Archive - Interview
September 19th, 2014
Corrado Cecchinelli Interview: The Goal Of MotoGP's Spec Software? More Usable, More Relevant To The Road
From 2016, the entire MotoGP class will switch to a single, spec software for the electronics on the bikes. Development of the software is to become a collaborative process, with the factories competing in MotoGP supplying code and requirements through a single website. This much we know. But what we don't know is much more interesting. Which technologies will be supported? Which functions will be available? How sophisticated will the software be? Who will lead the software process, the factories or Dorna?
To get answers to all of these questions and more I spoke to MotoGP's Director of Technology, Corrado Cecchinelli at Silverstone. He is the man in charge of the process of making the switch to the spec, or unified software, as it is now being called. Cecchinelli will manage the development process, and define the goal of the unified software, trying to create a level playing field for all of the competitors.
It was a long and interesting interview. We covered many subjects, from the logistics of the development process, to the technologies which will be allowed, to what Cecchinelli sees as the objective of the software, and the goals it should achieve. Cecchinelli described in some detail how the development process for the unified software is to work, and how the process will be managed. It will be a collaborative process, but it will not, as some fans had hoped, be a fully open process, with fully public access to the code.
Cecchinelli then set out his vision for the unified software, both in terms of implementation at the track and its application in production bikes. The goal is that any MotoGP-level electronics engineer should be able to extract the maximum performance from the software, rather than requiring mastery of an arcane and excessively complex piece of software. It should be fully usable by the engineers in the independent or non-factory teams, allowing them to use the software to its full potential. This is one of the complaints made by the Open teams at the Sepang test at the start of the year, when they were handed an extremely powerful, but extremely complex software update. The update was soon dropped, in favor of an evolution of the existing software.
Mike Leitner Interview: Pedrosa's Crew Chief Talks Race Strategy, The Dangers Of Starts, And Tires Past And Future
Dani Pedrosa has been with his crew chief Mike Leitner for over ten years now, since Pedrosa's first season in the 250cc class in 2004. Pedrosa and Leitner have been a strong partnership, with the Austrian helping Pedrosa win two world championships and 41 victories in the two classes they have been together.
The arrival of Marc Marquez into MotoGP has had a profound impact both inside and outside the Repsol Honda team. Marquez' natural speed has forced Pedrosa and his crew to rethink their approach to the races, to try to match the pace of Pedrosa's young teammate. At the beginning of the season, Pedrosa complained a number of times that he felt the revised strategy taken by Leitner was not working as hoped, and that had left him unable to compete.
Though Pedrosa's competitiveness has improved, the Spaniard being the first person to beat his teammate with victory at Brno, it has still left tension in Pedrosa's garage. Rumors are circulating that Pedrosa would like to drop Leitner and change his crew chief.
Intrigued by the question of what exactly had changed in Pedrosa's race strategy, we spoke to his crew chief Mike Leitner. The resulting conversation gave a fascinating insight into race strategy, and how teams approach each MotoGP race. Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP.
Alex Rins is one of the rising stars of Moto3. Rins is part of the generation which, along with Alex Marquez and Jack Miller, the factory bosses in MotoGP are looking to shake up the premier class in the future. After a strong season last year aboard the KTM in 2013, when he won six races, Rins has had a tougher season in 2014, now riding a Honda. On the podium just four times until Silverstone, a win had so far eluded him when we spoke to him on Thursday at Silverstone. That all changed on Sunday, when he finally won his first race of the season.
We covered quite a lot of ground with Rins, despite his protestations that he did not speak very good English. Rins spoke simply, but clearly of his year so far with the Honda, comparing it with the KTM he rode for the Estrella Galicia team last year. He talked of the difficulty of winning in Moto3, because of how close the field is at the front, and how that caused him to cheer a lap too early at Brno. And we touched briefly on his future, and the interest Yamaha showed in him to go straight to MotoGP.
MotoMatters: In 2013, you had a very strong season, you were winning races. This year has been a lot more difficult. You switched from KTM to Honda, the Honda has had to have some development. Tell me about this year?
Alex Rins: This year compared to 2013 it's very different. Last year I had only three rivals, this year I have more rivals, nine, ten. Sometimes nineteen, like in the last race! It's difficult, also to develop the bike, it's difficult. It's not easy.
Leon Camier has made an impressive debut in MotoGP, replacing Nicky Hayden while the American recovers from wrist surgery. Camier has been competitive on the Honda RCV1000R since he first flung a leg over the bike, despite having no previous experience of either the bike, nor the Bridgestone tires, nor even the Indianapolis circuit, where he first rode the bike. To celebrate Camier's success, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued the following press release, containing an interview with the Englishman:
“The first thing I thought when I saw the Honda was that I wouldn't fit!”
Leon Camier is a true Brit, resident in Andorra, who looks like he could have been anything other than a motorcycle racer. A towering 190 centimetres tall, with a youthful smile and good English manners, Camier prefers to do his talking on the track. He recently made his MotoGP debut at the ripe age of 28, stepping in for the injured Nicky Hayden at the DRIVE M7 Aspar Team, and he has impressed everybody with his adaptation to Grand Prix machinery. A former 125cc youngster but a Superbike rider for the majority of his career, Camier has slotted in smoothly with the Spanish team and not only managed to finish the race at Brno but he did so in the points. Now he returns home to Silverstone with another chance to impress.
First obvious question... what's the difference between a MotoGP and a Superbike?
The electronics in MotoGP are much more advanced, the anti-wheelie control is incredible. MotoGP is also less physical than Superbikes, not just because the bike is lighter but also the way you ride it is completely different, you can rely a lot on the electronics. The tyres are also totally different, you have to find the limit in MotoGP and work out how to get the best out of the rubber. The suspension helps with this but there is just so many things, so much information... but basically the main difference lies in the electronics, tyres and suspension.
Interview: Nicolas Goyon, Pol Espargaro's Crew Chief, On Developing The Yamaha M1 To Exploit The Strengths Of Moto2 Riders
Many MotoGP followers, both inside and outside the paddock, were sceptical when news leaked that Yamaha had signed Pol Espargaro to a factory contract early in 2013. A year later, and halfway through his first MotoGP season, that scepticism has been replaced with admiration. The younger of the two Espargaro brothers is the best satellite rider in the championship standings, and has been competitive from the start of the season.
Yamaha clearly had a plan with Pol Espargaro. The riding style which young racers develop in Moto2 is very different from the style which came from the 250cc class. Where Moto2 racers use a sliding rear tire to help turn the bike into the corners, the 250 two-strokes rewarded riders who could brake early and carry as much corner speed as possible. The Yamaha YZR-M1 has been primarily developed around the 250cc style, but as riders schooled in the Moto2 class enter MotoGP, Yamaha realized they will have to adapt their bike to this new generation of young riders. By signing the reigning Moto2 champion, Yamaha have started to seriously examine how the new intermediate class is affecting MotoGP bike development.
Leading this development has been Pol Espargaro's crew chief, Nicolas Goyon. The Frenchman has been a data and electronics engineer in MotoGP since 2003, the first year in which the class switched over fully to four strokes. With the departure of Daniele Romagnoli, who followed Cal Crutchlow to Ducati, Goyon was given the role of crew chief to MotoGP rookie Espargaro. Since then, Goyon has been working with the Moto2 champion and Yamaha to explore how the Moto2 style can be made to fit to the Yamaha M1. We spoke to Goyon after the Brno test, to ask him about how he had adapted the bike and the feedback Pol Espargaro was providing.
MotoMatters.com: We know what the Yamaha style is to be as smooth as possible and to carry as much corner speed as possible and not upset the bike. That means braking in a straight line, keeping your wheels in line as much as possible. A few times, Pol Espargaro has been riding in more of a Moto2-style. First of all, why did he decide to do it, and did he talk to you about it?
Nicolas Goyon: Yes, of course. This is one direction Yamaha wanted to try, and obviously, Pol is the first Moto2 world champion working with Yamaha, and so Yamaha is really interested in this new style. We realize that all the Moto2 riders, the new generation of riders, they have a specific style, one we all know, they have the elbow on the ground, their bike is shaking from the rear on braking. Pol is really the first guy with this style working with Yamaha.
Interview: Alvaro Bautista On The Pros And Cons Of Nissin And Showa, Electronics, And The Importance Of Training
Since leaving Suzuki when the Japanese factory withdrew from MotoGP at the end of 2011, Alvaro Bautista has been with the Gresini Honda team. There, he has ridden the team's factory RC213V, racking up three podiums and one pole for the team. Things have not been as easy for him as for the other Honda riders, however, as Gresini has a deal with Showa to supply suspension and Nissin to supply brakes. As the only team in the paddock on that combination, competing against the massed ranks of Brembo/Öhlins-shod MotoGP machines has been hard. Where the Brembo/Öhlins bikes have masses of data from other riders they can compare their set ups against, Bautista and Gresini have only their bike, and the data from the bike on the other side of the garage. In the previous two seasons, that was an FTR-built machine powered by a CBR1000RR engine, making data comparison very difficult. This year things are a little easier, with the RCV1000R being closely related to the RC213V, but challenges remain.
At Barcelona, MotoMatters.com friend and contributor Mick Fialkowski caught up with Bautista to ask him about his season so far. In a long conversation, Bautista talks about the difficult start to the season, the challenges presented in developing the Nissin and Showa suspension, about the changes made for the 2014 season, and about the fitness required to compete at the top level of MotoGP. It made for a fascinating discussion:
Mick Fialkowski: Alvaro, it's been an up-and-down season so far. First three races without points, then a podium at Le Mans. What happened?
Alvaro Bautista: I think in the first three races we just had bad luck. We were competitive in Qatar. Also at Austin I was in the podium group, as well as in Argentina. We had a setting that wasn't too bad for the race but I didn't finish, so it was just bad luck. Then I scored a podium at Le Mans and in Mugello I struggled a lot with the setup of the bike. Using this suspension and these brakes the thing is that when we have problems, it's difficult to fix them because we don't have any reference, only myself, and that makes it more difficult for us.
Mika Kallio is quietly intense, focused, and often overlooked in Moto2. The Finn is in his fourth season with the Marc VDS Racing team, where he once again forms a serious challenge in the Moto2 championship with his teammate. Last year, it was with Scott Redding, this year, teammate Tito Rabat is the main obstacle between Kallio and the Moto2 title.
MotoMatters.com friend and contributor Mick Fialkowski caught up with Mika Kallio at Barcelona, and spoke to him about a range of subjects. Kallio talked about his approach to trying to win a Moto2 title and how the Kalex Moto2 machine has changed over the years. Kallio also talked about the problems the combined rider weight rules cause for lighter riders, and how he sees the comparison with Dani Pedrosa.
Mick Fialkowski: It's been a pretty solid start to the season. You must be pretty pleased?
Mika Kallio: Yes, of course it's not bad. I'm second in the Championship which is a quite good position. I'm happy with how the season had gone so far. Just maybe the last weekend at Mugello wasn't the best, not perfect as I was struggling a little bit to find the feeling with the track. but the other races were good. I won the two previous ones at Jerez and Le Mans, so everything is good. We're ready to fight for the championship.
MF: So how much are your focusing on the title and now much is it race by race?
MK: Before the season my goal was to win the title, absolutely. Now we're second in the championship so we're going in the right direction, but we need to go into it race by race and don't think too much about the standings. There's a lot of races left, so you need to go step by step and try to repeat the same good feeling with the bike. If you start to think too much about the championship, it's not good for your head. It's better to keep the pressure as little as possible and focus on the right things.
MF: You're one of the most consistent riders in Moto2. What's the key to that?
MK: For some reason each year in Moto2 we can see the same story; one rider can be really fast and win a race and then in the next race he's nowhere. It has something to do with these bikes. They're so sensitive to find the right settings, that if you miss the feeling a little bit, like I did at Mugello, immediately do drop a bit. It's complicated to keep the same level every week, also because of the rules, because all the bikes are so close. That's the main reason. If you don't have the confidence you drop a lot. However me and Tito are the most consistent ones and I think that in the long term, to win the championship, that's the main key. You need to win the race and be on the podium of course but it's also very important that when a bad day is coming – and it will come anyway in such a long season – then you need to still be somewhere and score points. Consistency is the key.
The situation at Ducati was the talk of the paddock in Barcelona. With Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow being linked to Suzuki, Crutchlow having a contract for 2015, Ducati keen to retain the services of both Dovizioso and Iannone, and Iannone openly pushing for a seat in the factory Ducati team, the Bologna factory faces a series of complex contract negotiations. To check on the state of play with Ducati, we cornered Ducati Corse's MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti.
What was meant to be just a brief chat turned into a much longer conversation, on a range of subjects. Ciabatti gave his view of the situation with Cal Crutchlow, as well as his hopes of retaining both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. He discussed the rumors concerning an approach to Jorge Lorenzo, and reflected on having had Valentino Rossi in the Ducati team. He gave us an update on Ducati's plans to provide more Open bikes for 2015. And finally, he turned his attention to the return of Michelin, and Ducati's hopes for the new tire manufacturer.
MotoMatters.com: It appears that Ducati's problem this year is that Cal Crutchlow has a two-year contract, while you also have Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone who are both riding very well. And only two seats in the factory team...
Paolo Ciabatti: As most people in the paddock know, we have a two-year contract with Cal, but he has a way out of the contract. Having said so, we invested in Cal because we wanted very strongly to have him with Ducati, and the fact that so far things have not worked in the way we all hoped is due, honestly I don't believe in luck or bad luck, but in his case, we must admit some of the things have been particularly going wrong on the technical side with no explanation. Because he has exactly the same treatment as Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, and his team has actually been working together since a long time. Dovi's team was put together last year, after Valentino [Rossi] left, but Cal's team is Nicky's [Hayden] former team, and has been together for a long time. Daniele Romagnoli joined instead of Juan Martinez, but it is a very good team. So it's difficult for us to really understand why these things have happened.
With Ben Spies already retired, Colin Edwards about to retire at the end of the 2014 season, Nicky Hayden struggling with a wrist injury and Josh Herrin having a very tough rookie year in Moto2, there is growing concern among US fans about the future of American racing. What is to become of the nation that once dominated world championship racing, with existing stars in decline and no fresh blood ready to replace them?
Perhaps the brightest point in the firmament for American racing is PJ Jacobsen, currently racing in the World Supersport championship for the Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress team. The native of Montgomery, New York has been quietly building a reputation as a fast and promising young racer, stringing together a series of top ten results in the competitive WSS series in his debut year, and coming very close to scoring his first podium. Jacobsen's World Supersport debut comes after an impressive first year racing in the British BSB championship with Tyco Suzuki, which earned him a move to the world stage.
We caught up with Jacobsen a few weeks ago at Assen, ahead of the third round of the World Supersport championship. There, we spoke to him about the state of American racing, the difficulties faced by American riders trying to break into a world championship, and the path he took to the world stage. Jacobsen covers BSB, living in Northern Ireland and how his background in dirt track helped in road racing. PJ tells us about how BSB is a viable route into a world championship, and just what it takes to make the move. It was a fascinating perspective from an extremely talented young racer.
MotoMatters.com: First, a little background on you. You started your career racing with Barry Gilsenan in the AMA with Celtic Racing?
PJ Jacobsen: I've been racing for [Barry Gilsenan] since I was twelve, he was the first person that got me on a bike.
MM: He got you onto a bike, he got you racing, what was your path to World Supersport?
PJ: I was racing 125s in the USGPRU series in the US. He got me involved in that, and I won a title with him in the States. Then I came to Europe to race in the Spanish championship, and was in the MotoGP Academy. Then I went back to the US and rode for them in the AMA on a Suzuki 600. I rode for them for three years in the States. I rode in the Daytona Sportbike class, that's when everything was kinda turning around there.
Interview: Voltcom Suzuki's Paul Denning On The Cost Of New Rules, Expanding Audiences, And The End Of The One Bike Rule
At the Assen round of World Superbikes two weeks' ago, MotoMatters.com caught up with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki boss Paul Denning, to get his vision on how the new technical regulations proposed for World Superbike from 2015 onwards would affect Suzuki's WSBK effort. Denning gave us a fascinating alternative view of the regulations, emphasizing that revenue generation was at least as important as cost cutting, and warning against false economies which could end up destroying the close racing World Superbikes has traditionall enjoyed. Denning also covered just where he saw the biggest costs in World Superbike racing, and how the new TV schedule has impacted the series, and could spell the end of the one-bike rule in WSBK.
MotoMatters.com: Has everyone reached agreement on a set of rules for next year?
Paul Denning: No, but there have been constructive meetings between Dorna, the FIM and the manufacturers and teams identifying in really quite great detail manufacturer opinion on various aspects of the technical rules. Regulations have been drafted in an attempt to control cost, which is always welcome, but whilst it's not necessarily the case for all teams, for our team, there won't really be any significant saving. And in fact, as is always the case in motorsport, when you have a big change in regulations, all you do is add costs. Even if the total component cost of the machine is less, for us to develop a competitive bike within that regulation is going to cost an awful lot more money than it would to keep it the same.
The other danger is that the closer you try to go to standard, the more the performance differentials are highlighted between the different design concepts of bike. And when you have a bike like the Suzuki which is €10,000 and a bike like the Ducati which is €33,000, with wildly different cost and quality of internal components, the more you become limited with what you can do with a more affordable motorcycle, the bigger the potential is for a lack of equalization in the performance of the race bike. At the moment, as we saw last year, we've already seen this year and are likely to see over the course of the rest of the season, on any given day, I couldn't tell you which of six or even eight riders is going to win a race. That's really a very important thing for defining the series, the sporting aspect, and there's a danger that that could be compromised by the regulations as well. The effort is to try to reduce costs but retain that competitive spirit. But it's going to be a tough thing to do with such huge disparities between the standard bikes.
Alberto Puig has a knack for discovering and nurturing talent. From the point he was forced to retire from racing due to injury, the former 500cc rider has been involved in finding and bringing on new young riders. He has been involved in one way or another with many of the current riders in MotoGP, and more than one world champion. Though he is best known for being the man behind Dani Pedrosa, Puig has also discovered and supported Casey Stoner, Toni Elias, Bradley Smith, Leon Camier, Chaz Davies, Julian Simon, Joan Lascorz, Efren Vazquez and many more. Puig was one of the key figures behind the MotoGP Academy and the Red Bull Rookies, which continues to fill the ranks of MotoGP's three classes.
So it was a natural choice for Dorna to turn to Puig when they needed help to run the Asia Talent Cup, a series set up to bring on talent from Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia. Dorna and Honda have set up the series together, and Puig's strong ties to both organizations made him the best man for the job. The fact that he is no longer so closely involved with Dani Pedrosa meant he had more free time on his hands to get involved in the Asia Talent Cup.
With Asia being an absolutely vital market for both Dorna and the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, we were keen to learn more. Scott Jones spoke to Alberto Puig at Austin, where he gave us a fascinating insight into the series, his role in it, and how it came about.
The following interview was done by Polish MotoGP journalist and TV commentator Mick Fialkowski back in October 2013 and published in Bikesportnews in the UK amongst others. As well as writing in English, Mick writes in Polish for the website and magazine MotorMania, as well as the Polsat Sport website.
Spies is hopefully feeling better by now, but by how much, we'll probably find out next weekend as the former World Superbike Champion is set to attend his home MotoGP round at Austin, Texas, as a spectator. Can he ever come back as a rider?
With former AMA and WSBK Champ Ben Spies announcing his retirement following two horrid seasons in MotoGP, Mick Fialkowski asks him why and if he's ever coming back.
As the likes or Marquez, Rossi and Crutchlow spend the off-season gearing up for 2014, Ben Spies has other priorities, recovering from a double shoulder injury which forced his recent shocking retirement from motorcycle racing at the age of just 29. 'Right now, when I wake up in the morning, I'm still in a lot of pain with both shoulders,' the Texan says from his house in Dallas in a first interview since announcing his retirement exactly a month earlier. 'The left one, which I've injured at Indy this year, was a pretty bad separation, it was a grade five, the three tendons that attach the AC joint to your shoulder they weren't even connected. That was pretty big but I don't think it will be too much of a problem, hopefully, for the long run. The right shoulder, the one from Malaysia of last year; all I can say is it's been over a year since I've had the first surgery and I haven't gone a day without waking up without pain or it troubling me. It will be tough. I don't want to say never but when I talk to the doctors they always say that for doing normal things in normal life it shouldn't be a problem but racing a motorcycle or playing golf, I'm going to be restricted in a lot of things and that just comes with the nature of the injury and the damage that I've done inside my shoulder that you can't really fix. When you have the rotator cuff and torn labrum stuff, it's pretty severe and that's why the second surgery was done to my right shoulder to try and fix some of those problems. It still feels like it's not at 100%, that's for sure.'
While much of the media attention at Qatar was focused on his brother Aleix, Pol Espargaro made a quietly impressive debut in the premier class. The 22-year-old Spaniard posted competitive times all weekend, but was forced to pull out of the race with a technical problem. Before the weekend started, MotoMatter.com's Scott Jones sat down with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider to talk to him about how he viewed the season. The conversation ranged over Espargaro's broken collarbone, injured at the test just 10 days before the weekend started, adapting to a MotoGP machine after years in Moto2, and racing against his brother Aleix. A fascinating conversation with a rising star.
Q: First of all, let's talk about the collarbone. How does it feel?
Pol Espargaro: The collarbone feels better. Sure doesn't feel perfect, but for sure I have to be happy, because ten days ago I had the collarbone fixed, the pain is not big. So for sure I have to be happy because we are good.
Q: Pushing on the handlebars, it's OK?
The Red Bull KTM Ajo team issued a press release today, containing an interview with Karel Hanika, the young Czech rookie who has made an astounding debut in the Moto3 class during testing. In the interview, Hanika talks about progress in testing, working inside the Ajo team structure, and being the favorite to win rookie of the year in Moto3. The press release appears below:
"I wasn’t expecting to be so fast in preseason"
Red Bull KTM Ajo rider anxiously awaiting debut in World Championship after strong preseason –in which he was third last week at Jerez.
Karel Hanika is the reigning Red Bull Rookies Cup champion and a Moto3 World Championship debutant with Red Bull KTM Ajo. He has surprised many with his speedy preseason performances, and was third quickest at last week’s Jerez test. The 17 year-old is delighted with his new team, with KTM and with the help of new teammate Jack Miller.
The man with the number 98 will debut this Sunday at Losail, Qatar.
What is your analysis of this preseason?
"I think I can say that after the last test at Jerez, overall it was not bad. We've done a lot of work, many experiments and ridden very well. We have also had a mix of fast laps and race simulation laps. After all that, we are ready to start the season."
Herve Poncharal Interview: On The Open Yamaha Of Aleix Espargaro, The Future Of MotoGP, And Seamless Gearboxes
Perhaps the biggest surprise after the first day of testing at Sepang was the sheer, unadulterated speed of Aleix Espargaro on the Forward Yamaha, racing in the Open category. Seventh fastest, half a second off the fastest factory Yamaha of Valentino Rossi, and ahead of the two Tech 3 riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. By lunchtime on the second day, Aleix was closer still, just two tenths off the best Yamaha.
Naturally, all eyes turned to the Tech 3 garage, and the response of team boss Herve Poncharal. How would the otherwise charming Frenchman react to being beaten by a bike which Yamaha was supplying to a rival team for a third of the price he is paying to lease the Tech 3 Yamaha M1 machines, entered under the Factory Option rules in MotoGP? A long line of journalists beat a path to his door, including MotoMatters.com, to put those questions to him.
Poncharal spoke at length about the Open class, the issue of fuel consumption, and the performance of Aleix Espargaro. First of all, though, he emphasized the strength of his relationship with Yamaha.