Archive - Interview
May 14th, 2012
Cheating in motorsports is as old as the sport itself. Whenever powered vehicles gather together to race each other, then someone, somewhere, will try to gain an advantage, either within the rules or, if that is not successful, outside of the rules. In all classes, and at all times, teams, engineers and riders have all tried to cheat in one way or another. Even the imposition of a spec engine in the Moto2 class hasn't prevented teams trying to cheat, and the paddock is awash with rumors regarding which teams are cheating and which teams are not.
The finger of blame is inevitably pointed at the most successful riders, and in recent months, it has been pointed mainly at Catalunya CX rider Marc Marquez. Marquez has a number of strikes against him, making him a popular target for rumors of cheating; firstly, Marquez is Spanish, and as Moto2 is a Spanish-run series, the non-Spanish teams are all fervently convinced that Spanish teams are not monitored as closely as they are. Secondly, Marquez has the backing of Repsol, one of the more powerful sponsors in the paddock, exerting influence not just over Marquez' Monlau Competicion team, but also over the much more important factory Repsol Honda team; the power of Repsol, the gossips suggest, exerts undue influence on the policing process. Thirdly, and most obviously, Marquez is fast, almost suspiciously so. The Spaniard's bike is always one of the fastest through the speed traps, and accelerates hardest off the corners. His team put it down to hard work at finding exactly the right set up for Marquez to excel. One of the lighter Moto2 riders on a well-prepared bike, ridden by a fast and talented rider? That, Marquez' supporters argue, is reason enough for him to be fastest.
To find out more about the situation, and what Dorna and the scrutineers are doing to address these concerns, I spoke to Race Director - and formerly Technical Director - Mike Webb at Estoril. I passed on the concerns that others had expressed to me about cheating in Moto2, and he explained to me exactly what Dorna are doing to monitor the bikes and ensure that cheating is kept to an absolute minimum, and that if it is happening, it does not pay. Here is what Webb had to say:
One of the most fascinating areas of MotoGP is the relationship between rider and crew chief. The way that those two individuals communcate and interact can be the difference between winning championships and riding around in mid-pack. Riders need a massive amount of talent to go fast, but they also need to understand what the bike is doing underneath them and be able to communicate that to their chief engineer. Likewise, crew chiefs have to have a solid grounding in race bike physics and an understanding of how to make a machine that is capable of lapping very fast, but they also need to be able to listen to what their rider is really saying, and understand what he needs to allow him to go fast.
It is a subject that has fascinated me for a long time. At Estoril, I had the chance to interview Jorge Lorenzo together with his crew chief Ramon Forcada. 2010 World Champion Lorenzo came into MotoGP off the back of two 250cc world championships in 2006 and 2007, and was joined by Forcada, a 20-year veteran of the Grand Prix paddock, in the factory Yamaha team. Both men were known for their ability, but they had to find a way to work together to get the best out of the relationship, and out of the Yamaha M1. Here is what they had to say about how that relationship works:
One of the great pleasures in watching Casey Stoner ride a MotoGP machine is the controlled way in which he manages to slide the bike through the corners. In an era when the spectacular slides once so beloved by fans have been tamed by electronic intervention, Stoner has managed to convince his engineers to limit the electronics sufficiently to give him enough control to slide the bike to help get it turned.
His ability has fascinated both fans and journalists around the world, and many have tried to get him to explain how he does it, but Stoner himself has always found it very hard to say exactly what he is doing. At Qatar, a group of journalists - including MotoMatters.com - pressed the Repsol Honda rider again to explain exactly where and when he chooses to slide the rear, and what benefits it provides. Though he protested it was hard - "It's really difficult to explain, so many people have asked me," he said - he went on to talk at length about what he does and why.
Just after the official launch of MotoGP 2012 Aspar team in Madrid, Motomatters.com spoke to Spanish 125 and 80 cc former world champion Jorge Martinez Aspar, general manager of one of only two teams in the MotoGP World Championship with a presence in MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 classes in the 2012 season. Being also one of the few teams in 2012 entered under the MotoGP CRT technical rules, fielding riders riders Randy De Puniet and Aleix Esparago on Aprilia’s ART bikes, the Aspar team is also in the front line of trying to demonstrate that CRT is the right formula to ensure that MotoGP sees a return to full grids.
One subject has dominated the past three years of MotoGP, and indeed all of motorcycle racing. Despite some thrilling racing, technical innovation and both fascinating and tragic stories, the main topic of conversation among those involved in motorcycle racing has been how to cut costs. A raft of new regulations have been introduced, and even more radical changes are currently under discussion for the next few years.
At the official presentation of Yamaha's 2012 MotoGP campaign, Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis spoke to MotoMatters.com about the need for MotoGP to shift its focus, from just tinkering with the technical regulations to trying to expand its audience base and generate more income, taking advantage of new media and a more international audience to tap into new markets and more potential sponsors. "The technical regulations are very, very important, and bringing costs down is very important," Jarvis told us. "But the other thing is how to increase the popularity of the sport, and increase the revenue. Just saving costs is still shrinking."
With the cost of racing exploding out of control, factories pulling out and teams unable to afford the rising lease prices demanded for a satellite bike, proposals and rule changes have been coming thick and fast to try to contain costs in MotoGP. The Claiming Rule Teams regulations have already seen the grid expand to accommodate teams running machines using production-based engines, and Dorna, the manufacturers, the teams and the FIM are discussing a range of proposals to cut costs further, including a mandatory standard ECU and a maximum rev limit.
At the Valencia tests in November, MotoMatters.com spoke to HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto about how Honda views these proposals, and whether he believes they will cut costs. As the leading manufacturer in the MSMA, the association representing the factories in MotoGP, Honda has a powerful voice in the negotiations, and in the past has been instrumental in pushing through rule changes. Now that the MSMA appears to have lost its monopoly on writing the technical regulations for MotoGP, Nakamoto, along with the other factory bosses, is having to offer counterproposals to the suggestions put forward by Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta.
We first asked Nakamoto what he thought of the CRT concept itself, and the HRC boss was remarkably positive. "I think the CRT concept is a very good idea," Nakamoto said, adding the caveat that it was too early to make any real judgment, as at the time we spoke to Nakamoto, the CRT machines had only just taken to the track for the first time.
Honda Racing released the following press release, containing a fascinating interview with San Carlo Honda Gresini team manager Fausto Gresini. In the interview, Gresini talks about the decision to stop racing and become a team manager, explains why he chose Spanish rider Alvaro Bautista instead of another Italian rider to replace Marco Simoncelli, tragically killed at Sepang, and why he believes the CRT bikes are a necessity. Here is the interview:
Interview - Fausto Gresini - Team Manager - Gresini Honda
Fausto Gresini is the most successful team owner in the history of MotoGP racing. His story as a team owner begins three years after the two-time 125cc World Champion retired from racing in 1994. It was then that he made the transition, focusing the drive and ambition that he displayed as a rider on team ownership. At the start, the Italian worked with veterans-Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi-but it is his work mentoring young riders where he has had some of his greatest impact.
In 2001, his fifth year as a team owner, Gresini won his first World championship with Daijiro Kato in the 250cc class. But the rising and likeable Japanese star would not be given time to show his true potential; his career and life were cut short as a result of injuries suffered in a crash in the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Nine years later, Kato remains a strong presence within Gresini Racing; his 2001 title-winning Honda NSR250 and his 2003 Honda RC211V sit in the conference room of the team’s race shop in San Clemente, near Riccione, Italy.
The following interview was conducted with Mark Taylor of FTR Moto2 early in 2011. MotoMatters.com visited FTR's factory in Buckingham last year and spoke to Taylor about the development of the British Moto2 chassis builder's radically revised fairing, and the role of computational fluid dynamics in designing and verifying the aero packages of racing motorcycles. Taylor and FTR graciously discussed their work in some depth, and offered us a glimpse into exactly what goes into designing a racing motorcycle.
When the 2011 FTR Moto2 machine made its debut at the Valencia Moto2 tests at the start of last year, the one thing that caught the eye was the seemingly huge circular air intake on the front of the bike. The large hole, quickly dubbed "the gaping maw", was a radical departure from the current paddock fashion of letterbox-style air intakes, with long, thin, and often nipped in the middle the shape gracing most racing motorcycles at present.
So why did FTR decide to buck the trend and go with the great big hole on the front of the fairing? We spoke to FTR's engineering guru Mark Taylor at the Moto2 chassis manufacturer's Buckinghamshire base and put exactly that question to him.
Miller Motorsports Park issued the following press release, featuring five questions posed by leading racing journalists to 2011 World Superbike champion Carlos Checa:
Miller Motorsports Park Presents: Five Questions with Carlos Checa
A chat with the reigning Superbike World Champion
TOOELE VALLEY, UTAH (March 6, 2012) - Miller Motorsports Park will again host the USA Round of the FIM Superbike World Championship on Memorial Day Weekend, May 26-28. As was the case last year, we will visit with race winners and other notable riders participating in the championship after each race during the 2012 season leading up to the series’ return to Utah and bring you a new chapter in the “Five Questions with” series. We will solicit questions from leading motorcycle racing journalists and, starting with the next installment, from our fans via Facebook.
Honda Press Release: Interview With Casey Stoner, On The 1000s, Parenthood, Defending Titles And Laguna Seca
The Repsol Honda MotoGP team has a small army of press officers working for them. In addition to the PR person assigned to each rider, as is common for all of the factory MotoGP riders, Honda also has PR people from Spanish petroleum sponsor Repsol, as well as their Honda Pro Racing arm, aimed at providing press information for all of the Japanese giant's racing activities.
The good news for race fans is that the army of press officers also generate a small mountain of press releases, interviews and other information. Today, Honda provided the transcript of an interview produced with the 2011 World Champion Casey Stoner, conducted during the first Sepang test at the beginning of February. The interview provides a fascinating insight into the mind of the Australian, and his thoughts on racing and life. In the interview, Stoner discusses how the new 1000s are different from the 800s, whether the racing will change much, the challenges he faced defending his first title and interestingly, the differences between his legendary clash with Valentino Rossi at Laguna Seca in 2008, and the move that amazed even Kevin Schwantz, Stoner's pass on Jorge Lorenzo at the terrifying Turn 1 in 2011 at the same circuit.
Below is the interview, in the form of a press release, as issued by the Honda Pro Racing service:
With the 2012 World Superbike season just over two weeks away, preparations are ramping up for the return of racing. As part of those preparations, BMW issued a press release interview with their new Head of Race Operations, Andrea Dosoli. Dosoli came to BMW from Yamaha, along with Marco Melandri, who he had previously worked with at the Hayate team formed when Kawasaki officially pulled out of MotoGP in 2009. In the interview, Dosoli covers a lot of ground, including his impression of BMW's World Superbike effort, his role within the team, his expectations of the BMW S1000RR machine and his hopes for riders Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam.
Below is the text of the interview, issued by BMW:
Interview with Andrea Dosoli: “BMW Motorrad Motorsport has a lot of potential in many areas.”
In the second of the two interviews which the Repsol Media Service put out with the Repsol Honda MotoGP riders after the test at Sepang, Casey Stoner gets a chance to answer a few questions. Like Pedrosa, Stoner talks about the differences and similarities of riding the new 1000cc MotoGP bikes when compared to the old 800s, as well as the extra weight that has been added to the bikes. But the Australian also talks about the role that fuel consumption is likely to play with the new, larger capacity bikes running the same amount of fuel as the 800s, and he denies that becoming a father will have any effect on his speed.
Below is the press release interview with Stoner, as sent out by Repsol:
"It's crucial that Honda and Repsol work together to get the same performance out of less consumption"
Reigning MotoGP World Champion, Casey Stoner, prepares for his second season in Repsol and Honda colours onboard the 1000cc RC213V
The Repsol Media Service was once again busy at the test in Sepang. Along with providing daily press releases, the press officers for the Spanish oil giant also found time to interview Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, and issue the interviews in the form of press releases. In the first of the two interviews, Dani Pedrosa talks about his experience at the tests, the physical demands of riding a bigger and much heavier 1000cc bike, the differences between the 1000cc MotoGP machines of 2012 and the 990cc machines of 2006, and his view of up-and-coming Spanish riders like Marc Marquez and Alex Rins.
Below is the text of the press release interview with Dani Pedrosa:
"This season's bikes allow you to brake later and corner more quickly"
After claiming the third fastest time of the Sepang test, Repsol's Dani Pedrosa looks ahead to the start of the season on April 6th in Qatar
The opening preseason test of 2012 took place this week in Malaysia at the scorching Sepang circuit. Dani Pedrosa ended the three day test with the third fastest time overall. With the introduction of 1000cc bikes to the MotoGP World Championship this season, the Repsol rider was carrying out an extensive program in order to develop his Repsol Honda RC213V - the succesor to the 2011 title winning machine.
December 19th, 2011
Casey Stoner Interview: On Riding Fast, Emulating Doohan, Dealing With The Media, And Selective Memory
The switch from Ducati to Honda worked out extraordinarily well for Casey Stoner. The Australian was fast in testing, took victory in his very first race aboard the Honda RC212V at Qatar, and despite a temporary glitch at Jerez, where he was knocked off his bike by Valentino Rossi, the man who had taken his place at Ducati, was leading the championship by the time the MotoGP circus rolled into Assen for the Dutch TT, and would not relinquish it again, going on to secure his second world championship in dominant style, winning 10 races and taking pole 12 times along the way.
We had a chance to interview Stoner at Assen, after he had taken the championship lead from Jorge Lorenzo and just as he appeared to be getting into his stride. During a long and interesting conversation, Stoner covered a lot of ground, discussing subjects as diverse as Bridgestone tires, track memory, options for expanding the grid and the selective memory of race fans. But we started off by trying to winkle Stoner's secret from him, and find out just how the Australian manages to be so fast, right from his very first lap of the track. Here's what he had to say:
The ever-industrious Honda press office has issued yet another press release containing an interview with a rider. Fortunately for race fans, this time it isn't yet another interview with one of the members of the Repsol Honda team, but instead, it is San Carlo Gresini Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama. Aoyama has had a very tough season in 2011, struggling with a back injury sustained in a crash at Assen and with the aftermath and constant discussion surrounding the Japanese earthquake and the Motegi MotoGP round. In this interview, Aoyama talks about all of this, and more.
Below is the press release interview: