Archive - Interview

April 25th, 2015

Sam Lowes Speaks: Part 2 - On The Value Or Otherwise Of Data, And Of Following Your Own Direction

Data – the reams of information logged by a vast array of sensors on a racing motorcycle – is a contentious issue in MotoGP. Riders differ in their approach to it. Mika Kallio, for example, has a reputation for being a demon for data, wading through his own data after every session. Other riders pay less attention, preferring to let their data engineers, sort the data out from them, and examine their data together.

Sam Lowes is one of the latter. In the long conversation which we had with him at Austin – see yesterday's installment on the 2015 Speed Up here – Lowes discussed the role of data, and his use of it, at length. Though all of the riders using the Speed Up chassis have access to each other's data (it is common practice for all manufacturers to share data among their riders), Lowes sees little use in looking at the data of other riders.

"I've never looked at other people's data," Lowes told the small group of journalists who spoke to him on the Thursday before the race at Austin . "I've never looked at anyone's. Just because, well, it's not a motorbike is it? I look at my data with my guys, but I wouldn't look at anyone else's. Maybe if Márquez was set next to me I'd have a quick glance over …" he joked.

Lowes did not believe that the data from other Speed Up riders would be of much use to him. "Not taking anything away from Julian Simon and Ant West, but if they're quicker than me here, I won't go look at their data."

April 24th

Sam Lowes Speaks: Part 1 - How A New Swing Arm Made Him Fast Enough To Win

Sam Lowes is a rider on the move. After impressing in both BSB and World Supersport, the Englishman made the switch to Moto2 in 2014, joining Speed Up to race the bike designed and built by the team run by Luca Boscoscuro. His first season in Moto2 was much tougher than expected, Lowes crashing often and never getting close to a podium, despite often showing good pace in practice in qualifying.

His 2015 season has gotten off to a much better start. Lowes has been fastest in both testing and practice, and with Johann Zarco, Tito Rabat and Alex Rins, has shown himself to be a true title contender for this year. A win at Austin confirmed that, as has a podium in Argentina and pole position at Qatar. On the Thursday before the Texas round of MotoGP at Austin, a small group of reporters had a long and fascinating conversation with Lowes, in which he covered a lot of territory, ranging from finding confidence when riding in the rain, to how the Speed Up bike has changed, to the value of looking at the data of other riders. Over the next couple of days, we will share some of that conversation with you.

One of the biggest changes in Sam Lowes' fortunes came as a result of a change to the bike. The carbon fiber swing arm which Speed Up have been running since they first starting building their own bikes back in 2012, and is a legacy of Boscoscuro's days working with Aprilia, has been replaced with a more conventional one made from aluminum. That switch had made a huge difference to the feel of the bike, giving Lowes and the other Speed Up riders much more feel for the rear tire of the Speed Up, and putting an end to a string of inexplicable crashes.

March 25th

Movistar Yamaha Press Release Interview With Jorge Lorenzo: On Preparing For 2015

Ahead of this weekend's season opener, the Movistar Yamaha team issued the following press release, containing an interview with Jorge Lorenzo.

JORGE LORENZO INTERVIEW
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider
Doha (Qatar), 23rd March 2015

Q1: In a few days the 2015 World Championship will kick off. What do you expect from the start of this new season?

JL: “As always I hope to be able to try and fight for the title. Whether you win it or not in the end depends on many factors, but at least we have to go into the season with the intention of fighting for the title, as we have done all throughout my career in MotoGP. I think that, if the bike works well and I stay in good shape physically, I can do it. Let's see what happens...”

Q2: What have you learned from previously made mistakes, and from which mistakes did you learn the most?

March 11th

Aprilia Boss Romano Albesiano Interview: "We Know It Takes Three Years To Be Competitive In MotoGP"

Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano has big shoes to fill. Taking over from Gigi Dall'Igna, Albesiano must continue the legacy of success which his predecessor left for him. He got off to a good start, Sylvain Guintoli lifting the World Superbike title in Albesiano's first year at the helm. Now comes the hard part, following up on that success and expanding into MotoGP.

A small group of journalists spoke to Albesiano at the Aprilia launch in Milan. In a wide-ranging conversation, the Aprilia boss covered many topics, including explaining why the Noale firm came back to MotoGP a year ahead of schedule, touching on what the new bike Aprilia is working on for 2016 and beyond might look like, and the 2016 rules in MotoGP. Albesiano also talked about the World Superbike season, the return of Troy Bayliss, and what it takes to be successful as a racer at this level. Finally, Albesiano discussed the future of two stroke engines, and whether he could see them making a return to racing.

Q: Aprilia has some ambitious plans for 2015?

Romano Albesiano: I think it's very clear from the presence here. We race in all the top categories, big bikes everywhere. But the main project is to develop this MotoGP target, that's the main point.

Q: The objective for this year is to focus on development, preparing for 2016?

RA: Yes, sure. We need to be realistic. We cannot expect big results this year. But we also don't want to be on the last row! But you need to be somewhere and fight with the good guys in order to check your level, to stress your people, to stress the parts, to make progress quicker than any other way.

March 7th

Alvaro Bautista Interview: "For This Year, We Have No Pressure To Get Results"

Alvaro Bautista is a much happier man than he has been for a few years. Now a factory rider once again, he has found new motivation, despite knowing that there is along road ahead to make the Aprilia RS-GP a competitive machine. At the official launch of Aprilia's MotoGP, World Superbike and FIM Superstock projects in Milan, I spoke to Bautista about the progress Aprilia have made during testing, his experience of the bike so far, and his expectations for 2015.

Q: How has the progress been between the two tests?

Alvaro Bautista: Progress is quite good. Not a big step, but we did a step forward. Especially on the electronics, because the first test, the electronics were a bit inconsistent. So we spent one day just to adjust the electronics. Still it's not perfect, but we did a small improvement. Then once we decided the frame we will race for the start of the season, we already decided this in the first test. On the second day of the last test we tried different settings of the bike, we changed basically all of the bike to see if something is good or not, or what can help us or not. So it was not really a good day, because we didn't find anything, but we had to try. In the last day, it was good because we started with our base setting, then we make a long run. I was quite happy because I did it in the worst conditions, it was 3pm, so it was hot conditions, but I felt so good. The rhythm was quite good. My feeling on the bike on the long run was comfortable. So I think the only real step we did was with the electronics.

February 9th

Danilo Petrucci: "I Was Proud To Be Able To Follow Rossi For Two Laps"

Danilo Petrucci has always been one of the most underrated riders in MotoGP. The Italian came into the class from Superstock, where he finished runner up in the Superstock 1000 class. He joined the IODA Racing team, where he started off on the team's own Aprilia-based machine, before switching to the Suter BMW. Last year, he rode the Aprilia ART machine for the team, before finally getting a shot at a proper MotoGP machine this year with Pramac. 

Since making the move, Petrucci has quickly got up to speed, but three years on underpowered bikes have left the Italian with a riding style problem to fix. Like many other former Open class and CRT riders, he is used to carrying corner speed, to compensate for a lack of horsepower. Now on a Ducati Desmosedici GP14.1, he has horsepower to spare, and needs to adapt his riding style to stand the bike up earlier and make use of the available acceleration. 

I spoke to Petrucci after the last day of testing at Sepang, where he explained what he had been working on. He talked of changing his riding style, developing electronics for the factory team, and getting help from his friend Valentino Rossi.

You have a GP14.1, the bike Crutchlow had?

October 8th, 2014

The Candid Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 3 - On Having Jack Miller As A Teammate, And Mental Strength

It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge. Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

In the first part of the interview with Crutchlow, published on Monday, he spoke of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of the 2014 season being his toughest year so far. In the second part of the interview, he continued this theme, talking about his struggle to maintain his morale through this, the hardest part of his career, when the results refuse to come. And in this, the final part of the interview, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller's ascent to MotoGP.

MM: What about Jack Miller as a teammate? It's quite a big step from Moto3 to MotoGP, and he is definitely a larrikin, as they say in Australia …

CC: I don't know, a few races ago, when they first talked about it, I was like, why not do it? It's the best thing ever, it'll be funny. But the more I think about it, the more I think, maybe he needed a year. But who am I to say? I don't know! He might be alright. I sat there and thought, maybe he needed a year to go into Moto2 and learn, but then you think, why doesn't he have his year learning in MotoGP? It makes no difference. It's a big decision to make.

I do have to say, everyone's saying about the power, from 55bhp or whatever they've got to 250 or whatever. I don't think it's a big thing. You've got your right wrist, if you want to open the gas, you can open it, if you don't, then don't open it. If you don't want the power, you don't open the throttle. I think he'll be fine with that.

The only thing that I believe that could be a hindrance to him, you can't have as much fun on a MotoGP bike as you can in Moto3. I'll tell you what, you're not riding around behind someone, waiting for them to make a move, or thinking, I'll pass on the next lap. You've got no chance of doing that. You know, these races are probably 50% more intense than his races. That's my opinion.

October 7th

The Candid Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 2 - On Morale, Following Rossi's Example, And Being A Factory Rider

It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge. Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

In the first part of the interview with Crutchlow, published on Monday, he spoke of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of the 2014 season being his toughest year so far. He continues the theme in this, the second part of the interview, where he discusses his struggle to maintain his morale through the darkest part of his career, when the results refuse to come. And in the final part of the interview, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller's ascent to MotoGP.

MotoMatters.com: I'm glad you mentioned morale, because that was something I wanted to ask you about. Last year, when we talked about Cal Crutchlow, it was about when you were going to win your first MotoGP race. Compare that to this year, and it's not, are you going to win, but are you going to get into the top ten. That must be very tough mentally.

Cal Crutchlow: Yes, it's demoralizing. The worst thing for me is, I take it personally, as in I think that I'm not doing something right. I mean, obviously, it's true, I'm not doing something right, but when I go home, I'm hard on myself. When I go out training, I train harder. For no reason, because it's nothing to do with that.

You know, I do sit there and think, you're getting paid a lot of money to finish behind a lot of guys who are not getting paid anywhere near as much as you. But I still feel I earned it, I earned my place in the factory team. And it's demoralizing for me to think, you know, it's OK to say, just go faster, but I can't. I'm not saying I don't know how, if I could go faster, I would. People are like, why can't you beat that guy, why can't you get into the top ten, why can't you be like Andrea Dovizioso or Iannone? If I could, I would, it's as simple as that. I'm not sitting there going, right, I'm having a few weekends off, I'm just going to cruise round.

October 6th

The Candid Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 1 - His Toughest Year Yet, Adapting To The Ducati

It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge. Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

At Aragon, ahead of the fourteenth race of the season, we caught up with Crutchlow, to talk about his year so far, his expectations for next year, and how he manages to keep his morale up through such a difficult period. Cal Crutchlow gave a candid and honest account of his season, not shirking the blame, and speaking openly of the fears and doubts which plague a professional motorcycle racer when they go through a season as tough as this. He opened a window into a side of racing which is not often talked about, and marks his courage as both a rider, and as a human being.

The interview went on for so long that we have had to split it up into three parts, which will appear over the next few days. In the first part of the interview, he speaks of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of 2014 being his toughest year in MotoGP so far. In the second part of the interview, he delves into the dark side of his year, of the struggle to maintain his morale while the results are not coming. And in the final part of the interview, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller's ascent to MotoGP.

MotoMatters.com: You said 2011 was one of the toughest seasons you've ever had. Is this one tougher? Or easier because you know that it could be worse?

Cal Crutchlow: I think first and foremost, when I came to Ducati, I thought I could make it work, I thought I could ride the bike how it needed to be ridden. As every rider does in this situation, I think every rider has to believe in themselves and believe that they can do it.

I didn't know the situation until I rode the bike, sure, but would I say it's worse than 2011? Yes, because I'm expected to do well now, and in 2011 I wasn't. I wanted to do well in 2011, that was the difference. Not that I don't want to do well now, but I mean in 2011, I expected myself that I would just turn up and be competitive, because I'd been at the front in World Superbikes, and it really wasn't the case. But if you look at the results, I probably had better results in 2011 than I have now.

September 24th

Aspar Press Release: Nicky Hayden Speaks On His Return To MotoGP

After sitting out the last four races since Indianapolis, Nicky Hayden will ride a MotoGP bike again at the Motorland Aragon circuit. To help clarify his situation, and talk about the operation he underwent and the difficult period of rehabilitation which followed, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued a press release containing an interview with the American. In it, he answers many of the questions he will inevitably face over the weekend. This is Nicky Hayden's side of the story.


“Racing is my life, my passion, not just my job.”

After undergoing two operations on his right wrist in the space of just two months and missing four rounds of the MotoGP World Championship, DRIVE M7 Aspar rider Nicky Hayden finally returns to competitive action at Aragón this weekend. For those who doubted his return, Hayden is one of the most experienced and motivated riders in the paddock and for him, racing is life. The 'Kentucky Kid' is an icon of modern-day MotoGP, irrepressible in times of adversity and a man who does not know the meaning of the word 'NO.' He has needed every ounce of that courage and determination over the last few months as he has battled to overcome the worst injury of his career. Now, finally, the long wait is over.

What exactly did the operation that you underwent entail?

In our wrists we have two rows of tiny bones. They have removed the upper row, which was damaged. It sounds crazy but when you see the results on the X-ray it makes sense.

What was the main problem? Pain, lack of feeling, loss of strength?

September 19th

Corrado Cecchinelli Interview: The Goal Of MotoGP's Spec Software? More Usable, More Relevant To The Road

From 2016, the entire MotoGP class will switch to a single, spec software for the electronics on the bikes. Development of the software is to become a collaborative process, with the factories competing in MotoGP supplying code and requirements through a single website. This much we know. But what we don't know is much more interesting. Which technologies will be supported? Which functions will be available? How sophisticated will the software be? Who will lead the software process, the factories or Dorna?

To get answers to all of these questions and more I spoke to MotoGP's Director of Technology, Corrado Cecchinelli at Silverstone. He is the man in charge of the process of making the switch to the spec, or unified software, as it is now being called. Cecchinelli will manage the development process, and define the goal of the unified software, trying to create a level playing field for all of the competitors.

It was a long and interesting interview. We covered many subjects, from the logistics of the development process, to the technologies which will be allowed, to what Cecchinelli sees as the objective of the software, and the goals it should achieve. Cecchinelli described in some detail how the development process for the unified software is to work, and how the process will be managed. It will be a collaborative process, but it will not, as some fans had hoped, be a fully open process, with fully public access to the code.

Cecchinelli then set out his vision for the unified software, both in terms of implementation at the track and its application in production bikes. The goal is that any MotoGP-level electronics engineer should be able to extract the maximum performance from the software, rather than requiring mastery of an arcane and excessively complex piece of software. It should be fully usable by the engineers in the independent or non-factory teams, allowing them to use the software to its full potential. This is one of the complaints made by the Open teams at the Sepang test at the start of the year, when they were handed an extremely powerful, but extremely complex software update. The update was soon dropped, in favor of an evolution of the existing software.

September 11th

Mike Leitner Interview: Pedrosa's Crew Chief Talks Race Strategy, The Dangers Of Starts, And Tires Past And Future

Dani Pedrosa has been with his crew chief Mike Leitner for over ten years now, since Pedrosa's first season in the 250cc class in 2004. Pedrosa and Leitner have been a strong partnership, with the Austrian helping Pedrosa win two world championships and 41 victories in the two classes they have been together.

The arrival of Marc Marquez into MotoGP has had a profound impact both inside and outside the Repsol Honda team. Marquez' natural speed has forced Pedrosa and his crew to rethink their approach to the races, to try to match the pace of Pedrosa's young teammate. At the beginning of the season, Pedrosa complained a number of times that he felt the revised strategy taken by Leitner was not working as hoped, and that had left him unable to compete.

Though Pedrosa's competitiveness has improved, the Spaniard being the first person to beat his teammate with victory at Brno, it has still left tension in Pedrosa's garage. Rumors are circulating that Pedrosa would like to drop Leitner and change his crew chief.

Intrigued by the question of what exactly had changed in Pedrosa's race strategy, we spoke to his crew chief Mike Leitner. The resulting conversation gave a fascinating insight into race strategy, and how teams approach each MotoGP race. Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP.

September 4th

Interview: Star Of The Future Alex Rins On Honda vs KTM, Racing In Moto3, And Moto2 vs MotoGP

Alex Rins is one of the rising stars of Moto3. Rins is part of the generation which, along with Alex Marquez and Jack Miller, the factory bosses in MotoGP are looking to shake up the premier class in the future. After a strong season last year aboard the KTM in 2013, when he won six races, Rins has had a tougher season in 2014, now riding a Honda. On the podium just four times until Silverstone, a win had so far eluded him when we spoke to him on Thursday at Silverstone. That all changed on Sunday, when he finally won his first race of the season. 

We covered quite a lot of ground with Rins, despite his protestations that he did not speak very good English. Rins spoke simply, but clearly of his year so far with the Honda, comparing it with the KTM he rode for the Estrella Galicia team last year. He talked of the difficulty of winning in Moto3, because of how close the field is at the front, and how that caused him to cheer a lap too early at Brno. And we touched briefly on his future, and the interest Yamaha showed in him to go straight to MotoGP. 

MotoMatters: In 2013, you had a very strong season, you were winning races. This year has been a lot more difficult. You switched from KTM to Honda, the Honda has had to have some development. Tell me about this year?

Alex Rins: This year compared to 2013 it's very different. Last year I had only three rivals, this year I have more rivals, nine, ten. Sometimes nineteen, like in the last race! It's difficult, also to develop the bike, it's difficult. It's not easy.

August 28th

Aspar Press Release: Leon Camier Interview - On

Leon Camier has made an impressive debut in MotoGP, replacing Nicky Hayden while the American recovers from wrist surgery. Camier has been competitive on the Honda RCV1000R since he first flung a leg over the bike, despite having no previous experience of either the bike, nor the Bridgestone tires, nor even the Indianapolis circuit, where he first rode the bike. To celebrate Camier's success, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued the following press release, containing an interview with the Englishman:


“The first thing I thought when I saw the Honda was that I wouldn't fit!”

Leon Camier is a true Brit, resident in Andorra, who looks like he could have been anything other than a motorcycle racer. A towering 190 centimetres tall, with a youthful smile and good English manners, Camier prefers to do his talking on the track. He recently made his MotoGP debut at the ripe age of 28, stepping in for the injured Nicky Hayden at the DRIVE M7 Aspar Team, and he has impressed everybody with his adaptation to Grand Prix machinery. A former 125cc youngster but a Superbike rider for the majority of his career, Camier has slotted in smoothly with the Spanish team and not only managed to finish the race at Brno but he did so in the points. Now he returns home to Silverstone with another chance to impress.

First obvious question... what's the difference between a MotoGP and a Superbike?

The electronics in MotoGP are much more advanced, the anti-wheelie control is incredible. MotoGP is also less physical than Superbikes, not just because the bike is lighter but also the way you ride it is completely different, you can rely a lot on the electronics. The tyres are also totally different, you have to find the limit in MotoGP and work out how to get the best out of the rubber. The suspension helps with this but there is just so many things, so much information... but basically the main difference lies in the electronics, tyres and suspension.

August 26th

Interview: Nicolas Goyon, Pol Espargaro's Crew Chief, On Developing The Yamaha M1 To Exploit The Strengths Of Moto2 Riders

Many MotoGP followers, both inside and outside the paddock, were sceptical when news leaked that Yamaha had signed Pol Espargaro to a factory contract early in 2013. A year later, and halfway through his first MotoGP season, that scepticism has been replaced with admiration. The younger of the two Espargaro brothers is the best satellite rider in the championship standings, and has been competitive from the start of the season.

Yamaha clearly had a plan with Pol Espargaro. The riding style which young racers develop in Moto2 is very different from the style which came from the 250cc class. Where Moto2 racers use a sliding rear tire to help turn the bike into the corners, the 250 two-strokes rewarded riders who could brake early and carry as much corner speed as possible. The Yamaha YZR-M1 has been primarily developed around the 250cc style, but as riders schooled in the Moto2 class enter MotoGP, Yamaha realized they will have to adapt their bike to this new generation of young riders. By signing the reigning Moto2 champion, Yamaha have started to seriously examine how the new intermediate class is affecting MotoGP bike development.

Leading this development has been Pol Espargaro's crew chief, Nicolas Goyon. The Frenchman has been a data and electronics engineer in MotoGP since 2003, the first year in which the class switched over fully to four strokes. With the departure of Daniele Romagnoli, who followed Cal Crutchlow to Ducati, Goyon was given the role of crew chief to MotoGP rookie Espargaro. Since then, Goyon has been working with the Moto2 champion and Yamaha to explore how the Moto2 style can be made to fit to the Yamaha M1. We spoke to Goyon after the Brno test, to ask him about how he had adapted the bike and the feedback Pol Espargaro was providing.

MotoMatters.com: We know what the Yamaha style is to be as smooth as possible and to carry as much corner speed as possible and not upset the bike. That means braking in a straight line, keeping your wheels in line as much as possible. A few times, Pol Espargaro has been riding in more of a Moto2-style. First of all, why did he decide to do it, and did he talk to you about it?

Nicolas Goyon: Yes, of course. This is one direction Yamaha wanted to try, and obviously, Pol is the first Moto2 world champion working with Yamaha, and so Yamaha is really interested in this new style. We realize that all the Moto2 riders, the new generation of riders, they have a specific style, one we all know, they have the elbow on the ground, their bike is shaking from the rear on braking. Pol is really the first guy with this style working with Yamaha.

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