Brivio’s departure, we all had to move up and find our way forward. I was previously a team director and mostly ran things from the factory in Japan, but In 2021 I took on a new role as team manager and project manager. This amount of work, coupled with the fact that you are still group leader in the development department in Japan, was far too much. But on the other hand, I’ve learned a lot and being on the racetracks more has given me a unique insight that I haven’t had in previous years; I can see every detail of the GSX-RR and how it behaves on the track.

“Last year I only went to one track – Portimão for the season finale – and I wish I had been to more races to see how everything goes because I couldn’t really understand our 2020 machine. When we started this season I couldn’t really compare the two bikes.

“In this sense, participating in all races this year will be an advantage for next year, I think. I know our bike really well now. Participation in all races was not only beneficial from the technical side, but also from the human management side. I communicated with a lot of people in the paddock in 2021, a lot more than before. Of course, I already knew most of them, but face-to-face communication allowed us to get to know each other better than email or video conferencing.

“Even within our own team, I got to know all the work that every team member does much better. This was most evident in the marketing department. I don’t think I really appreciated the complexity of their work until now! They are very creative and always driving, they keep coming up with new ideas, not just every week, but apparently every hour. This side of our project was new to me; Marketing, advertising and sponsoring – that is a great responsibility and I have learned a lot from the depths!

“I think one of the hardest parts of stepping into the new role this year has been the lack of someone to discuss the big things with. When visiting Japan from afar I felt like I saw the big picture and gave good advice, but when you are local and surrounded by everything it can be difficult to take that step back and look at things objectively , and that’s where I miss the role of someone to discuss anything with.

“On the other hand, I felt a lot of help and support from all team members – not just from the crew chiefs or the leaders, but from every member. You have all tried to help and support me during this season and I appreciate that very much. Overall, I can say that we met my expectations in terms of team spirit, we just missed the results.

“One of the clear things on the bike performance front is that the improvement step from last year to this year wasn’t big enough – not as big as last year. This does not mean that the factory engineers lack the effort, they have done everything necessary and I am very satisfied with their work. But I think I had to control a little more, like the order of jobs or items in relation to priority.

“Even though we weren’t on the podium as often as we’d hoped, we felt so much support from our loyal fans. I have a feeling that Suzuki fans are different from those of other manufacturers or teams; they are special. They are so enthusiastic, so passionate, they really love us and we can feel it. When the fans are cheering us on, even I can feel it a lot, so it’s a different level for the drivers. Before I started this job, I didn’t realize the importance of their cheers; I could see them enjoying themselves and it was nice, but it wasn’t until I started competing in more races that I understood how that cheer and support carried over to the drivers, the crew and the whole team. So when we hear them or read their comments, our motivation rises from 100 percent to maybe 110 or 120 percent. So thank you everyone and let’s keep cheering together! At the beginning of the winter break, I would like to convey a similar message to our two drivers, Joan and Alex – let’s keep pushing.

“This year, thanks to the commitment and the work of both drivers, we managed to achieve 3rd place in the team and manufacturer classification. Joan also managed to finish 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship which was tough in a very competitive year. He has the ability and the potential to definitely win the title again. He has consistency, speed and a smart brain. He is capable of producing strong results even when luck is against him. We are already planning how to put all these elements back together for 2022 and we trust him completely.

“Alex is a completely different driver and this season has been tougher for him. When on, he’s one of the hardest riders to hit – he has great potential and speed, but sometimes he seems to struggle to turn that switch on. He’s always very motivated when preparing for the season and at the start of the season, as we’ve seen this year, he was very quick at the beginning. But when he has an accident or a mistake that costs him it seems to spiral and he struggles to get back on track. We have to work with him because if we can find the way to turn his switch on, he can be unbeatable. So my message to our two drivers is simple; We are challengers and together we will fight for victory! “