Every so often, the major factories will send out press releases containing interviews with riders. All too often, however, those interviews turn out to be rather sanitized affairs, any critical note removed by company PR people. So the following interview with Andrea Dovizioso comes as a breath of fresh air. Despite being a press release from Honda, Dovizioso talks freely about the state of the Honda RC212V, the state of Italian riders, Moto2 and MotoGP. He offers some clear and cogent criticism of the Moto2 class, and calls, as so many riders have done, for a drastic reduction in electronics in MotoGP. A very interesting read.
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO FEATURE
Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso is having the best year of his MotoGP career.
Now in his fourth year in the MotoGP class, and third with the Repsol Honda team, Dovi heads to his home race at Mugello third in the championship and not far from second. Consistency has been his strength this season. The Italian from Forli, one of three 25-year-old former world champions on the Repsol Honda team, has been on the podium in three of the past four races, including in the cold and wet at Silverstone and on the cold track in the Dutch TT in Assen. Other than an off day in the wet/dry Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez, Dovizioso hasn't been worse than fourth this year.
Like his team-mates, Dovizioso has benefited from upgrades to the Honda RC212V, which has dominated the podium this season. The most newsworthy enhancement is the seamless gearbox, which shifts so smoothly and so quickly that it doesn't unsettle the rear tyre. We thought that was a good place to start our talk with Andrea.
How exactly does the gearbox improve the lap time?
AD: Two things. One is the acceleration. You have faster shifting so it makes a really, really small difference in speed, but more in acceleration. But most important for the feeling of the rider is that when you're shifting on the dry, when you need to shift leaned over, the shifting is softer, faster and smoother. This makes a small difference, because there is electronic shifting and the ignition cuts out for a very small time. This time that the engine cuts out is smaller with the new transmission. The main problem in the past was when you were spinning and you needed to shift. This transmission makes it better. It's good. In some tracks, in some corners, it makes a big difference. For example in Valencia in the last corner you need to shift twice and there you can decide the line and slide a bit easier.
The transmission is just one of many improvements of the Honda RC212V.
AD: Much of the media spoke about the transmission too much, I think. I can say two things about that: When I tried that transmission it is something special for the rider, because you never try something big, a big mechanical difference. Because you never try something big, when you feel this you can say, 'Wow, it's so good.' And this is a really good point and Honda did a really good job with it, but it didn't make a big difference in lap time. I mean, very small. I don't believe it makes three, four-tenths a lap. It's not like this. But on the bike everything is important. So if you can improve three or four-tenths with all the improvements, it's really important.
You and Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa all have very different riding styles.
AD: Yeah, all three riders. I thought, no, but it is like this. Big, big differences everywhere. Braking, lean angle on corner entry, throttle opening, traction control. Everything.
So when you're developing the motorcycle, who has the most influence?
AD: We'll see next year. About this year it wasn't a problem, because there wasn't much development on the bike, there were improvements, but not development. The bike already was good. We changed a few things and made a small difference and this year we have a really good bike. But already the development is done. I think if you have a good bike with a good balance for all three riders, it's good. After that the teams will arrive at what they need to to follow the style of the riders. The important development is having a good base motorcycle. After that the important thing is the rider with the team and the engineers.
When Casey joined the team did that change the path of development?
AD: No, nothing. The bike was already done; just he needed to adapt the bike to his style of riding.
You believe he's the fastest rider in MotoGP?
AD: I think about the speed, yes, but it is not just the speed to win the championship. Because if you speak about the speed he would have ten championships, but it isn't like this.
You and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) are the last of the Italian riders to come to the MotoGP class and there isn't a strong core of Italians in the 125cc class.
AD: It's difficult to answer about this question, because one reason maybe is the small championships in Italy are not so good. I think Spain works very good and we can see a lot of Spanish riders coming stronger and this makes a difference. I think there is a lot of talent in the world, but you need to give the possibility for the riders to show their talent. And maybe in Italy, like many places, it's not the best. And sometimes you need to be lucky to find talented riders.
Who do you think is the next Italian to come to MotoGP?
AD: I think (Andrea) Iannone can be the next, but at this moment, about the speed, he's so good, really, really good. About the position on the bike, he's good, but still he's not ready to come into MotoGP. I think already everybody saw him ride so fast, maybe the fastest, maybe, in Moto2, but this is not enough, and you can see many riders coming into MotoGP and it ends their career. So it's better if he wins the Moto2 championship or he is more consistent. After that he can arrive with more experience and stronger in MotoGP. This is so important when you arrive in MotoGP.
You rode a 250 and you've watched Moto2. Which class do you think better prepares you for MotoGP?
AD: There is no comparison; Moto2 is so bad about that for many reasons. The 250 two-stroke, there's nothing similar to MotoGP, but if you are fast on a 250, you are fast, because it's so difficult to be fast on a 250. So when you arrive with good speed on a 250, it means you did a good job, you can understand many things and you are really precise on the throttle. Sure, you don't have the experience of riding four-strokes, but if you see in the past all the talent came from 250 and from the first year they can fight for the podium and fight for the victory. Many people come from Superbike and it's very similar to MotoGP, but nothing happens. It means if you are fast in 250 there is a reason. In Moto2, no. I never tried the bike, so I can't say exactly, but it looks like there isn't enough power. So it's easy because it's a four-stroke and you have too much engine braking. This makes it slide on the entry and this is the opposite way of riding 250 and MotoGP, completely the opposite way. So you learn a style different from MotoGP and this style makes the talent of the riders close, because this is the limit of the bikes. You can do nothing about that.
Do you think for the next generation of riders it's going to be more difficult to adapt to MotoGP?
AD: Sure, but after the talent that is in MotoGP now, everyone will come from Moto2, so it's not a problem.
Are you looking forward to racing the 1000 next year?
AD: Yes, I'm very excited to try, because I think it'll be a nicer bike, not a big difference, because surely you will have more power on the bottom. This is what Honda doesn't have. Just this, Honda doesn't have. I think it will be one of the best bikes in the world.
If you were put in charge of MotoGP, what would you change?
AD: What I would like to change is the electronics system. It's something very important for the safety, something very important for the street bike, so this is really good. But to have fun riding the bike on the track and to have a battle on the race track, you need to cut the electronic system. Not everything, but more than 50%, because the bike without the electronics system is uncontrollable and when you need to control a difficult bike you're sliding a lot, you're making more mistakes than now, so everybody is closer; it depends, but they can be closer and you're spinning more. Everything is nicer, so this I would like to see happen, but I'm 99% sure it will not happen, but for a good reason. And what I don't like about the MotoGP world, but not just MotoGP, I think it's the world, is the TV and the media put more attention on funny riders, not on the faster rider. This I don't like. I don't like it because I'm one of them. I'm normal, and this the media doesn't like. This is funny, because I can't change my character because the media wants this. This is really bad, but it's bad for the result for how many risks you take on the track. You're fighting, fighting, fighting, you are one of the best riders in the world, but if you are not funny, not many people are speaking about you. This I don't like, but this is not just MotoGP. This is the world and this is very bad for the sport.