‘Hardest decision to give up racing’ - Rider-turned-Honda boss Leon Camier

Leon Camier settles into life as the new HRC WorldSBK Honda boss after making the 'hardest decision' to give up racing due to injuries

Leon Camier

Leon Camier admits the decision to officially call time on his racing career was the ‘hardest of his life’ even if the surprise announcement he will revert to a Team HRC Honda WorldSBK managerial role has softened the blow.

Earlier this week the Briton was confirmed in the lofty new position with one of the best-funded factory teams on the grid despite having no prior managerial experience and, at 34, being younger than the two riders who will race for him, Leon Haslam [37] and Alvaro Baurista [36].

It comes after Camier officially gave up on the recovery trail following a fraught couple of years recovering from two separate shoulder injuries caused by a serious crash at Imola in June 2019, followed by another one in his first test with Barni Ducati in November 2019.

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With the latter accident necessitating a long period out of action - enough to lose him his Barni ride without starting a race - Camier has now accepted he won’t race again. Despite the prestige of his new role, Camier concedes retiring at this stage in his life wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“It’s an amazing opportunity, that’s the first thing,” he said. “A big thank you to Honda for having the confidence in me to do the job. It is a lot of responsibility and a big position to jump into straight away. I have a lot of experience as a rider and hopefully this will translate to moving the team forward and having my experience could be a positive for the whole team. I am looking forward to the challenge.

“Retiring was maybe the hardest decision of my life to stop racing. The last few years for me haven’t been easy with injury and it has not gone as well as I would have wanted but to actually decide to stop racing is such a big thing - my life has been dedicated to racing, training towards it and everything you do is improving yourself and perform as a racer. 

“So to stop that is a really big deal, bigger than I expected but having this opportunity has helped,I can focus on this and use my experience to improve [the team]. I think I can jump into it quite easily, it is a natural progression to do this. For me, I am really looking forward to this challenge. A lot to learn but really excited to start.”

Though there are numerous managerial roles in motorsport assumed by ex-riders, Camier’s age and recent participation does make him quite unusual. However, he is experienced and he is confident his modern-day knowledge of the series will be a boost.

“Having had experience in a lot of different teams, I have seen the good points, the bad points… the things I always wanted to be different or improve,” he continued. “I know from the riders position what they will be looking for, a lot of behind the scenes information to give them confidence and motivation to keep pushing. 

“This I can bring to the team straight away. I am amazed by the effort of what goes on behind the scenes, as a rider you don’t see these things, you are quite sheltered from everything. For me, this was a big surprise but something that is good to share with the riders."

Leon Camier: A WorldSBK star or unfulfilled potential? 

There is a feeling of slight frustration upon me learning Camier will not race in anger again, even if for the sake of his aching limbs I’m actually rather relieved.

Frustration in that you sense Camier was still within range of getting the break he needed to prove himself as a WorldSBK great.

Indeed, the Briton had all the makings of becoming a star at WorldSBK level as demonstrated by his crushing dominance en route to the 2009 British Superbike title when his 19 wins in 26 races was so dominant it initiated an entire change to the regulations with the Title Showdown to prevent it from ever happening again.

However, his WorldSBK career never quite took off and while the term ‘wrong place, wrong time’ is certainly an oft-trotted out trope for any professional rider, it applies particularly well to Camier.

Coming into WorldSBK with Aprilia looked like a dream opportunity but this was a lanky 6ft 3’ man riding the quick but very compact RSV4, a bike that was small even before the Italian firm pumped the majority of its resources into making pint-size Max Biaggi quick on it. 

As Camier put it himself, he looked ‘like a monkey humping a football’.

Seven podiums in two years showed he had potential but thereafter Camier found himself chasing his tail by joining manufacturers that weren’t quite at their peak, starting with Crescent Racing on the ageing Suzuki GSX-R1000, a privateer BMW S1000RR and the MV Agusta F4. In fact, he was impressive on the latter given its penchant for breaking on him and he arguably put that machine higher up the order than it deserved to be.

A stint at Honda just as it too embarked on its downward trend and persistent injury niggles added to the spiral and before long 10 years have passed. 

Camier’s appointment as a team manager seems savvy in many senses in that he has intimate knowledge of what a rider needs from the bike today, but for a company as risk-averse as Honda, it certainly comes as a surprise.

If anything, it’s the signing of the winter we’ll be keeping our closest eye on...
 

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