You certainly achieved a lot in your racing career and raced in many Championships. Of all those championships and types of motorcycle you rode, which was your favourite experience and why?
Well, it’s a difficult one but would say that as most challenging experience was in 1998. I was riding a private Ducati, we were very small team and achieved some rostrums and front rows ahead of much bigger teams and riders including factory supported teams. That was an awesome experience for everyone involved.
The Ninja ZX-7RR was an iconic machine but at 750cc it frequently had to work hard against much bigger capacity bikes – what were the strengths of the ZX-7RR, what did it do well as a machine?
That ZX-7RR was a bit tricky in terms of power. At the time many other machines I raced against had bigger engines and more power. However it had a good chassis and handled well specially on the twisty tracks.
You rode for KRT between 1999 and 2001. Tell us what your favourite track was at this time and what was your most memorable race on the ZX-7RR ?
I loved Phillip Island, plus at that time we were doing most of the winter testing there plus Eastern Creek even in Indonesia. Like many, many riders Phillip Island remains one of my top memories.
For me the most difficult time in those racing years was my come back after losing a few rounds due to a hip injury I sustained at Monza. To be able to comeback in a short period of time and be able to have good results at Brands Hatch and then finish in the rostrum at Orchersleben was very fulfilling experience – and specially because at that time the Kawasaki Racing Team was run by Harald Eckl a German with many German team members.
You came to the UK and won the 2005 British Superbike Championship having never ridden many of the tracks before – what was the secret of this success, how did you create such an amazing season?
Well, two points are important to consider. I was at my best of my career personally but due to some external circumstances I actually had no job. I was contracted by Suzuki for WorldSBK in 2003. Then they decided not to race in 2004 in SBK so I became a MotoGP test rider for them.
My knowledge was important for the UK Airwaves team in 2005 in BSB. Not just in terms of bike set up but also my desire to continue doing what I love and put aside some concerns that maybe someone else might have as a first time rider on certain tracks.
Last but not least, the team I rode for was very professional and with very good equipment.
All manufacturers were truly competitive at the opening round in Australia – how much of that is due to the rules being stabilised this winter after many changes over the past few years?
Well we changed when was needed but none this winter. We agreed a route with FIM, Manufacturers, Teams and this is the result. I understand sometimes is hard to accept a change when especially you are on the favourable side. In the end I think its worthy for all us involved in this sport so the success is shared between all the parties, at least from my side it is what I think.
What were the immediate challenges involved for Dorna and its partners when it became clear that Losail and Jerez and now Assen could not go ahead as planned? Do you think Dorna will offer some support for teams in these hard times?
We have a difficult situation here worldwide so once we realized our normal activity was on hold we designed a plan (even if plans currently can be modified fast). We worked out what could be the worst scenario and minimize all side effects to everyone not only teams as this situation affect all us.
Unfortunately there is no winner in this situation and my hope and biggest desire now is everyone is safe and with good health. After this, to come back to our normal activity as soon as possible, to see our paddock family and continue to give a great show for the public as we witnessed in Australia.
Assuming we must lose some more rounds in the early season plan, how much contingency is there for running the full season over fewer rounds later in the season? For example, can we do more than three races per weekend if necessary?
Well it all depends on when we start, but even if we need to lose 1 or 2 rounds (though it’s not the plan) I think especially for SBK it should be not necessary in my opinion to add many more races as the amount of points in play is huge. In any case these things can be discussed later. The most important thing in racing terms is to pick up the season once more – whenever that may be.
Fogarty/Russell/Edwards/Bayliss? Do you think the current championship is on that past level or do you not think in those terms?
In fact, I was there at that time and a lot of things has changed around the motorsport since those times that I look back on so fondly. Honestly speaking what impressed me most as a privateer in my first season in SBK was the amount of money and support plus the level of the factory teams. If I value now our championship in those terms then we are pretty similar; of course with great ambitions to exceed even that level of commitment.
Evolution: Racing must always look forwards – how do you think WorldSBK will evolve in the next 5 years? … or how would you like to see it evolve?
Umm, interesting; I would say something like “We have already planted the grass let’s see how it grows”. Besides some understandable minor adjustments if things are needed they will happen.
We are on the right path and, unless a new unexpected situation arrives, or all our partners consider we need a change, if that’s not the scenario and the evolution of WorldSBK is good so “Let the good times roll” for now.