You have already won a WSS600 Championship before coming to Kawasaki – how do you rate your chances of another World Championship, this time on a Ninja?
Of course it is possible to win the championship with this bike. But it is not easy as this model of the bike is a little bit old. But I think it is possible because last year in the second part of the championship I took the maximum points compared to the other riders. So I think it is possible.
You seem to be much more confident with the Ninja ZX-6R package now – tell us about your process of learning, developing and improving.
I think it was a lot of little details. The first detail was my riding my riding style, adapting to this bike. Also the cohesion with the team. Changing the bike is one point changing the team and it is difficult in the beginning to have the good relation for the first half of the season. Also, when you are not fast on the bike you start to have a little problem. Then, when you have the first good result, the good relations start. I think that was the big improvement in going from lower results to better results. Not really the bike, it is just small adjustments.
You have raced in many series and many classes. How has this helped your career, has it made you more versatile?
Yes, but when I arrived on the Kawasaki I thought OK, to change manufacturer is not a big thing because every time I changed the bike in my career and jumped in a new team and bike and every time I was in a good position directly. When I went onto this bike I was five, or six. Nice positions… but thinking about winning the championship the level was a little bit bigger.
There have been many strong French riders in WorldSSP particularly over the years. So many. Why do you think this is?
I think that it is the category of the World Championship that is less expensive. I think in France we have a little bit of a problem with sponsorship. The French people do not like very much the bikes, compared to Spain or Italy, where it is the big passion for them. I think it is a little bit different for the French. I also thing it does not have the good academy for staring with prototype bikes. In France, if you like riding and you want to jump into the European or World championship there is just one category and that is 600. The category is less expensive and the 600s in the French championship a little the same compared to the 600s in WorldSSP – I think.
You were big rivals with Kenan Sofuoglu at one time and now you are riding for the team and on the bike that he had so much success with. Was there extra pressure when you signed with Kawasaki and Puccetti, given who had been there before you?
It was difficult in the beginning because every time the team compared the result of Kenan and me. This was the big difference and the difficult thing with the team. In the beginning, OK, first race, second race, third race, I did not speak. OK, Kenan if more fast and I am further back. Then after the third race I was like, ‘OK, stop looking at the paper, remove the results and look at the lap times.’ When Kenan won the races, the record of the track for example set by Kenan is now is the rhythm of the race for 19 laps! The bike and tyres are the same but if put the old lap times there, Kenan if 15th, 17th. I know for sure the championship has improved. So no, there was no extra expectation for me.
You are extremely passionate and determined on track, you can see and feel it from you. Does it get the better of you sometimes or have you enough experience to control it better?
For me, racing bikes is my life. But it is not only on the bike. Everything in my life, when I start one little thing I like working 100% and more. On the bike it is my big passion and I do not like to finish second or third. For sure sometimes it is difficult, because if you do not have the material it is not possible to win and that is difficult to accept for me. Every time in my head I am the best, and I like to be the best. But I think it is better to be a rider who has to calm down than a rider without a big passion. It is difficult to speed a slow rider up, rather than calm down a fast one. When I started working with Kawasaki I also started to work with Fabien Foret and he helped me in this way a lot to stay calm. It was for my head. I also work with somebody else at home now to help me control the emotions, and I feel it for sure. It is not something mechanical, it is inside your head, so it difficult to explain.