Q&A with Sete Gibernau
Runner-up to Valentino Rossi in the last two seasons, Sete Gibernau is one of the ‘big guns' of the MotoGP class and one of the very few riders able to push the Italian ace to its limits. However, the first half of the season was disappointing for the Spaniard, who is still chasing his first win of the year. He now expects to turn things around when the season resumes later this month at Brno.
Gibernau, who recently reached the 150th GP starts mark – just a month before archrival Rossi – reflects on life as MotoGP rider.
You are currently at the peak of your professional career and say that you want to enjoy the moment without worrying about the future. But when you look back, what do you see?
I see that I have spent my whole life living for the moment and I can thank God for having been able to live my life intensely that way, without having to worry about the future. I have some very specific memories and I have always enjoyed whatever I have had. I have never wanted anybody to tell me that I would be World Champion because that way I would miss out on things along the way. If it is my destiny to be World Champion then I will be, but I wouldn't want anybody to take away the surprise or the joy of that moment.
Discipline is necessary in any elite sports and in motorcycling, in particular, a lot of people are involved. What has been the hardest over all these years: to earn people's respect, to co-ordinate a group of very different people around you…?
The most difficult thing is to make such a huge jigsaw fit together. Over all these years I've gone through a lot of things and there have been times when I haven't been at my best. In 1997 I joined the factory Yamaha team with just a year of Grand Prix experience and it wasn't the right time - I wasn't ready for that level of responsibility… But I have grown up a lot and that calmness has allowed me to always give my best. The most difficult thing is to be in the right place at the right time and for everything to come together.
What does your physical training programme constitute?
I'm not obsessed with it, although I've always enjoyed sport and I like to be well prepared. Bit by bit you build up a base, you find the rhythm of work that suits you - everybody is different. Right now my training programme is a combination of cycling, jogging and some weight training, although not too much because I'm already quite muscular and I need to work more on aerobic resistance than strength.
So it's fair to say you don't suffer too much when training…
I suffer but it's in the outdoors on my bicycle - it's different. It would be worse for me to be sat in an office for eight hours. At the end of the day you think about it and realise how lucky you are.
And how do you work on your mental preparation?
This is something I would like to work on when I finish racing - share my experiences, my strategy, the way I work on my concentration, how you can get through difficult moments, how to keep your feet on the ground when things are going well… I do a lot of self-therapy. I analyse myself and I would like to pass that on to other people when I finish racing. It's important not to get distanced from the real world.
Has somebody made you think that way or have you always been so self-analytical?
I've always been hard on myself because I have never wanted to shirk my responsibilities - I think that would be a mistake. If you can be critical of yourself, you can be critical of the people who work with you. I like to know that I am the person in control of this whole project.
Is it possible to get used to fame?
You live with it in the best way possible. I've always thought that there isn't enough money in the world to buy happiness, although it definitely helps! Sete was happy before he was a World Championship racer and he's happy now. If you have the attitude that you can't do certain things - you're distorting reality and you're not enjoying what you already have. It's a comfort to be liked by people because it's recognition that you're doing a good job.
How do you learn to live with such pressure?
You can't hide from the facts. This is a risky sport and there are a lot of people watching you, a lot of outside interests. But the first mistake would be to not accept that. I know there is more pressure every year but at the same time I try to turn that into a positive - that helps to get the best out of me and not the reverse. Pressure can bring a lot of positive things. It means you are doing well, that you've got a chance of being World Champion, that people expect a lot of you, that they'll come waving flags with your name on… If you think of it like that, you realise that pressure can only be positive.
Riders transmit an image of glamour and sophistication that is probably magnified. Is there a different Sete at the track and at home?
You have to hold part of yourself back and maintain some level of privacy to create that fascination. It's nice that people want to know more about your life, your career, your lifestyle, etc.
When somebody has everything, perhaps the things they appreciate most are the small details. What everyday things do you most miss out on?
Nothing, honestly. I love my current situation because I have gone through a lot of different stages in my life - years when I wasn't known by anybody, others when people started to recognise me and now. I can't complain.
Motorcycle racing is a very individualist sport. Does that mark out a person's character?
I think my character is what got me here - not the other way round. I think all the riders have a special character, a similar streak. We're naturally individualist people but it's also nice to have people around to keep you in touch with what's going on.
Are you a superstitious person?
No. There was a time when I realised I had too many superstitions. I used to always put my right glove and boot on first so that I didn't fall, but then you realise there are times when you don't do it and nothing happens. I'm not superstitious in my job or away from it.
Do you like to plan things or live on the spur of the moment?
Spur of the moment - totally.
You like parachuting for a hobby, you earn your living at 300km/h… when you're not busy burning adrenaline, what do you do?
I'm enjoying the moment. I know that I'm not 20 years old anymore. I'd like to be, but the best way to live life to the maximum at 30 is to recognise that you're not 20 anymore. When I retire from racing it's going to make me very sad and it will be a tough time, but I'm not afraid of it - I'll do something. I'm sure I won't have any trouble finding things to do with my time.
How would you like people to remember you when you retire?
Above all I want them to understand that I have fought, because they have always been there and they have given a reason to the effort I have put in. I appreciate the interest shown by people and I would like them to know that I have put my heart into this because I love motorcycles, just like them.