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Puig casts an eye over the Grand Prix paddock

Puig casts an eye over the Grand Prix paddock

He may no longer have been directly associated to Dani Pedrosa, but former rider Alberto Puig remained as busy as ever in 2014 as he headed up the new Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup. The Barcelona man sits down with to reflect on this and other talking points of the season gone by.

In previous years, Puig spearheaded Dorna Sports’ MotoGP Academy as well as enjoying much success alongside the likes of Pedrosa. Having now taken on an advisory role within HRC, he steers the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup as well as collaborating as a pundit in his new role with Spain’s Movistar TV.

Alberto, how do you reflect on the inaugural season of the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup? Are you satisfied with what has been achieved?
As with all new championships, the first year is always complicated. We have found some youngsters who are generally very inexperienced, but it’s fair to say that the Japanese have tended to be one step ahead as the season has progressed. It has been a journey on which all of the riders have made a step forward - some more than others, of course. The experience has been enriching for everybody, for both the riders and for us, and we have established a strong series. It is the first road racing competition of its kind in the Asian region and is a step forward for motorcycle racing in Asia. And that was always the goal.

Another objective was to discover brand-new talents who can go on to make an impression on the international scene. Is there any good news on that front?
There are three riders – Kaito Toba, Ayumu Sasaki and Yuta Date – who have proven to shine more than the others. Are they prepared for the World Championship? Perhaps not 100% just yet, but they are now ready to compete in other championships such as the FIM CEV Repsol or Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup.

As opposed to working directly alongside Dani Pedrosa, this year you have taken on more of an advisory role with HRC. What sort of experience was that?
Firstly, I would point out that I have actually been with Honda for many years, since 1993. This year, I wasn’t working with Dani at Repsol Honda Team, but Honda asked if I would be able to assist them in terms of supporting the young riders in the Asia Talent Cup. So I was overseeing the evolution of riders there and, at the same time, supervising a number of others teams and riders in the World Championship.

In Moto3 you have been advising Efren Vazquez, for example, and it is said that the idea for Jack Miller to move straight up to MotoGP came from you…
Well, I have known Efren since the days of the MotoGP Academy and he asked if I would be able to help him out, which is what I did. And with regards to Miller…they asked me about that possibility and I gave them my thoughts. It was a conversation we had, but at Honda they will ultimately promote whoever they choose to promote. In general, and not just in the case of Miller, I believe that a talented rider needs to be given opportunities and that they should take advantage of any opportunity that arises.

And how do you feel about your new tasks at HRC?
It has been very interesting. For me it was like watching proceedings from a different point of view and it was a very enriching experience. It gives you a broader vision of everything and you deal with different people in the company; not just from Repsol Honda, either, as HRC is made up of many different people and this year I have been working more from the Japanese side of things.

In your punditry with Movistar TV this year, we have heard you praising the likes of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi…
Well, it is just that Valentino has surprised me greatly. Some time ago people were asking me about him and, with all due respect, I thought he was struggling to make an impression. He has now gone on to finish runner-up in the World Championship. I was completely wrong about that and I’m happy that I was mistaken. I think it is great for the sport that Rossi is still at such a level. What impressed me most was the way he regained his speed and aggressiveness. He has been able to stay ahead of Lorenzo and Pedrosa and I admit that, for me, this was something completely unexpected.

Marc Marquez appeared to surprise you a little less!
There isn’t much to say about Marc. He is a rider who won the world title in his first season of the premier class. After that, what would you expect? That he was to go backwards? It only ever could have got better, unless something unfortunate had happened in the way of an injury.

Finally, what did you make of Dani Pedrosa’s 2014 campaign? He ended it fourth in the standings, which generally was not expected.
Everyone will draw their own conclusions from that. I have not followed it in great detail, as I was with other things in the paddock - with HRC and so on - and what went on in that particular garage is not my business to discuss. All I can do is look at the results of the races and see where he finished. Of course I have my opinion on the matter…but that is my opinion.

MotoGP, 2014

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