Interview Sebastien Gimbert: "motorcycles are a drug for me!"
After three frustrating seasons on the official Honda in the endurance world championship, Sebastien Gimbert has high ambitions for the new CBR1000RR SP2 which he discovered during its launch in Portimao (Portugal). MNC was there too: an opportunity to take stock of the new EWC format and the other caps worn by the 40-year-old pilot from the Var, such as his Race Experience School. Interview.
Integrated into the official Honda Endurance team in 2014 after having, among other things, developed the BMW S1000RR in FSBK (titles in 2009 and 2011 to be won), the French rider Sebastien Gimbert has valuable experience in motorcycle racing thanks to his varied background, including coronations in the 250 cc French championship (1996 and 1997), a foray into the Grands Prix (30th then 19th in 500 cc in 1998 and 1999, 22nd in 250 cc and 500 cc in 2000) and several victories at the Bol d ‘ Gold and the 24H Motos du Mans.
Associated with Julien da Costa and Freddy Foray on the Honda n ° 111 for three seasons, Seb ‘Gimbert dreams of winning with the winged coat of arms the same consecration as that obtained in 2004 with the Yamaha GMT94: the world title in endurance … A difficult objective, if not impossible to obtain on the old CBR1000RR for lack of performance, but also of reliability on certain subcontracted parts …
But the arrival of the, with its 195 hp for 196 kg and its state-of-the-art electronics, completely changes the situation for 2017: Sebastien is perfectly aware of this and intends to take advantage of this opportunity. MNC interviewed him as he rode the 2017 CBR1000RR in Portimao (Portugal), as he learned about the progress of his new bike along with us. !
- MNC test of January 24, 2017: CBR1000RR and CBR1000RR SP 2017 in Portimao
Site: You are leaving this season as an official Honda endurance rider, with the new CBR1000RR SP2. What are the objectives ?
Sebastien gimbert : The first goal is already to start finishing the races! We’ve been working a lot for three years and it’s really starting to get complicated on this point … With the team, we couldn’t wait to switch to the new generation because the old one suffered from a little lack of power (180 hp as standard against 200 for motorcycles like the, the or the, Editor’s note) and we were fighting against teams that had access to a lot of electronics while we, not at all.
MNC: The last victory of the Honda Racing Endurance team dates back to Oschersleben (Germany) in … 2014! Since then you have experienced a lot of trouble, especially from a technical point of view. Is this indicative of a reliability issue on the old CBR1000RR ?
- MNC of 25 August 201: Honda Racing wins the Oschersleben 8H
S. G .: No, the bike was good, the problems encountered did not concern the “base”, the production model. Each time, it is peripheral racing parts that have failed, those added to prepare the bike. These are elements taken as is from other suppliers or which are then prepared within the team. Now, a lot of work has been done internally to avoid wasting time – even errands – because of this type of peripheral. Endurance is a sport that requires preparation and a perfect knowledge of all the elements to win. It requires work, and sometimes, also, a little luck … This season, the cards are reshuffled at this level because several motorcycles are evolving, and I think that it will be interesting to follow (Sebastien refers in particular to the Suzuki GSX -R1000, whose total overhaul for 2017 requires the SERT to review all its data, Editor’s note)…
- MNC test of February 9, 2017: 2017 GSX-R1000R at Phillip Island
After that, the main problem encountered in previous seasons was a lack of coordination in the team. We have been looking for balance in this area for a while. I think this year should be a step forward, as the organization of the team changes. There is a renewal in the team for this season, with the arrival of people from MotoGP who will devote themselves entirely to endurance motorcycles.
"I am quite serene"
MNC: We have just completed a few sessions together on: what are your impressions ?
S. G .: First, it’s rather reassuring because the new bike is equipped with everything we expected as a rider, especially in terms of electronics: ride-by-wire, traction control, adjustable engine brake, the double-acting shifter (up and down gears without disengaging, Editor’s note). The connection with the rear wheel is excellent and this allows you to take advantage of the extra power. What’s more, the CBR has improved in agility and that too is good news. Honestly, I am quite serene and satisfied because I was comfortable and fast on the new machine tested here in Portimao in stock version, while we were in great difficulty last year with the old one on this circuit (3rd aux, editor’s note).
MNC: The championship now takes place over two calendar years, according to the wishes of the promoter Eurosport Events, and always with a limited number of events (5 races, contested from September 2016 to July 2017). Do you think this is a good thing? Isn’t that too penalizing for the management of teams and drivers, who ultimately commit to two years? ?
S. G .: At the present time, this system straddling two seasons is indeed very difficult to manage … At one point, everything will have to be put back to flat for a question of readability and I think that this moment will have to be before the end 2017, so before the next Bol d’Or (in September, which now marks the start of the season in the new calendar, Editor’s note). At this stage, all the teams must imperatively have signed their pilots, and the pilots must for their part have contracted their partnerships with their personal sponsors (helmets, equipment, etc., Editor’s note). The other complicated aspect is the short time available to prepare the bikes, especially when it comes to new products like the CBR. I ride for the first time on this new CBR1000RR in January while the first race is scheduled for April (the 24H Motos du Mans 2017, Editor’s note): it is a constraint for all the teams, because the motorcycles have to travel a lot towers to be tuned.
- MNC of August 12, 2016: 2017 World Endurance Championship Calendar
- MNC of December 15, 2015: The endurance world championship straddling two calendar years
In the future, this may be a game-changer for manufacturers who will have an interest in moving the launch of their new bike forward so that it is ready for the endurance world championship. The stakes are high, as world endurance is now taking on real stature thanks to its new promoter, Eurosport Events, after being carried at arm’s length by the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM). Thanks to Eurosport, endurance becomes more visible and people realize that it is now a matter of real “24 hour sprints” on high performance motorcycles (Eurosport Events has just come from to spread EWC endurance in the USA and in Canada as well as with, Editor’s note). The other interesting aspect is that this new format over two calendar years allows for a normally slack period in terms of motorcycle racing: again, this is a positive thing. The ultimate goal, and I hope they will succeed, is to open up the championship to other horizons, to bring endurance out of its image as a "Franco-French" discipline..
"Imagine an endurance race in Sepang!"
MNC: Getting out of this picture first requires a bigger schedule, with more destinations. Currently, two out of five races are held in France (the 24H Motos du Mans and the Bol d´Or) and the promise of new events is struggling to materialize. What are the possible avenues ?
S. G. : First of all, it is possible to organize events of 6 hours, 8 hours or 12 hours, less complicated to set up and less expensive, especially for small structures with a very limited budget. The 24 hour races are of course still the benchmark in endurance racing, but we, the drivers, would be delighted to participate in more races, on other circuits, even on smaller formats. Perhaps we can also take inspiration from what is done elsewhere, such as the Asian Cup for example, in which Japanese endurance drivers participate. There are races in Thailand and Malaysia that it might be nice to participate in, especially since it could be done as a continuation of the Suzuka 8H. During this event in Japan, the field is full because the Japanese manufacturers and teams continue to invest a lot in endurance: why not take advantage of this enthusiasm to organize another international event in Asia? This could create emulation and convince some small Asian teams to enter the entire world championship. In addition, a second event in Asia could allow the European teams to make better use of their trip overseas. Imagine an endurance race in Sepang (Malaysia) !
MNC: You were world endurance champion with GMT94 in 2004 and twice French SBK champion with BMW in 2009 and 2011: what other title (s) would you like to win ?
S. G .: I am quite proud of my background, because I have worked with almost all manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and BMW). All I need is a collaboration with a Japanese brand, Kawasaki, which could not be put in place despite my very good relations with Gilles (Stafler, Kawasaki SRC team boss, Editor’s note). That said, my career isn’t over, so we’re not going to say "never"! Today I want to continue having fun because motorcycles are a drug for me: the story is far from over !
- MNC of August 15, 2004: The GMT94 world endurance champion
- MNC of October 19, 2009: Sebastien Gimbert and Mathieu Gines champions of France 2009
- MNC of September 20, 2011: Gimbert champion of France Superbike 2011
MNC: Would you be tempted by the motorcycle road race, type Tourist Trophy? Would you agree to go racing if Honda offered to lend a hand to its new on the new CBR10000 SP2 ?
S. G .: No, not at all, I’m a father (laughs)! I know the risks because I started hill climbing and today I continue to ride motorcycles on the road, unlike many of my peers who don’t have a motorcycle license. Honestly, if I go in there and put the pressure on myself, I’m afraid it will end badly! Ultimately, I would be much more interested if Honda offered me the wheel of a Civic type R in the French rally championship. Road racing, OK, but only on four wheels !
"I decided, rather than complaining, to do things my way"
MNC: You set up a structure for the children, there. Would you have liked to find this kind of structure when you were a young driver, you who was propelled into the world of Grands Prix very early and directly by the 500 2-stroke? ?
S. G .: When I was a young rider, the French Motorcycling Federation (FFM) deployed a lot of energy and resources to get out of French riders, with success since the French sector allowed the emergence of talented riders like Regis Laconi, Sylvain Guintoli, Olivier Jacque, Arnaud Vincent, Matthieu Lagrive, Vincent Philippe, etc. Today, with the Race Experience School, I am not revolutionizing anything: I am just reproducing the working methods used at the time by Marc Fontan and Herve Moineau, who worked a lot with me at that time.
- MNC of December 27, 2016: Sebastien Gimbert trains young people in motorcycle speed with Race Experience School
At the moment, a lot of people criticize the decisions taken regarding French motorcycle sport … So I decided, rather than complaining, to do things my way by applying these methods which have been proven by the past. I’m just re-contextualizing them because the racing world has changed. In addition to the function of "stirring up" the youngest via des, my structure also supervises racing drivers: in 2014, two of our drivers were champions of France in their respective categories. I appreciate this role of "big brother", I think it saves them time and money thanks to my experience and my partnerships, while preventing them from making mistakes.
This year, I am racing in the Junior Moto3 world championship (the antechamber of the Grand Prix formerly called “CEV”, Editor’s note) on an old official KTM. He is a very motivated 14-year-old French pilot – almost unknown in France – who went into exile in Spain (like a certain Fabio Quartararo: read our MNC Interview of El Diablo, Editor’s note). In three years, after having proven himself, I hope he will be able to enter the Grands Prix.
- MNC interview of May 6, 2015: Meet Fabio Quartararo
We are also in negotiations to do Spanish Moto2 with an Italian rider with whom we are currently in negotiations. Little by little, a kind of sector is emerging: the piloting school for young people, where everything takes place in the form of games with the children, the Moto3 team that we are setting up this year and the Moto2 team.
In addition, the Race Experience School is evolving in 2017 by integrating sessions open to adults, whether or not they have pilot ambitions, in order to make them aware of circuit driving but also to introduce them to new technologies. Many bikers are not fully aware of the benefits and usefulness of traction control or ABS: we want to accompany them in this way, but also to teach them how to master their motorcycle from a safety perspective. . By gauging the potential of his bike on the circuit, especially in terms of braking, it can be used on the road to avoid an accident. In addition, we are going to set up “refresher courses”, intended to restore confidence and good reflexes to motorcyclists who have left the motorcycle aside for some time..
Interview by Alexandre BARDIN
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