The life of a motorcycle racer is not always a glamorous one. On Saturday, Suzuki ECSTAR rider Alex Rins got up at 3:15am, drove the two-and-a-half hours from his home to Barcelona airport to catch a 7am flight, then slept for a couple of hours on the plane to Amsterdam. From there, he was driven to Utrecht, to make an appearance at the Motorbeurs Utrecht, the traditional opening of the motorcycle season in The Netherlands.
In Utrecht, Rins was interviewed on the Suzuki stand, signed autographs, and posed for photos with fans. After a quick lunch, he did the fan meet-and-greet experience again, before heading back to Schiphol airport and a 5pm flight back to Barcelona, to arrive back home an hour or so before midnight. In Utrecht, in between meeting the fans and appearing on the Suzuki stand, he found time for a couple of interviews.
Though he does not relish days like this, he remained cheerful throughout, meeting the day's events with a quiet and relaxed calm, and without complaint. "It's work," he shrugged when asked about such a long day, a day on which he could have been training to prepare for the upcoming season. There was never a hint of irritation or frustration, he smiled, waved, and greeted fans and familiar faces with a friendly and professional demeanor.
A winning record
It is perhaps that calmness that explains his success in motorcycle racing. An open and positive approach, coupled with a keen intelligence, are the hallmark of all great racers. Rins has yet to win a Grand Prix championship – he was runner up in Moto3 in 2013, and in Moto2 in 2016 – but he has achieved that other mark of being exceptional: podiums and victories in (almost) every year he has been in Grand Prix.
The exceptions? His first season in 2012, when Rins managed only a single podium and no wins. And last season, 2017, his rookie year in MotoGP. Plagued by injury from the start, after crashing on his first outing on the Suzuki at the Valencia test and suffering compressed vertebrae, then breaking a wrist in Austin, Rins missed five races in his debut season.
Those setbacks meant his first year in MotoGP got off to a slow start. But by the end of it, Rins proved that Suzuki's faith in him had been well placed: at Phillip Island, he ran with the leading group until the final few laps. A strong Saturday at Sepang boosted his confidence, then at the final race in Valencia, he fought his way through the field to finish fourth.
Starting on the right foot
Alex Rins has carried that momentum through to preseason testing in 2018. The Suzuki rider finished sixth overall at Sepang, then fifth at Buriram in Thailand. With Suzuki having brought a greatly improved GSX-RR engine, Rins has found it much easier to be competitive. "What I feel with the new engine is that it is more powerful at the bottom. There is more acceleration," he said at the Sepang test. The new aerodynamics package has helped too. "I felt much difference with the fairing," Rins said.
One of the onerous tasks facing Alex Rins in Utrecht was to talk to MotoMatters.com. In a conversation which meandered over a whole range of subjects, the 22-year-old Spaniard gave an insight into how he came to be a motorcycle racer, and what he learned in 2017. He talks about why he ended up racing, a destiny set for him at an early age, he tries to explain exactly what it is about racing a motorcycle that he loves, and the lessons he learned in his rookie season in MotoGP. He discusses the difference between Moto2 and MotoGP, and talks about adapting his riding style to the premier class. Here is our conversation:
Q: Why are you a motorcycle racer?
Alex Rins: Woah. Good question. I never answered this. I never asked myself this question.
Q: Is there something else you could have done? Football? Cycling?
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