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Didier de Radiguès talks about the victory of Xavier Simeon, after watching his protégé triumph in the Sachsenring Moto2™ race.
Four wins during his career which lasted from 1980 to 1991, Didier de Radiguès was the last Belgian to claim victory in the World Championship. The 250cc race at Spa-Francorchamps in 1983 was the scene of this last Belgian triumph. Now de Radiguès works as a MotoGP™ commentator for Belgian television, allowing him to witness Simeon claim a brilliant victory in the Moto2™ race in Germany. 32 years since the last Belgian win made it an important day for both riders, but also a key page in the history of motorcycle racing in Belgium.
Didier, it’s a great day for Xavier and yourself. Not only was it his first Grand Prix victory, but he’s also the third winner from Belgium alongside Julien Van Zeebroeck and yourself. What assessments do you make of his career?
First of all a great day for Xavier as for me, for sure. It is great to take your first win, there is nothing better than clearing the pressure of the past when you do. I was the last Belgian to win a Grand Prix, but that was 32 years ago! I have worked with and helped Xavier for many years and I have been expecting this victory for a long time.
Today we saw a Simeon who was able to fully express his talent. He has had a few tough seasons, difficult with a lot of pressure. It is not easy for a small Belgian to fight at the global level; you encounter problems of budget and other difficulties. There is also a lot of pressure that might not be obvious, has he been a victim of pressure in recent years?
It all started well this season, but then he had some counter productive performances for various reasons. A bit was bad luck, some misunderstandings and for one reason or another the pressure crept back in. Then for a few races we took the decision to no longer push fully to get the absolutely best result, instead to avoid risks and regain confidence by finishing in the top six as often as possible. That is what he has done and then here in Germany, with confidence restored, we agreed that it was time to go, to fully show his talent and remove all pressure. That is what really happened since Qualification.
The race was not easy, even starting from the front. He had to stay in contact with Zarco and Morbidelli who were both very fast, then to go seek Zarco at the end of the race and finally resist him at the close. I think a switch has been flicked in Simeon’s head. Seven laps from the end I saw him at his full potential. It was no longer a matter of pressure; it was like watching an artist on the handlebars who could fully express their talent. We saw a lot from Xavier in those final laps. This victory is not due to chance, he has gone and chased Zarco done, he had a switch in his head during the race, but perhaps also in his career now.
Simeon had already demonstrated that he was fast at the Sachsenring in the past, claiming pole in 2013. Were you expecting his victory to come at this circuit?
Quite, we had said in the past that it could happen at Sachsenring. To go fast at this level is something very complicated, it is done through a lot of little things, especially in Moto2. It begins back in Free Practice, and then in Qualifying, both are very important. Then the race, the first turn… it is the culmination of a whole lot of things. It is true that Xavier feels strong at the Sachsenring that he is very fast here and he already made pole position in 2013, but I think that this is not a fact of just this Grand Prix alone. It is a circuit that he likes but really I think there he clicks here and he has made a major step, we will see him strong for the rest of the season.
What importance does such an event have for Belgium, which now has a third winner, 32 years after your last victory?
The first win was Julien van Zeebroek in 1976 in the 50cc class and when a Belgian has an achievement of this kind it will be in all of the daily press in the headlines and the first few pages. It is great; the media frenzy is going to be very high in the next week. In 1982, when I had won my first Grand Prix, I remember the headlines were saying “Six year after van Zeebroek” and now it will be “32 years after de Radiguès!” In Belgium we have waited a long time to again to win a GP, this is great. It also shows how difficult it is to get here. I have had a chance to win four races and therefore this will be the next record for Xavier to beat. I really wish him well to succeed and I hope for Belgium, for me and for the entire world that this is the beginning of a long adventure.
A first victory always gives more confidence to a rider. Can this victory serve as a springboard for Simeon for the rest of the season and what do you expect from him in the second half of the year?
I think there has been a click. He has a lot of pressure every season, also a lot of pressure here, to do well. He already had a podium but never a victory and it wasn’t enough. There is a lot of pressure that drops off then you win your first race. He has seen he is capable of battling against the best drivers of the time, Zarco who is tough, but we’ve know since Austin that we can beat him. Simeon has the knowledge that he can be on the podium or the top six if it’s a bad day. I think this will help him to adjust things in a major way, be much more sure of himself and to be quick in racing you must be confident. Everything seems easy after a success and Xavier knows he can come out from the hard times even stronger as he has done now.
Moto2™ is a particularly tough championship, many riders are in a similar situation to Simeon with many able to fight in the first three or six…
It is a highly contested category, the differences are very small and you must be very, very strong in the head. Preparation is critical. As I said, it starts with Free Practice and Qualifying, you have to start on the front two rows, the front is obviously better because leading into the first turn is very helpful. From there you can work in the race and fully show yourself, if you’re not at the front it’s very difficult.
It is also an important win for the Gresini Team and for your partnership with Fausto Gresini…
For sure this win comes at an ideal time. It falls around the time of negotiations of contracts. I that that inside Gresini they have wanted to continue with Xavier. Their relationship is great as well as Simeon’s with the team. There is a strong family spirit with Fausto Gresini, almost even a protective spirit towards Xavier, he has a lot of hope for their future. For sure this result helps to comfort their relationship, and the sponsors. It’s a very good sign for the future and certainly to continue with Gresini.
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