It’s a strange situation happening worldwide due to Covid-19, the Coronavirus. It’s very unusual to experience something which has such an impact on the sport and has become a global crisis, isn’t it?
Of course this is a very difficult situation, but we all know that public health and people’s safety are the priority now more than ever, so the strategies and the action needed to contain the virus are crucial. The modern sporting world has never suffered anything like this, in a way it almost makes me think of something like a World War situation which causes everything to stop.
Have you ever experienced anything similar during your career?
Definitely not. There has never been such an emergency situation which has resulted in the cancellation or postponement of races. We had an economical crisis in 2008 and we tried to reduce costs, and then in 2018 we cancelled a race in Silverstone because of the extreme weather conditions. But I don’t remember any situation which, for political or health reasons, meant a such a long stop. Nobody has experienced this in world sport before. This is a global situation.
How difficult is it to deal with this type of pandemic from a Team Manager’s point of view?
Honestly speaking, in the early days it was difficult because this is something we’ve never dealt with before. So much of our lives revolve around long-term planning and preparing, always looking ahead to the next week, month, or even year. But now that the severity of the situation is clear we have to realise that plans go out the window. It’s impossible to make plans now because so many things can change, and plans changing at the last minute has almost become the norm. So we try to do the best we can, we wait, and we give priority to health and taking care of our families.
Despite the fact that this is a medical emergency, it is also having a huge impact from an economical point of view. How does that affect MotoGP?
The entire economy is affected, and I believe our company is no different. The whole business is functioning differently at the moment. And of course it affects the MotoGP series too. The impact won’t be so big if we are able to continue the season without any more cancellations - when we cancel, organisers and promoters lose out. It also affects the teams who have a lot of sponsorship. But if I’m honest, nobody is really thinking about financial things right now, because business and economics are the secondary priority. The focus for everybody is much more on health and on how to find a way to fix things. Later on, when the emergency is over, we will think about these matters.
What about life away from the race track?
It’s different, we are used to having a plan and knowing where we will be tomorrow, next week, next month. Now we are working from home for a long period of time and we have to learn how to deal with it and how to get the maximum out of it. Having an organisation with staff all around the world, we are quite used to working via email and telephone, but usually this is only between races. At the moment there cannot be any face-to-face meetings or discussions and it could be a long time before we see our crew and teammates. Of course we are following the guidelines from the governments and authorities, which is to stay at home and try to avoid contact.
Unfortunately in Italy the situation is very serious, I hope that all other countries around the world will follow what Italy is doing and what China has done, which seems to be effective, before it gets too late. It would be much better to copy what has been done to prevent the spread rather than waiting until it becomes very serious. We have been forced to slow down our daily activities and let’s use this extra time to enjoy our families, study, or find new interests to keep us occupied.
Now that the severity of the situation is clear we have to realise that plans go out the window. We are following the guidelines from the governments and authorities
How are all the factories and teams co-ordinating with other institutions such as Dorna, the FIM, and IRTA…?
I have to say that we are in frequent contact with Dorna Management, we are consulting each other and suggesting options or solutions. Dorna and IRTA kept all the teams informed during the cancellations and postponements. We have a very good relationship. Everyone has been very much available and open to trying to fix the problems for everybody. It’s a very hard time and we understand the difficulties for Dorna, so as a team we are trying to give maximum support and solidarity. We are all working together to figure out how to deal with this situation.
The Qatar race was cancelled for the MotoGP class and now Thailand, Texas, and Argentina have been postponed and the situation doesn’t look good for the calendar right now. Is there any update on this?
Not yet. We are following the situation day by day, like everybody else, to check how it’s developing. We simply have to try and make plans and then wait to see if they can be carried out, if the plan can’t happen we make a new one. As I said, we are keeping in contact with Dorna and IRTA to modify things accordingly depending on the news. Of course we hope to be back on track as soon as possible, but first we have to get out of this emergency.
Is there any sort of Crisis Committee to reorganise the Championship?
Not really. The Dorna Management are very busy talking to all the circuits and organisers in order to find the best solution. As a team we consult with them and talk it all through thoroughly.
Are you also chatting frequently with the factory workers to discuss any changes?
Yes, of course. We talk everyday with the engineers in Japan to adjust the plan. At SMC (Suzuki Motor Corporation) they are trying to work on the last tweaks ready to start the championship. But from a technical point of view we were pretty OK and the bike was ready, so there is not much we want to do there.
Are there any safety protocols imposed by Suzuki in terms of activities such as travel etc?
Basically inside the company any travel is very much limited. As a team nobody is travelling now. We have also decided to cancel the test that was scheduled for March 18th to 20th in Jerez, just to keep everyone safe.
And how is the connection with the team members? How are they after a long period without races?
We are in contact keeping everybody updated with all the news, we’re all in the same boat. Via telephone, email, and WhatsApp it’s easy for us to share comments and news, but it’s just a question of waiting and supporting each other.
It’s a very hard time and we understand the difficulties for Dorna, so as a team we are trying to give maximum support and solidarity. We are all working together to figure out how to deal with this situation.
And the riders, do you communicate often with them?
They are not happy because they were really ready to start the season. But they are in good shape and they are training a lot and staying focused, trying to stay ready for whenever the first race will happen. Everybody understands the priorities and the safety precautions so they simply accept it like everyone else.
How are they coping being confined at home?
They’re actually fine, they live in Andorra and they are organising their training in different ways and keeping busy while they are restricted.
How does this crisis affect the working strategy for the season, inside and outside the race circuits?
At the moment it’s not affecting things much. We are in a very uncertain situation, just waiting as we don’t know when the first race will be, so it’s difficult to make a strategy. All we know for sure is that the last part of the Championship will be very busy with so many races concentrated between September and November. Once we are able to start the season then we will make a proper strategy. Right now we can only do some ‘homework’ and stay ready.
Considering the great performance by the Suzuki bikes and riders during the winter tests it is a big pity that the Championship was delayed due to Covid-19, right?
From a purely sporting point of view, it’s a really big pity, and we’re disappointed because we felt we had good potential and we were really interested to see where it would take us, we wanted to start racing. But now the priorities are totally different, the world is in crisis and first we have to fix this and take care of ourselves and our loved ones.
What would you say to all the sports and MotoGP fans at home waiting for racing?
Now the most important race we have is the one against Covid-19. Let’s beat that and then we can enjoy life again and enjoy MotoGP as well. We understand how they feel because we’re also waiting, and perhaps even more keen than our fans to get back on track and start racing.
It will be a great championship when it starts! There are many riders capable of great performances and there will be many fighting for the victory. I know it’s hard to wait, but at the moment, let’s concentrate on this emergency. It’s imperative that we follow instructions and stay at home, like the Italians are strictly doing now. If we do this all around the world for few weeks, we will be able to start racing as soon as possible.