A Qatar 1-2 pleases Michael Bartholemy

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

There were fewer people in Qatar happier than Michael Bartholemy. His Moto2™ men finished first and second and his Moto3™ star continued to improve, while an ex rider put in an extremely impressive MotoGP™ debut…

Michael, what a brilliant start to the season for Marc VDS in Moto2™!
Yes, it was good. Not just having a one-two, but also a pole position. It would have been difficult to have anything better than what we managed in Qatar. Winning with a new rider is always something. I knew from testing that Tito (Rabat) was good but you never know for sure until the race weekend comes, with the pressure and so on.

Tito Rabat has looked so confident in general across the pre-season…
Yeah…also, he is really focused on winning and making it happen. Actually, he put a lot of effort into the Almeria test and really did a lot to make it all happen. I was so happy he won the race because he put so much in all winter. It was like a ‘thank you’.

Mika Kallio also performed extremely well, finishing on the podium after a big accident at the end of qualifying.
It was obviously hard for him, after that had happened. We know for sure that he can regularly finish on the podium, but of course the crash on Saturday didn’t help. The bike was completely destroyed and we couldn’t repair it. We had already lost two bikes in the Phillip Island test (one with Mika, on the second day at Turn 6, and one with Tito, on the last day at Turn 2). Then this one in Qatar with Mika. Luckily the Petronas team helped us out with a frame; without them, it would have been impossible for Mika to start the race, so a big ‘thank you’ to them and their support, which helped us enormously. Obviously, also thanks to Marc himself, because without as always his financial support is a very, very important.

Although you finished the race first and third, it ended up being a one-two as the Idemitsu team suffered an unlucky disqualification with Takaaki Nakagami…
I don’t think ‘unlucky’ is the word. The rules are very clear and even show a picture. It’s really, really clear. The regulations clearly state that you cannot use the air filter that was on Nakagami’s bike. I even remember that, back in 2010 or 2011, the championship changed to this new air filter only because of Qatar; the engines heat up because of all of the sand in the air, which can cause some damage and loss of power. I cannot understand why they didn’t just follow the rule book.

Regarding your own riders, they could be fighting for the title this year. Are they allowed to battle for victories all through the season?
The two have freedom to fight together and see what they can do, which is nice. With all of the years I have been around, I still think this is the first time we have had a one-two finish in the opening race, which obviously means we are first and second in the Riders’ Championship. It is good, but we can’t just stop now. We have definitely done a good job over the winter and it is looking good, but look what happened last year…Scott Redding was leading the way in the middle of the season, then it all went wrong. We must keep working, with all the team remaining focused to get through the remaining 17 hard races. We need points, podiums and wins as much as we possibly can because – as we saw with Scott in Australia last year – anything can happen.

It is not just about Rabat and Kallio, either. In Moto3™ you are running the talented youngster Livio Loi, who also looked good in Qatar…
Sure. Basically, I think he did a super job in the three practice sessions. He was then 11th quickest in the Warm-Up which was perfect. Qualifying was a little under expectation – maybe there he could have fared a bit better. Then came the race, with all of that heat, and I was expecting at least one point. That would have been nice. In the end he finished 17th from 20th on the grid; that is okay and I am sure we can improve further when we go to Austin. We need to improve our qualifying pace and the race results, but I was pleasantly surprised by the way practice went.

In the meantime, your ex Moto2™ rider Scott Redding was making his debut in the MotoGP™ premier class. He beat Nicky Hayden to end the race in seventh place, as the leading running on a new Honda RCV1000R bike.
I must say, it was a fantastic job from Scott. I was in the garage at the time and it was really, really good. I think the target should always be to beat Nicky, who is an ex World Champion who knows MotoGP™ inside-out. There are some differences: Scott is running with Nissin brakes and Showa suspension, whereas Nicky is Brembo brakes and Ohlins suspension. But Scott overtook him and then pulled away. Pretty good job! I am very, very happy for him to finish P7…and nearly P6 because Crutchlow in front only just crossed the line, with a problem. That was just the sort of result Scott needed; to be – apart from Aleix Espargaro – the leading Open rider of the 11 or 12 that we have in the field. We can only say: ‘Well done Scott Redding!’

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