“Suzuki is like a family; in the hard times, instead of ruining everything, we grew stronger”

How would you rate your first season with Suzuki on a scale of 1-10?

My evaluation of the 2017 season should be split in two. For the first three quarters of the season the results were not satisfactory, and they were below expectations. If I have to give it a grade I would say 6/10, it’s not a bad grade just because of the efforts we made and the attitude we had; never giving up! Also for the posi-tivity we maintained.
The last part of the season instead was much better, we managed to obtain satisfactory results. Still not enough, but for sure it was an improvement. I’d say 8/10, both for the team and for me. Together we man-aged to get a better feeling with the bike and the team, in the test we worked very well and in the end we saw the fruits of our labour.

What has been the most crucial part of adapting to the bike?

The GSX-RR is the kind of bike that suits my riding style; very fast on corner speed. It is ideal for running a high pace through the corners. This is an area where I’ve always been strong, even in the past when I was racing in the smaller classes. From this aspect it was love at first sight between me and my bike! The tough-est part has been to understand the limits and problems that we encountered, and then to understand how to modify the machine and find the solutions. It’s been a matter of technique but also of our working method. It took some time, but in the end we found a good way.

Regarding the atmosphere in Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, how did you feel?

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR is like a family and I felt this atmosphere since the very first moment I arrived in the garage. During this year we’ve got to know each other better and better and our relationship has strengthened, this meant that we stayed united also in the tough moments, and in the end it allowed us to respond to difficulties and overcome them. In hard times it’s easy to ruin everything, but we didn’t, and in-stead we grew stronger.

How much did you have to change your riding style to adapt to this bike?

The GSX-RR is pretty aligned with my riding style. We had to improve some aspects like the braking on corner entry, or the acceleration, but it’s not really a matter of riding style, it’s more about overall perfor-mance of a racing machine. These are points we have improved on the bike, so also the riding style went along with them, as a more effective machine allows me to ride more as I wish, the two things are synony-mous and in the end it makes the whole package become more competitive.

During the off-season what have you concentrated on improving, from a physical and mental point of view, for this upcoming 2018 season?

After one year of experience everything will be a little easier because I know the bike better and I already know what to expect. I focused both on physical and mental training because they go hand-in-hand. The positive feelings I got from the last end-of- season test allowed me to go to the winter break with renewed confidence, which already benefitted the mental side of my training. For the physical fitness I did a lot of work in the gym but also I rode a lot, as riding a bike - even the RM-Z MX – is always the best way to train.

After the test in early November you gave some directions and requests to Suzuki. What kind of changes do you expect on the GSX-RR arriving in Sepang?

I’m not expecting a revolutionary change, simply because the base setting of the GSX-RR is already excel-lent. Our objective is to further improve the aspects we’ve been working on during the last part of the 2017 season; which means to improve acceleration and to improve the braking so that I can be more efficient on corner entry. There are many little details that can be fixed, which together will make a better machine overall.
Step by step which also matches with the Japanese philosophy.

How much room for improvement does the GSX-RR have, especially given the concessions that Suzuki will now have with the engine development and unlimited testing?

They will help but I don’t think they will make a real difference. Looking back to 2017, of course if we had the concessions maybe we could have fixed some of our issues earlier. But hopefully this necessity would not occur again, as we have now figured out the problem and we’ve been working on solutions for months now with positive outcomes so far. Concerning the tests, our calendar is already very tight, especially with one more race in Thailand, which means we don’t really have many days off when we can schedule some additional tests.

Do you think that the rivalry with your team-mate can push you even more, and help Suzuki to progress?

Alex Rins is young but he has already showed his talent, he’s a very strong rider, which is very helpful also for the development of the bike. Unfortunately last year he had some injuries which took him out for a long time. Working together in the garage will be a lot of motivation for me, but also for the whole team. He now has one more year of experience, he already knows how this works, and I feel very good with the relation-ship I have with him. We will help to push each other, as it should always be between Factory riders!

What goals have you personally set for this season?

We started in a situation that didn’t satisfy us, and from this we must grow and improve. That was not the place we deserved, so we have to find a way to get back close to the top, where a Factory team belongs.