vol. 17 FUJIWARA KATSUAKICoach of Kawasaki Racing Team
Our guest in Part 17 of OWNDAYS MEETS is Fujiwara Katsuaki, a former professional motorcycle racer who is currently the coach of the Kawasaki Racing Team. We speak to him about his journey moving from motorcycle racing into coaching and of his plans for the future.
Coach of Kawasaki Racing Team
Born on 27 March 1975 in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture of Japan, Fujiwara Katsuaki is currently the team manager of the Kawasaki Asia Team which is competing in the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship and the coach of the Kawasaki Team Green in Japan. Both teams are owned by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.
Influenced by his father, Fujiwara started riding pocket bike at the age of 8. In 1991, he became a professional motorcycle racer after making his debut in the All Japan Road Race Championship that year. In 1998, Fujiwara began racing in world championships for a span of 13 years. In 2011, he shifted his focus to Asia races and had achieved stellar results with the international experience under his belt. Fujiwara retired from racing in 2014 and is currently the coach of the Kawasaki Racing Team.
Fujiwara had recorded 88 wins out of 91 pocket bike races and 191 wins out of 201 mini bike races.
- Career -
1992 Suzuka 4 Hours Endurance Race, Rank: 1st
1994 All Japan Road Race Championship (GP250), Rank: 3rd
1995 All Japan Road Race Championship (Superbike), Rank: 3rd
1995 Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race, Rank: 3rd
1997 All Japan Road Race Championship (Superbike), Rank: 2nd
2002 Supersport World Championship, Rank: 2nd
2005 Supersport World Championship, Rank: 3rd
2005 Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race, Rank: 2nd
2011 Asia Road Racing Championship (Supersports 600), Rank: 1st
2012 Asia Road Racing Championship (Supersports 600), Rank: 2nd
2013 Asia Road Racing Championship (Supersports 600), Rank: 2nd
Why led you into motorcycle racing?
Actually, I wasn’t interested in motorcycles at the beginning. When I was 8 years old, a new pocket bike circuit was built near my home. My dad who was into motorcycles brought me to the circuit but I didn’t like it at all. I remember being made to ride in jeans and hoodie whereas the other people all wore racing suits.
My mom used to pick me up after school and I would practise until it got dark. That was basically how I spent my childhood. I got faster with more practice and became engrossed in it unknowingly. When I came to realise it, I had already become a professional racer.
What has been the most memorable episode as a motorcycle racer?
It has to be the opening race of the 2005 Losail Superbike World Championship in Qatar. The motorcycle I rode didn’t have a tachometer on its instrument panel and I had never practised starting that type of motorcycles. Usually when I start the engine, I’ll check the tachometer to determine when to engage the clutch. So at that time, I started the engine by guessing the number of revolutions per minute based on my gut feeling and the motorcycle stalled. I became the last one in the race.
However, I tried to catch up right after that and eventually made it to the first with just 3 laps left to go. In the end, I won the race and was 7 seconds ahead of the next rider. I had many different races after that but this was such an intense race that I can still remember vividly even now.
What made you decide retire from racing in 2014?
I’ve hardly talked about it actually. 4 years ago after winning the Suzuka race, I went to Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ head office to discuss the contract for the next season. When I was in the meeting room with the executives, I sensed that the atmosphere in the room was a bit different from the usual. And it was then when they asked me to be the coach of the Kawasaki Racing Team.
I had, of course, wanted to continue being the top racer but I thought it would be a nice retirement for me after winning the last race. I wanted to maintain my image as a fast rider instead of moving into coaching only when I was going downhill. Offering me the position as a coach to lead the team was a huge recognition and that was one of the biggest reasons I decided to retire and move into coaching.
What advantage do you have?
It is becoming a coach right after my racing career and having collected data on the good and bad as well as the setup of motorcycles after working on motorcycle development in the last 10 years.
I’ll be able to know the situation the motorcycle is in just by looking at the data, even if the circuit has changed or if a rider has any feedback. The motorcycle currently used in races is also developed and used by me. That’s why, I do understand the rider’s feedback and can resolve any problem with the know-how I’ve acquired during my time as a racer. I think this is my advantage for having worked on motorcycle development all this while and for moving into coaching right after my racing career.
What is your next goal?
I coach the riders on various things and I hope to claim the world title with the young riders in the Kawasaki team. I had raced in world championships during my 13-year racing career but I had never clinched any titles. I had only clinched titles as a rider and as a coach in the Asia races so I really hope to help the young riders shine on the world stage moving forward.
Guest Select OWNDAYS
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