5 years ago
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The 2011 World Champion shares his views on the 1000cc Repsol Honda heading into the 2012 season, the year that will see the MotoGP™ class returning to the high powered machines.
How is the 1000 different from the 800 on corner entry, mid-corner, exit?
"Well, it’s not so much a difference between the 1000 and the 800, but just an improvement that we've made with Honda, is braking stability. The wheelbase is maybe a little different and when we go on the brakes we've got a bit more stability entering the corner. The rear does not want to hop as much and we can actually sink our hands into the brakes a lot harder. So it's actually changing the braking points by less than what we'd expected, because our bike has improved quite substantially in that point. I'd say corner entry is exactly the same. Everything from that point on is very similar. I think it's mainly just chassis-wise that we've improved. The weight of the bike is exactly the same, the way it's going to react is very similar, if not the same.
The weight's the same?
"It was quite recently that they decided to add four kilos, but I think the extra weight isn't changing much. If it were 20 kilos, it might be different. At this point it just feels similar to the 800. The only thing that's different is how the chassis feels. And corner exit, we're able to use that power a lot better, we're able to get more torque out of the engine and have a lot more control with the engine because it's not so peaky. And actually I've found a lot more traction-because of the extra torque and control, it wants to drive out of the corner a lot longer before it spins."
Can you be less precise with the 1000 and still get away with it?
"I'd say no. In a small way, because of that extra torque you can square the corner off and shoot it out. But the 800s already had a lot of power. You've still got to ride them in a similar manner-very accurately. Everyone's just trying to massage out the bugs at the moment."
If you make a mistake, is it less forgiving than the 800?
"No, I think it's very similar. With the 800s you were carrying a bit more corner speed. With the 1000s, especially on a small track with a short gearbox, it just wants to wheelie quite a lot. So they did turn a little bit harder and you keep a little bit more throttle in the middle of the turn really. But such a minute amount. You can still ride them in exactly the same way. I was watching some of the lines others were taking and looking at some of the black marks. They're using the whole track still. I'm using less and less of the track, because I'm happy with that extra bit of torque. But in general you can still ride them in both ways."
You've won a title before. Is it harder to win a title or defend a title?
"I think there is no defending a title. You don't go into a season with a points advantage over anyone. So I don't think it's ever a title defense. I think you've got a different number on your bike, if you choose, but everyone starts at zero again. Especially this year; we're going from 800s to 1000s, so there's nothing similar to the past year except we're running tyres on bikes and we're doing the same kind of championship, but it’s a completely different category now. So, I don't think you ever go into a season trying to defend your championship. I think you're going out trying to attack for another one."
The year after you won your championship you had a number of problems, which made keeping the number one plate more difficult.
"I think we didn't start out so great with the 2008 bike. We struggled with it quite at the start of the season. We were having a lot of pumping issues and trying to figure out the chain tensions, small things like that to try to stop the pumping problems we had. But then we had a camera come off and flap around my bike in Estoril, and we had an engine go in Le Mans. Then we had major issues at the end of the year with my wrist falling to pieces, but everyone just remembers me losing the title. But I think we put up one hell of a fight considering the year we had. And I think I proved to everybody that we had every right to be champion again that year, but it wasn't to be. Same in 2009- We were leading the championship when my lactose issue started to play havoc. It was pretty much only 2010 that we didn't have any excuses. We didn't have the bike, we didn't have the equipment, we didn't get it sorted quick enough. We made mistakes. Pushed too hard in places we maybe shouldn't have. And things just didn't go well from there. But at the end of the season once we got everything sorted, we showed that we still had the speed and came out on a bike that hadn’t given us everything we wanted, and sort of showed everybody what we could do again."
Wayne Rainey famously said that with each passing championship he felt he had to win and that there was no settling for second place.
"I think this championship's changing quite a lot. Wayne was the benchmark so he had nothing really to chase, but I suppose you can always win more races during the season, you've always got goals. But for me, it's a problem the way the championship is heading and the way there are always rule changes. There are always excuses and it doesn't seem to be about racing as it was in those days and there's more to it than just going out and having a good scrap. It sort of makes me unhappy looking at the direction the championship, the way that it's going. But at the same time I've still got goals that I can set and try to fulfill, but if I can't, I've got to be happy with the career I've had."
One of his problems was that by winning so often, there were few improvement to his machinery. That doesn't seem to be a problem with Honda.
"With this team, every bit of input I give, I see it motivating them to try to do better. With Honda, you see that they just want to keep improving. They don't ever want to sit still. Now that there's a 1000 here, straight away there's a lot of input going into it and they're trying to sort out all the small gremlins."
At Laguna Seca, you had one of your most frustrating races in 2009 and last year you had one of your greatest races there.
"I think everyone can appreciate now that maybe the race wasn't so easy on a Ducati. That maybe it wasn't as clean cut as everyone thought it was. I rode my butt off in that race and things didn't work out. I forgot about that shortly after but nobody else did. So it's not my problem anymore."
The pass that you made on Jorge Lorenzo, how far ahead did you plan that?
"A few laps to be honest. Not in that exact spot; I just thought if the opportunity arose then I wouldn't have any doubt doing it. I've always been good in the last sector of Laguna- I was fast on the Ducati. It's all about getting the gear shifts right to keep the front down, because it's such a short track. On the laps previous to that I was catching Jorge every time in that spot. And I thought if I got close enough and he just made a small slip-up with shifting, it would be just enough. And it happened. If you watch, you'll see me all of a sudden get acceleration, but it was the fact that he held that wheelie a bit too long. And that allowed me to carry that momentum around the outside."
Some believe that was the turning point in the championship? Do you agree or disagree?
"No, I completely disagree. There are turning points constantly in the championship. Just let every race be a different turning point in the championship. There's always different moments and you just need to let them flow."
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