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Reigning World Champion predicts a 2009 season even more difficult than 2008.
How was your winter holiday? What have you been doing during your time off?
My winter holidays were great! I have a great passion for snowboarding and so I went to the mountains with my friends, did a bit of boarding, which was great fun, and now I am ready to start working again.
What are your memories of 2008? After having some time for your victory to sink in, can you choose your absolute favourite moment of 2008?
It´s difficult to choose my favourite moment because, luckily, there were many in what was an incredible season! I returned to winning ways, but the most emotional race was the one in Laguna Seca, because it was definitely the most important victory of the season.
You had a chance to try the prototype bike before the break. What’s your opinion of it so far and do you think Yamaha are doing a good job?
Yes, I had the chance to try the 2009 prototype briefly after Valencia but more so in Jerez, when I was very fast. The bike seems better and I was faster than I was with the 2008 version. I´m very confident, and anyway we´re only at the beginning of our work and now we must use these months before April to improve the 2009 M1 even more.
What improvements are you hoping for in the next evolution model that you will test in Sepang this week?
In Sepang we will use our new bike... I will use my two bikes with the parts which I will use in the race, so I want to quickly try to find a good feeling. We´re working a lot on the engine and we´re trying to find a way to improve the acceleration a bit, and I think that this is the area in which we will be concentrating.
The wall is staying in your garage. Why do you want it to stay?
In our team there are two very strong riders and both of these riders are setting out to win the World Championship. We found the arrangement to work very well in 2008 and so we will continue with it also in 2009.
Are you expecting Jorge to be one of your main title challengers this year?
Yes, I do think that Lorenzo will be one of my strongest rivals, because he has a year´s more experience and this year there is also the monotyre, so we will start equal. He will be a very hard rival to fight.
Apart from him, who else do you expect will be fighting at the front with you?
I think that the number one rival will be Stoner. Then also Pedrosa will be very fast, and of course Lorenzo.
What do you think about the MotoGP `crisis´ and the departure of Kawasaki? Are you worried about the number of bikes on the grid?
I am very worried about the number of bikes on the MotoGP grid because in 2008 there were only 19, which was already not many. I hope that Kawasaki stay because otherwise this will become 17; we have to find a way to have more bikes on the track.
What do you think needs to be changed in order to try to increase it?
It´s difficult for me to say. I think that we need a bike that is a little less sophisticated and a little cheaper.
After two tests, what´s your opinion about the new mono-tyre rule? Do you think it´s going to improve the racing or not?
It´s a bit early to say, but I think that there will be a better show because everyone will have the same tyre. With the mono-tyre, for better or for worse and considering the show, during the last few laps of the race the bike will move around a bit more and so you will have to go a little bit slower. This will probably produce closer battles. We hope so!
What else do you think should be done in order to bring back closer racing? You have talked about a reduction in rider aids, can you tell us more about what you think should be done in this area?
In the last few years there have been races, especially since the arrival of the 800cc motorcycle, with a lot less close racing and I think that this is mostly to do with the evolution of the tyres. Now in the corners we’re very fast and so there is less time to try to overtake. Furthermore however, the huge evolutions in electronics have leveled the performance of the riders and therefore this has also led to a few less battles.
Everyone knows that you made a request to Yamaha to take part in a superbike race, specifically against Bayliss. Are you upset that this is not happening? Would you still like the chance to compete in a superbike race?
It was a fun idea, and I would have been very happy. I would still like to do a race in superbike and I would like to battle with Bayliss, because he is the world champion! Unfortunately it is a bit of a difficult period and I didn´t have the chance, but I hope that in the future, maybe next year, we can do it.
You did very well in the Rally of GB. Has this increased your desire to try rally full-time at some point?
I have always loved rally, ever since I was little. It is one of my great passions and it is great to do one when I have the time and the chance. I always enjoy it a lot and probably, when I have given up the bikes and when I have the chance to improve and I have more time, I will do more... but it´s not a close future, because I still want to race with the bike for a few more years!
You also had another chance to test the Ferrari. Do you think you have improved your level in the car?
The Formula One... to try the Ferrari again was a great emotion. I have always been a great fan of racing cars, not just of rally. I was fast, so I was happy; I am fast enough also in Formula One! In 2006 I decided to stay with the bike and, of course, I still have some doubts, but just to climb inside the red car at Mugello and work with Ferrari was fantastic.
Have you had any more thoughts about F1 racing in the future?
As I said before, I had my chance and I decided to stay with bikes. The choice is made and I don´t think that there will be another possibility.
You are great friends with Marco Simoncelli. What´s your opinion about his 250cc title win last year and do you think he is the favourite to win again this year?
I am good friends with Simoncelli; he is a great guy. We train together and last year he surprised me because I knew that he had great potential, but I didn´t think he would become World Champion. I am happy for him; he deserved it. He is staying in 250cc and I think that he is the favourite for 2009.
Do you think Marco could be a good prospect for Yamaha in the future?
I think that Simoncelli will come to MotoGP, because he is a fast rider and he is very young. In Yamaha, however, we already have Lorenzo and I, so I think that he will be a good prospect for other factories.
Are you going to continue as `your own´ manager in 2009? Have you considered working with a new manager?
I am very happy with what I have decided to do and with my actual organisation, I don´t have any need for a manager and I am not thinking of having any type of manager for now.
There aren´t many targets left for you in your career... you´re already the most successful rider in the history of the sport. Do you have many more targets? Would you like to reach Agostini´s record of 122 wins in all classes?
Agostini´s record is something very important, naturally. I am not far off, but to do it I would have to continue to fight and race for a few more years! My principal objective is to win a few more World Championships; this is more important than catching Agostini. Obviously, if I succeed then it will be wonderful!
Do you still have the same level of motivation as previously? How do you keep your interest and hunger?
To ride the bike on the track and to try to find ways to be faster, but above all to work with Yamaha and with this group of people, always makes me happy and therefore I feel motivated. I have been racing for a long time and every year I need to stay concentrated to find the right motivation and to be aggressive. I feel in form.
Finally, you said 2008 was the hardest title of your career. Do you think 2009 will be easier or even harder?
2008 was difficult because it was the year in which I had to give the most of myself in order to win. In 2009 it will be even more difficult because my adversaries, who suffered in 2008, are now out for payback and will be looking to beat me. I think it’s going to be even harder than 2008!
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