Archive - Interview
June 24th, 2014
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.
The Repsol Media Service have released the second of two interviews with the Repsol Honda teams riders. After Friday's interview with Marc Marquez, today they issued a press release with Dani Pedrosa. In the interview, Pedrosa talks about how he assesses his fitness after the first test, how he spent his winter, and how the test went. Pedrosa reports that Honda have made great steps forward with the bike, and his wish list of improvements is now very short indeed. The press release interview appears below:
“This year we have improved the rear grip a lot. We have taken steps forward”
Spanish rider feeling fit and ready after three days of high intensity testing at Malaysian circuit of Sepang.
Repsol Media Service - Malaysia, Sepang Circuit - Saturday 02/08/2014
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa used last week’s Sepang test to improve his 2014 Honda RC213V. He leaves Malaysia tired after three days of intense work and very hot conditions, but is pleased with how his body responded to the demands. Pedrosa says that his machine features better rear grip, and that what he picked up most last year was an ability to stay focused under maximum pressure.
How was your winter?
With the MotoGP preseason well underway after the first test at Sepang, the busy men and women of the Repsol Media Service are hard at work once again. Their first job this year is an interview with reigning world champion Marc Marquez. In the interview, Marquez talks about training during the winter, how the tests went, defending his title and racing against some of his former rivals in Moto2. The Repsol Media Service have also posted a video on Youtube of Marquez and Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa from the test at Sepang. The press release interview appears below:
“This year there will be pressure, but I work well under those conditions”
Repsol Honda’s reigning World Champion, Marc Marquez, has started 2014 as he ended 2013: On top in MotoGP.
Repsol Media Service - Malaysia, Sepang Circuit - Friday 02/07/2014
Marc Marquez began his preseason in the best possible fashion, preparing for his second season in MotoGP and his title defence. The Repsol Honda rider dominated all three days of the Sepang test, breaking the circuit record on the final day. His time of 1:59.533 bested Casey Stoner’s previous record, set in 2012.
You haven’t stopped this winter. Can you not stay away from racing?
“This has been a winter of two parts. The first was dedicated to events and press, and the second part to a bit more fun and things like Dirt Track racing, driving cars or karting. It is always good to keep active.”
November 22nd, 2013
Interviewed At The Sachsenring: Jeremy Burgess Speaks About Ducati, And Rossi's Return To The Yamaha
Following Valentino Rossi's shocking decision to part ways with his long-term crew chief Jeremy Burgess, there has been much speculation about Rossi's reason for the split. Mick Fialkowski spoke to the experienced Australian earlier this year at the Sachsenring, where Burgess shed some light on the last few seasons of their cooperation. Burgess told Fialkowski about their time at Ducati, the return to Yamaha, and where Rossi has struggled this season. With the benefit of hindsight, this interview makes for a highly illuminating read.
Mick Fialkowski: Jeremy, what went wrong at Ducati when you were there for two years with Valentino between 2011 and 2012?
Jeremy Burgess: I think you probably have to ask that to Ducati, because we tried very hard to get them to work in a way that we had been using for many years but unfortunately it was a mentality of Ducati which even Valentino wasn't able to change. As much as we tried and as you can see this year, the situation doesn't seem to have improved significantly at all. I think there have to be some really big changes in the way Ducati believes that they should go about their MotoGP racing.
Q: What do they need to change?
JB: The people at the circuit are very good. These projects are not lost by the people working at this level. The people in each garage here work to the level of the equipment and the funding that they have. If there is somebody in the higher position that is blocking the development or not believing what the riders are saying and believes that their design is OK, then this is when it suffers at the race track. Ducati regularly tests in Mugello, they compete in MotoGP and see the results every week. It's really in the hands of the directors of the engineering group to put the right people in place back in Ducati.
Q: After years with Honda and Yamaha, were there any significant differences between working with a Japanese and an Italian factory?
JB: Very much so. The Japanese factory listens to what we say and responds to our requests. Ducati, whether they've listened, they've heard, for sure, but they didn't respond. They believed for some reason that what they've had was good enough and that in some miraculous way everything would be OK next week. And then it wasn't and of course you start to lose the bond between the engineers and the rider to work together to improve the machine. Fundamentally Ducati needs to regroup, go back, try and build again and perhaps hire the very best rider, change their structure and their strategy somewhat.
Q: What were your first thoughts when Vale told you that you're going back to Yamaha for 2013?
After the test at Valencia, Marc Marquez was asked by journalists what he was going to do over the winter. His answer came back quick as a flash: 'First I will do a lot of interviews.' Marquez was all too keenly aware of the media exposure his championship would bring.
He had already done his first big interview, speaking to journalists last Tuesday in a teleconference organized by the ever-industrious Indianapolis Motor Speedway press office. In the interview, Marquez talks about winning the championship at the first attempt, aggressive riding by himself and by Jorge Lorenzo, what Honda needs to do to improve the 2014 bike, and the mental strength he learned after the eye injury he suffered at Sepang in 2011.
The transcript of the press conference appears below:
2013 RED BULL INDIANAPOLIS GP TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
2013 MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez, Nov. 12, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to the Red Bull Indianapolis GP teleconference. We are very grateful and privileged today to have the new Moto GP World Champion, Marc Marquez, of the Repsol Honda Team. Marc won the title by finishing third Sunday at the Grand Prix of Valencia, edging Jorge Lorenzo by four points. I could spend the next 15 minutes reading off a list of Marc's accomplishments, but I'll try to keep it brief.
A little bit of background. Marc is 20 years old. He's from Spain. He's the youngest premier class World Champion in history. He's the first rookie to win the premier class world title since American legend Kenny Roberts in 1978. Marc won six races this season, a rookie record. One of those wins came in August at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at IMS, and he finished on the podium in 16 of his 18 starts this year. Marc has won three world championships in the last four seasons. He's won the 125cc title in 2010, the Moto2 title in 2012 and the MotoGP World Championship in 2013. Oh, by the way, he also led testing today. His 2014 season is already underway. He led test today at Valencia.
In part one of our interview with Mike Webb, the MotoGP Race Director talked about the penalty point system and how it had worked in 2013. In the second part, talks about the tire debacle at Phillip Island. Webb explains what the teams were told about the rules and the penalties they would incur, and he discusses the incident on the exit of pit lane between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. He explains how Race Direction felt the dry flag-to-flag race went, and whether the situation could be handled any differently.
Webb also explains why penalty points are only handed out at the front of the race, while the battle mid-pack can be much fiercer than anything happening for the lead. Finally, Mike Webb casts an eye on the future, and explains the next steps towards improving safety, and improving communication with the riders.
Q: Phillip Island. First of all, I've seen the sheet of paper that was passed out to all the teams …
Mike Webb: Several sheets of paper, unfortunately. It changed several times, we were forced to. There was Moto2 for a start, that changed several times, and the same situation in MotoGP, where we had a meeting with the tire supplier, and they told us, OK, this is how many laps the tire can safely do, our recommendation from the tire supplier is that how many laps the tire can do, now it's up to you to make a decision on the race. And that information changed, during Saturday and then after Sunday warm up, so we had three different instructions to the teams based on what the tire companies told us their tires were able to do. And the last one was of course after warm up on Sunday, which is a horrible time to change anything. I know I hated that whole thing, but it was forced on us.
Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 1: On Penalty Points, Precedent, Jerez, Sepang And Whether Motorcycle Racing Is A Contact Sport
It has been a busy year for MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb. Since taking on the job of ensuring that MotoGP events take place safely and efficiently, stepping into the shoes vacated by Paul Butler at the start of the 2012 season, Webb has faced some tough decisions and unusual situations, his second year in the job even more eventful than the first.
In response to criticism over the warning system in 2012, a new penalty points system was introduced to allow for harsher penalties for persistent offenders. There were several high-profile incidents involving Marc Marquez in his rookie season, including a clash with Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez, a touch which severed the traction control sensor of teammate Dani Pedrosa's Honda and caused Pedrosa to crash, and the situation at Phillip Island, where the new asphalt at the circuit caused the tires to degrade much more than the two spec tire manufacturers had expected, requiring last-minute adjustments to the race schedule on the fly.
We spoke with Mike Webb extensively at Valencia, on the Thursday evening before the race, covering the above subjects and more, and reviewing his second year as Race Director. In the first part of the interview, Webb talks of whether motorcycle racing is a contact sport, how the penalty system has worked out, explains why Marc Marquez was not given points at Jerez, why Jorge Lorenzo wasn't penalized for the touch at Sepang, and of changing perceptions.
Q: You're at the end of your second year in the job of Race Director. Was it easier than the first?