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125cc: Q & A with Haojue, Team Maxtra

Q. Why did Haojue decide to go racing?

A: To improve our understanding of technology, to educate our engineers to find rapid solutions to problems and to motivate our staff by competing at the highest level. Good performance on the race track will improve our products, and bring our company to world attention.

Q. Why the 125 class?

A: We have to start from the bottom of the ladder, and climb from there. We will learn and improve. Also, it is the most stable and often the most exciting grand prix class.

We did also look at the 250 class, but there is a great deal of uncertainty as to its future, so we decided it would not be wise to proceed at the current time. We also think that the 125 class offers the best pure racing challenge.

Q. Do you plan to move up to the MotoGP class?

A: Our priority is to succeed in the 125 class, with a three-year programme. When we are confident, when we feel ready, and when conditions are right, we will certainly consider moving up to the class.

Q. When do you think that will be?

A: At the moment, it is too early to say. We have no schedule yet.

Q. Is this a serious World Championship challenge?

A: Of course we mean to win the championship. But we do not underestimate how difficult that would be. That is why we are pleased to have such strong and experienced partners - John Surtees, Garry Taylor, Jan Witteveen, Harris Performance, Ohlins and NGK.

Q. How did the project come about?

A: From the factory side, the president Mr Wong had been watching MotoGP for some time, and he liked what he saw. We were lucky to be visited at that time by Garry Taylor and his colleague Derek Lam.

The initial discussion lasted for nearly a year, by when we were convinced that we shared the same enthusiasm, and could work well together on this exciting project.

Q. What about the European side?

A: The idea began with a chance conversation between John Surtees and Garry Taylor, at a meeting for another project. Both were aware of the huge potential of the Chinese motorcycle industry.

Surtees already had kart and car racing projects in the country, while Taylor had spent six frustrating months trying to make industry contacts. From there, the two formulated the idea of a joint racing project with a Chinese manufacturer.

Q. What was the next stage?

A: We met with several of the top Chinese manufacturers, but it was when we got across the table with Mr Wong that it started to gel. He understood immediately what was on the table, and it dovetailed with his plans.

Q. How had John and Garry got together with GRG?

A: John Surtees had an existing business relationship with Derek Lam on other Chinese projects. It was Derek who arranged the introduction and set up the initial meetings. There had been several false starts, but we'd found a mix of people and targets that were agreeable to all.

Q. How did you choose your technical partners?

A: Haojue agreed with Garry and John that sharing technology with the best possible partners would cut the time needed to become competitive. We sought the best people available.

We were delighted to persuade Jan Witteveen to work with us. He is a giant in his field with an amazing record of success. We chose Harris Performance because of their long and impressive history in chassis design and racing, and in international projects such as ours.

At the start of our journey, we also need to thank Mr Carmelo Ezpeleta and his colleagues at Dorna. They have given us much assistance and encouragement.

Q. What are your hopes in your first season?

A: Of course we want success, but it will be a learning year. This is one of the most competitive racing classes in the world, and we have great respect for the other competitors. They won't make life easy for us.

Q. Who will be your main competitor?

A: Everyone! We are the new boy, with everything to learn. But we hope to add to the excitement, with a full-scale factory-backed challenge to KTM and Aprilia, who are currently in control in the class.

We are sure that full-scale Chinese competition in the World Championship will greatly increase the awareness of our huge country's great design and engineering potential.

Q. Does GRG take part in any other racing?

A: Yes - the factory supports a 600 Supersport team in the 2008 China Superbike Championship - a four-round series. So far we have two second place finishes, with two rounds to go. The eventual aim of this new project is to train young Chinese riders and race technicians, which is in line with the Maxtra 125 GP programme.

Q. How many motorcycles does GRG produce?

A: This year, 2008, we will produce 3.5 million motorcycles. In 2007 we produced more than 2.7 million. We are planning to double our capacity by 2010.

Q. Will you be looking for a sponsor for Team Maxtra?

A: We do not need a sponsor to go racing. But we are open to approaches from potential sponsorship partners. We can help those companies build their customer base and awareness in China, and the right company could help us to promote our own eventual export products"

Q. What are your export plans for the future?

A: Grand River Group already exports around 600,000 units annually to 70 countries, including Japan. Obviously doubling our production capacity means we want to expand our market share, and seek new markets. The long-term strategy is under discussion, but the Maxtra racing project is one way to gain brand awareness worldwide.

Q. Have you chosen riders for your race team?

A: That is of course an important decision. We will be looking for two experienced GP riders who can use their knowledge to help us develop our machines faster, and their skills to get the best results. We are currently monitoring the progress of individual riders in the class, and shall be making approaches in the coming months.

Q. Will you produce a 125cc road machine developed from your race bike?

A: We have no actual decision on that at the moment, but it is certainly a possibility. In any case, our design engineers will learn from involvement in the project.

Q. Will you produce customer race machines?

A: That is a strong possibility. It would be good to see other Maxtra machines on the race tracks of the world and to offer other riders and teams a new choice of competitive machine.

Q. When might this happen?

A: First we have to make our team machine competitive. That will create a demand that we will be happy to fill. It would give other riders another choice.

Q. How do you see racing will improve your machines?

A: Our road machines will definitely improve from the lessons we will learn on the race tracks. Equally important to us - our factory personnel will be part of the team. They will be a conduit for information back to the factory, and we expect their own skills to improve quickly.

Q. Are you aware of talk of a ban for two-stroke machines?

A: We have discussed this rumour with Dorna. We were told that there is no plan to change the 125cc regulations at the moment. There is also a lot of uncertainty about the move to drop 250-class two-strokes, with many delays to replacement plans.

We are not convinced that the two-stroke engine is finished. New techniques suggest the two-stroke engine might make a return, and have a successful future in motorcycling. It is a good type of engine for the application.

We are sure there can be a future for both two and four-stroke machines, and potentially other new technologies. We will aggressively explore all possibilities for the future.

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