The Team Manager: "We needed a rider who can immediately score results. Oncu might try SBK, Razgatlioglu wants a winning package”
The countdown to the new SBK season is on, with new entries ready to emerge and reconfirmed riders ready to prove their worth once more. Team Puccetti falls into this second category, a squad that is a sure thing in the production-derived paddock but that has gone through some tough times of late. From 2020 to now, the SBK results have failed to meet with expectation, despite the efforts of various riders, hence the need for a change of gear. Something that Team Principal Manuel Puccetti hopes to achieve with Tom Sykes, the squad’s new rider for 2023.
Manuel, how are team Puccetti’s preparations for the new season going?
“We’re working hard to give Sykes what he needs. We want to see a change of pace with respect to recent seasons, the post-Razgatlioglu era let’s say, so that we can get back to the top. It’s not easy, as there are many factory bikes and some very tough privateer teams, but our progress and Tom’s motivation make for a great starting point”.
What do you think the Sykes-Puccetti pairing can achieve?
“The goal is top five, with some podium results. Realistically, the top three are on another level, so it’s not easy to think we can beat them but running somewhere around top five has to be our target for the season.”
How did you come to select Sykes?
“Tom was keen to return to WorldSBK and we wanted someone reliable, who could immediately aim for strong results. In the past we trusted in Mahias, following that growth path that has characterised many of our Supersport and Superbike seasons and allowed us to launch riders like Morbidelli and Toprak, but the results in recent years have led us to opt for a rider that can do well right away. We weren’t looking for a youngster to develop, contrary to what we’ve done in the past, but a rider who can immediately aim high”.
How are you and Kawasaki doing on the technical front?
“With regard to Kawasaki, the bike is essentially the same as last year with a few small injection-related updates. As a team, we are testing the larger Brembo brakes, to allow Tom who brakes so hard to best express himself, and also some prototype STM clutches. We’ve also been in the wind tunnel recently, working on the aerodynamics”.
How do you view the current Superbike regulation?
“I don’t know. I think the Ducati is the bike to beat right now. The playing field will probably be much as it was at the end of last season, unless Pirelli brings something new that shifts the goalposts”.
Puccetti: "Razgatlioglu in MotoGP only with a winning package"
You’ve gone from two riders to just one in Supersport. How will you tackle the season?
“After a 2022 season like the one Oncu had, we can only be highly motivated. I think Can can be one of the men to beat.”
Despite having a bike that is beginning to feel its age.
“We have the oldest bike on the grid, so it won’t be easy. In 2023 we’ll develop the ride by wire for Kawasaki, and we’ll have some updates too. During the next tests, we’ll compare the WP and Ohlins suspension before deciding which to use. Basically, we know we’re up against newer bikes, but we’re not giving up”.
Will this be Oncu’s last season in SSP?
“Can really likes Supersport, so he’d like to remain in the category for a few more years. I’ve promised him that, if he’s leading the championship mid-season, he can test the Superbike, that way we can have a clearer idea as to his future. Let’s not forget that his mentor Sofuoglu built a career in Supersport, so it could be that Oncu also decides to stay where he is”.
Razgatlioglu moves to SBK, and he may still switch to MotoGP. Where do you see him in 2024?
“Unlike many others, Toprak doesn’t have a yearning for MotoGP. He likes the idea of course, but he only wants to switch paddock if he can have a winning package in his hands. Otherwise, he’ll happily stay in Superbike, where he already has a winning package”.
If he were to leave the Yamaha SBK team, do you think he’d be more likely to stay in Superbike with another manufacturer or move to MotoGP?
“Superbike, but the offers he might receive could shake things up”.