Sunshine, Cricket Bats, Racers and Sunglasses - AirAsia British MotoGP Launch
Present were championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha MotoGP), Nicky Hayden (Ducati MotoGP), Scott Reading (Moto2), Bradley Smith, Danny Webb and Zulfahmi Khairuddin(all 125cc class). You will have heard of the most of those names, in fact we interviewed them last year at the same event but Zulfahmi you may not know - he's a relative newcomer to the series with only 5 starts under his belt but since he rides for the AirAsia team, and they sponsor this round so he's entitled to go pretty much where he pleases!
So Londonbikers.com trotted along to Lords Cricket ground, to watch the lads play cricket and to ask questions, all the while looking out for spare press-passes for the weekend, you know, in case they'd made too many or something.
Cricket is totally new to Jorge and Nicky which made for an interesting half hour at the crease. Nicky clearly out qualified his rival - his experience with a baseball bat stood him in good stead as he was very quickly knocking the practice cricketball out to the boundries of the nursery pitch, and once over them, much to the surrounding presspack's concern.
Then it was into the futuristic press centre perched atop the stands like something from a 50's B movie, for a presentation and interview by the ever gracious and jovial host Nick Harris, followed by our turn with each of the riders. Well, Nicky and Jorge were interviewed alone, while the Brit pack of Brad, Dan and Scott were as ever done in a sort of tag team.
Unfortunately Lou, who had come along to meet idol Nicky and help me out, wasn't able to join me in the interviews as we were to share our time with 2 other website type journos (everyone was on a share basis except TV people of course) so I had to go it alone.
Below is the transcript of the 3 interviews, not all the questions are mine and so apologies to those who proposed questions which I didn't ask. Our group got 10 mins with the lads, and 5 mins with each of the main guys, so it wasn't possible to get more than one or two questions in.
The rider's answers are as near as possible exact quotes but I have had to interpolate some of it due to poor recording quality or in Jorge's case, some occasional mistakes of the language (he is Spanish remember). Please don't take extracts from this as exact verbatim.
The Brit Pack
Bradley Smith (BS) Bancaja Aspar Team 125cc , Danny Webb (DW) Andalucia Cajadol 125cc and Scott Reading (SR) Marc VDS Racing Moto2
Q : Looking at how close 125 racing is, do you think MotoGP needs livening up?
BS: Because of the class being so technology led everything is down to 0.01 or 0.02 of a second plus you get tracks which suit a certain bike better than others – that makes a big difference. So we might see a great race between Rossi and Lorenzo, but rarely do we see Rossi battling Pedrosa. We saw Rossi and Stoner battling at Leguna (Seca) but that was because Rossi was using tactics to keep Casey behind, Casey had half a second on Valentino so if he’d past Valentino then he’d have gone, that would have been it.
It would be nice to have some regulations, some limits, but that would mean Dorna sitting down and making decisions instead of letting the manufacturers run the show.
Q : What do you think of the Moto3 talk going around?
BS : Yeah absolute rubbish. To take away all of the 2 stroke classes and move it all into 4 stroke woulds be a complete waste of time. They need to make something clear as 2-stroke is dwindling down, few people are making spares now. They can’t have a 250cc four stroke as it’ll be so slow, the power can’t be taken away even from a 125 now – they’re fast but not incredibly so.
But something needs to be sorted out because we are now getting split races between the guys on quite old machinery and those on the newer kit at the front, and that gap is getting bigger every year.
(presumably the inference being that with so few parts around, those with the biggest wallets get not just the better bits, but perhaps the only bits going).
Q: So is it a case of something being planned but that they don’t talk to the riders about it?
BS: Ha, (turning to Danny and Scott who are fiddling with the sandwich tray) have you guys ever been asked?
DW : They do what they want to do to be honest.
BS : Unfortunately what seems to happen is that Dorna, well, the organisers – I don’t want to point the finger just at Dorna as it involves others too – make a decision and then put it straight out to the media whereas something like that should be discussed in house / paddock back and forth beforehand so there aren’t changes etc in the public spotlight and every one looks far more professional.
I think it should be a 350 or 400 twin that the manufacturers then have to go out and build around, and not homologate it to just a certain manufacturer
(as per moto2 engines and pretty much the 125’s)
Q : Otherwise it’ll just be like WSB – they are meant to be prototypes after all?
BS : Exactly.
DW : If they run a single cylinder 4 stroke it’ll be diabolical. You’ll be running an even flatter engine than the 125’s, a blast of acceleration and then nothing.
BS : You would need power to make it interesting. You can’t ride ridiculously slow bikes, it’s a World Championship. Plus we’re a feeder class. We can change headstock angles, pivot points etc but take that away and you’ll lose a huge amount of what makes the series such a great learning ground.
Q: So do you still hang around with these two (pointing at Danny and Scott who are busy fidgeting) ?
BS: Laughs – ha well yeah we still have a laugh, obviously once the weekend starts it’s pretty hectic but its still a lot of fun doing this sort of thing with them.
Q: But you always have to be the sensible one, the responsible adult for these two yes?
BS: haha yeah well I’m the oldest so I have to take some sort of charge.
Q: Scott, how do you feel Moto2 serves as a preparation, a stepping stone, for motogp, over the 250 class?
SR: Well since I’ve never ridden a 250 I can’t say absolutely but as preparation for racing, for learning how to race, it’s great. There’s 42 riders and they’re all mad, there’s bikes left, right in front and behind. Every time you start a race there’s a 50/50 chance of making it through the first corner so it’s good racing, good for people to watch.
Q: But do you feel the bike is enough of a motogp class machine?
SR : Again, can’t say how it stacks up against a motogp bike as I’ve not ridden one but they must be absolute animals. Being 4 stroke it’s good to get used to the engine braking for example (something missing on 2-strokes) so I’d say it’s probably a step closer to MotoGP’s than 250’s because the engine is closer in design.
Q: I’m asking because of all the debate, mostly before the series started it’s true, that there seems little practical difference between these and a WSS bike.
BS: Well yeah perhaps they need to expand the parameters of what you’re allowed to change. At the moment you guys (nods to SR) can’t even change the gearbox whereas in MotoGP you never hear the word ‘compromise’. Everything is fine line, nothing is too much, but for these guys there is so little personalising of the bike available that if the bike doesn’t suit your style and you are a second down on pace suddenly you are 25th or lower...
SR: actually more like 30th....
BS: and that’s important because if the bike as it is doesn’t work for you then sorry but next season you’re out of a job. Everyone is looking at your results and it’s “sorry, but you are finishing way down the field and we want better” but in truth you are a second down, which might be 3rd in a 125 or 250 race.
DW: Look at someone like Niccolo Canepa (no59) he’s no mug but he’s obviously struggling with the bike as he’s qualifying 2nd from last.
SR: But it is fair racing, you always have riders complaining about the guy in front having a better bike but here the only difference is the chassis which means some hold a better line, some have better traction but you can debate that all day – we don’t want it to be the R6 cup do we?
But the engines are the same, I mean you can slip stream someone down the straight, pull out but you get level and that’s it. Even changing the gearing makes little difference with it being a 4-stroke (and thus a wider powerband which I’m guessing means a tooth here or there doesn’t radically alter the power delivery).
BS: So it needs the organisation to let more modifications be made but within limits so it’s not just about who’s got the fattest wallet.
Q: They should put you in charge Bradley, make you the head geezer.
All 3 : much laughter.
Nicky Hayden, Ducati MotoGP
Q: To what do you attribute the change in form this year, 4th in every race bar Mugello?
NH: Hmm everyone wants to know the “one thing”, the magic ingredient to make a headline with. But it’s a combination of lots of things. For sure I like the bike a lot more, I’m more comfortable with it and the team understand me a lot more. It’s only been 4 races so lets not make too much of it.
Q: Have you lost confidence in the front end after the crash last time out? Is it gonna be on your mind?
NH: Well we’ve a couple of solutions as we did some testing afterwards and found some things to help us. It’s true the front of our bike needs some work, so we’re gonna watch it but it’s not something that’s got me too torn up yet.
Q: What about the TT then? Rossi enjoyed his time over there, Lorenzo appeared to love it,
NH: You know I need to get over there and check it out!
Q: So you’d fancy a run around it?
NH: Don’t go getting the stopwatch out ‘cause you know I’m not a street racer but yeah its just one of those things a guy’s gotta do.
Q: So the atmosphere in the team is good, how’s things with Casey now you’re outshining him alot this season?
NH: We’re still sharing info and data, it hasn’t really caused any problems. I mean it’s not like we’re hanging out together all day, we’re there to do a job, he’s taken it pretty well. Last year I had to congratulate him a lot while he beat up on me most the time so it’s one of those things you deal with.
Q: How are mentally now, you’ve had a couple of pretty tough seasons but you’ve come through them. Did you have help getting through those times or did you just tough it out on your own?
NH: To get to this level you’ve got to be pretty strong, learning not to back down but to always believe in yourself. I never doubted that with the right combination I could still run up front.
Q: How did you enjoy WDW?
NH : You know, I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, what with it being so crowded and so on. But they were pretty easy on me, I got to do the drag strip on the bike and went out cycling with Bayliss and some of the guys.
Q: So you met Troy, what did you make of him?
NH: Troy is a hero.
Q: Are you an honorary Italian yet?
NH: Ha I think so but I haven’t got the badge yet.
Q: Can you speak much?
NH: I’m starting to learn a bit because I’m there so often now, it’s a nice place but learning a new language isn’t easy.
Q: Must be a world away from Honda, the feel of the place, the freedoms etc. Take your Twitter post where you joked about no-one sitting around at Ducati with their feet on the desks (i.e. everyone was real busy) – I can’t imagine you being allowed to say that, or even feeling that you could without repercussions.
NH: Well I meant that in a good way, and I don’t want to be that guy who bad mouths the crazy ex-girlfriend, we had some good years there but there are certainly some things I like a lot at Ducati, they build a great bike and they’ve a real passion for building bikes. There was 60,000 people at Misano last weekend just to see us, show off their bikes and ride around.
Its all about the passion you know?
Jorge Lorenzo, Fiat Yamaha MotoGP
Q: You are always messaging on Twitter, does it give you strength to see all the messages from your fans before a race?
JL: of course, you know when you feel love from the people, you are happy, feel strong, and Twitter allows me to be close to my fans so we can exchange that love. Its a nice present to give.
Q: does it feel strange sometimes though, people sending you messages as if they know you?
JL: Scary? No. Fortunately I don’t receive so many negative messages. The only problem is that after the race there are so many messages that I can’t read all of them, just too many!
Q: Are you surprised that Yamaha didn’t replace Rossi for this race? Is there anyone you’d like to see take his ride?
JL: I think they are doing the right thing. They are showing respect for him, he’s still in pain now but the regulations say you must put another rider in after two races. The new rider will be my partner so in some weeks we will know.
Q: Do you feel that the MotoGP needs to be more exciting? The other classes have 40 people on the grid so there’s more passing, more action more crashes. Should there be more people on the grid here?
JL: For me MotoGP is the most exciting sport in the World.
Q: Good answer....
Q: You went to the TT, you enjoyed it?
JL: Yes, a lot , very exciting.
Q: Does Spain have any road racing? Is it new to you as a sport?
JL: After (a Spanish rider’s) death 40 years ago, the Spanish federation doesn’t let riders race in the TT. Spanish riders have to get a licence through another country before they can race there. The Federation thought it very dangerous so they don’t give the licence. For me it’s the same but this race is very historical, and also very beautiful. I was able to make it one (lap) on an R1 and I was having a lot of fun.
Q: You met Carl Fogarty there too?
JL: King Carl Fogarty was one of my heroes when I was young
Q: Apparently you looked very awestruck when you met him
JL: I had two heroes when I was growing up, Carl Fogarty and Max Biaggi, and it was an honour to meet him.
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