February, 15 2013
Firstly, a great 2012 season for you with fourth in the championship, how was it for you?
We came to 2012 after winning the WSBK Championship, where I had been completely concentrated and accurate throughout, and really only made one mistake in 26 races. In 2012, even though I finished fourth and won some good races, I think we struggled overall. We had six more kilos on the bike and we had some difficulties with the tyres. On some tracks we lost a lot of ground on things like acceleration and speed. In those kinds of situations it is difficult to fight against the likes of Kawasaki, Aprilia and BMW.
At the same time, I must also recognize that I made some mistakes last season. I was not accurate nor focused enough and I was not as precise as in 2011. Naturally, I share the responsibility. It was not a bad season but, of course, compared to 2011 we lost some ground. But I always try to take out the positives: I know what I should improve on and I know in which areas I should focus for next season. Last season taught me that I need to keep pushing my body, my mind and my technique.
There was not much to separate you from Max Biaggi last season, and you had more WSBK fastest laps than anyone else, where did you lose ground?
We started well in Australia, it’s a place where Ducati is always very strong, and I won both races at Imola. But after that we had a tyre change and began to struggle. I was fast in some races, but I was losing ground on the main straights and wasn’t able to make enough of a difference. Sometimes I was catching the rider in front and able to do a good lap time, but when I caught them there was no way to overtake. With every acceleration I was losing distance. When I tried to compensate for this lack I made some mistakes because I was pushing too much to get clear. I remember in Aragon I was losing a half second on the long straights. If you do this every lap it is impossible to recover.
We knew it was going to be more difficult, technically and politically. It was not easy for the championship and the other factory teams, who are officially tied to World Superbikes, to accept Ducati winning [the championship in 2011], a bike with a private team. So we had the weight upgrade and it was as hard as we expected.
You recently entered the WSBK history books as being the most successful competing rider with 24 wins and 49 podiums, how does that feel?
I started out in 1993 in Barcelona, so by now I must have one of the longest careers in racing. Twenty years in the top championships, from 125cc, 250cc, 500cc, MotoGP, World Superbike and with teams such as Yamaha, Honda and Ducati and on Michelin, Bridgestone and Pirelli tyres. It is a long time, for sure, and long enough to have acquired a balanced view of racing. The key to this racing life is to keep it simple. Motorcycling is all about motivation and the best motivation is doing something you like and something you feel inside. You have to want to ride the bike. When I jump on the bike, I still, after 20 years, say to myself: “I want to be here. I want to be on this bike at 200 kms per hour.” When you stop saying this, when your mind is no longer there, it is better to quit.
For sure the best memory has to be 2011. This is not to take anything away from the other years. No. Every single year I understand and I learn that every year helps to achieve one like 2011. You can never exclude the other years. The difficult moments are vital if you are going to improve. You are what you learn in motorcycle racing, and the only way to truly know something is to do it. In 2011 it was a perfect year, but it was thanks to all the years leading up to it. For sure, now I’m a better person and a better rider.
There has been a lot of change for you recently, how has it affected your day-to-day routine?
Yes, there has been a lot of changes this year, especially with the bike. There has been a team change and the owners of the championship have also changed. I’m getting used to it! What is important for me is to develop the bike and to have the right people and the right effort to improve and move forward.
What are your impressions of working with the Panigale?
I’m really appreciating this moment. I’m savoring the experience fully. This year will be very exciting because we have a completely different bike; in fact, a completely different concept of bike. I’m excited to be the part of this challenge to take the Panigale to the next level. I love the Panigale, and now our mission is to try and develop the bike. It won’t be easy and there will be many challenges, but I’m confident we can succeed. We must be focused, but I’m positive we can adapt and improve the bike and integrate it with the team.
A Ducati is always more than a bike. Now Ducati has made a radical change and this is a completely new era. This new era’s name is Panigale. The bike is completely different to what has gone before. We cannot compare the Panigale with one that has been developed for years, won many races and made history.
It is not a secret. The only way to go faster and to be better is to work more. Nothing is free in this life: you must be honest with yourself and understand that you will never find perfection. There is always something to learn, something to improve. To be honest with yourself means finding your limitations and then trying to work on them. And, of course, you need to understand to bike. You can afford some risks but you have to be in control otherwise you are very stupid. We like to take risks but you must be able to in control. Racing is risky but life is also risky. I will not accept to ride a bike fast on the street because there are too many things beyond my control.