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Gibernau looking for lead role at Honda

Gibernau looking for lead role at Honda

Gibernau looking for lead role at Honda

Sete Gibernau has spoken out for the first time about his thoughts on the 2004 MotoGP World Championship as he and the rest of the HRC squad completed the first stage of their preseason preparations at the Malaysian circuit of Sepang. Firstly, Gibernau expressed his gratitude to the fans of for voting him as their choice for the number one seat at Honda, before going on to give his thoughts about the expectation surrounding him as one of the favourites for the title, the strengths and weaknesses of his main rivals, development of the Honda RC211V and, of course, Valentino Rossi's upcoming debut test with Yamaha. Sete, the fans of the official MotoGP website have voted that you should be the number one rider for Honda in 2004. What do you think about that?

Sete Gibernau: Wow! I am delighted that the fans trust in me and now I have to show them that their judgement is well placed. I have always believed I had the support of the fans and the fact they have demonstrated that with this vote is fantastic. As I say, now it is up to me to show Honda that I am the one they can believe in and support. That is something you have to earn but I think we had a good championship last season. This year we will have to work even harder to repeat that and keep our level within the HRC squad. But thanks for the support everybody!

Q: Does this extra level of expectation also add pressure?

SG: No, not really because to be honest I'm the first to put the pressure on myself - I like it. I had my first experience of being regularly at the front last year, and every race I was expected to drop positions, but I didn't and the pressure to do well grew and grew. I like it though, and I will be trying to win the first race and every one after that. The target is to be the factory leader outside the official factory team, which is Repsol Honda.

Q: Apart from that, surely your goal will be to win the World Championship?

SG: I will just be concentrating on doing my job well, and to the best of my abilities, I will be focusing my energies on my team. I want to beat myself, because if I improve - and I came second last year - then the others have to improve double to catch me. The important thing is who is going to be ready for the first race.

Q: How do you rate the chances of your Honda colleagues?

Max for sure is one of the toughest guys out there, he has that racing mentality… and maybe Nicky will be there later on. My team-mate Colin will undoubtedly take time but he will get there, the thing is as I said, that you have to be there from race one.

Q: Does that rule out Valentino Rossi?

No, Valentino is still the man to beat as far as I'm concerned. He is the best rider, and that's the reason. He will be in the top three, of that I'm sure, and definitely fighting to win races. He's won all those races and championships, and it's normal that he's up there.

Q: Don't you think it will take him time to develop the Yamaha M1?

SG: Well, it is going to be important how he begins. Every crash is mentally bad for a rider, although Valentino understands this and is clever enough to not let it affect him. Alex (Barros) wanted lap times instantly when he moved to Yamaha last year, instead of deciding what needed working on. He jumped on the M1 and wanted to do what he was doing on the Honda at the end of 2002, but Valentino's approach will be different. Vale's approach is to win races, and he has the right guys in place with him to do that, they know what they have to do. Here in Malaysia, for example, races are 21 laps so it's not about one fast lap time - that's what we're trying to do here and what we tried to do in qualifying last year. In Germany I wasn't on the front row, but my laps in practice were consistent and I rode a good consistent race and was there at the end to make the move.

Q: What can you tell us about the RC211V you rode at this test?

The bike we're currently testing is, I think, similar to the one used by Valentino towards the end of last year. I'm not sure whether he was using it here in Sepang or not, but the fact we have beaten the race record time doesn't necessarily mean we are going faster. He won the races at the end of the season, and that was the important thing, he did what was necessary. This bike, however, is a bit more powerful - you notice it straight away, it must have an extra 500rpm. It's smoother when you get onto the brakes and change down, which is important, it's something we've been asking for since almost the beginning of last season. There's already differences in the 2003 lap times here though, and that's important.

Q: And what are your thoughts on the 2004 version of the bike which Tohru Ukawa has been testing out here?

I spent a few laps behind Ukawa and it's fast, that's for sure. I'd say about 5km on average faster, and it accelerates well. Last year we asked for more work on the clutch and also on the edge grip the bike offers. I'm not sure whether Ukawa's is the bike we will use, or whether we will get components from it, but after this test all the Honda mechanics go to Japan until our next test here in two weeks time - so we will know which material we are going to get and what level the bikes are at.

Q: Are you hopeful that you will get the top material from Honda?

In principal I believe that all six Honda riders will be starting from the same level at the beginning of last year, what happens from then... I don't know. I expect the official factory team will have a bit of an edge over us, simply because I think it's part of their contract with sponsors.

MotoGP, 2003

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