Which rider has exceeded pre-season expectations the most in the 2016 WorldSBK season? For many inside the paddock, Leon Camier is the most popular and obvious response.
Coming into the season there was little expected of the Italian manufacturer, but eight Top 6 finishes mean it is easy to see why Camier’s performances are being hailed.
The fortunes of MV Agusta in 2016 have surpassed expectations to such a degree that there is now the expectation rather than hope of podium finishes.
“I think a lot of our improvement this year comes down to personnel,” said Camier, after the Jerez round of the championship. “Mainly it comes down to just having a little bit more structure in the team, so they can get the changes done they needed to get done.”
“The team is now more streamlined and Andrea Quadranti is the one boss. We brought in some extra staff, and that has helped, but we knew last year what we needed to change with the bike, and we’ve been able to make those changes this year.”
Having announced his decision to re-sign with the team for a third season, the changes made to the team and the improvement to the bike mean that he is well-placed to finally give the manufacturer their maiden podium finish.
While this is the goal for Camier, one of the biggest reasons for the late announcement has been the ongoing financial difficulties facing MV Agusta.
Throughout the season the precarious financial state of the manufacturer has been a cloud over their on-track fortunes. However with the Reparto Corse team no longer directly linked to Varese based manufacturer, it has also allowed them more freedom to develop the bike without the constraints of some factory outfits.
“I think when you are racing as a factory team everything is done in the factory. They’re quite limited to outside influence or outside help, and may have to use certain suppliers. That can be beneficial of course, but at the same time it’s not a big factory at MV.”
“So to have the race team a little bit more separate, it means that we can use outside people to help develop certain things, and have people working, specialists in areas for racing, bring ideas that can bring new parts to us. I think it is a positive for us, and it could be part of the reason for some of our improvements also.”
The Englishman’s talent on a superbike has never been in doubt, his utter domination of the 2009 British Superbike season makes this clear, but his fortune on the world stage has been more difficult to gauge. Having ridden Aprilia, Suzuki, BMW, and MV Agusta machinery, stability has been in short supply.
He has now found that stability with the Italian squad, but what has Camier seen that works well with the smaller squad compared to his time working with other factory outfits in the past?
“I’d describe this as a really new team in comparison to when I rode for Aprilia or Crescent. Last year, it was a new setup with lots of new people and again this year it’s a totally changed setup in terms of personnel.”
“The team is still trying to figure out how to get a good, clear plan working development-wise behind the scenes. They need to find the right suppliers, get the right development on the engine.”
“I believe that for next year it will take another step forward. I really believe the guys we’ve got now have made massive progress, and I sort of believe that again for next year the progress could be something similar.”
“To expect to be fighting with the Kawasakis and Ducatis is a big, big ask. The amount of support they have compared to what we have is ridiculous. But in right time and in the right situation we can be somewhere close.”
“I’ve got my fingers crossed that next year we can be even closer to them, and even fighting with the Hondas consistently for that fourth, fifth, sixth position, and now and again being close to the podium is the goal. To be on the podium would be perfect.”
Since their return to WorldSBK in 2014, MV Agusta has struggled to compete with the financial and technical resources of the top teams. The work of Camier this year has helped close that gap to the front, but as Camier explains there is still plenty of room for improvement to be made.
“I’d like to think that we’ve proven that I can be fast in the dry now. The challenge is that in the dry it’s even harder to be fast compared to the guys we’re up against — Kawasaki, Ducati, Honda — they have so many years’ experience whereas we have a newer bike.”
“They arrive at the track and things are a lot more sorted for them to be able to go fast in the dry. In the wet, it does even things out a little bit, but even still with electronics you’re fighting the battle there as well.
“It’s never 100% equal, but in the dry the differences all make a bigger difference, so for us to then compete with them, our equipment needs to improve for sure.”
“I think if we can get more power, a bit less weight from the bike, we can be in a strong place. In the beginning of a race when everyone has grip and they have more power, they can use that to their advantage and they can open the gas and the thing uses that grip and goes forward.
“As soon as the grip’s gone then that doesn’t work as much. You can only put so much power down when the tire is spinning. So as the grip drops, it equals it out a little bit more and that’s why normally we see at the end of the race my lap times can be as fast or even faster.”
With a one-year contract inked Camier will be hoping those improvements will be forthcoming and that in 2017 he can bring the fight to the front of the World Superbike field.
Photo: World Superbike