MotoGP Q&AAt the official launch of Yamaha Factory Racing’s 2011 MotoGP livery at Sepang on Monday, team motorcycle riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies were interviewed.
Lorenzo and Spies, along with Yamaha Racing’s Managing Director Lin Jarvis, discussed the upcoming 2011 MotoGP season, the team and the 50th anniversary of Yamaha in MotoGP, among other things.In 2011, which opens at Qatar on March 17, Lorenzo and Spies will be seeking to give Yamaha their third triple title in MotoGP: rider, manufacturer and team titles.Following is an official transcript of the press conference held at Sepang the day before the second of three pre-season MotoGP test begin at the Malaysian circuit. Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP (#1):1. Winning the MotoGP World Championship in 2010 was a fantastic achievement, how did you feel afterwards?The MotoGP World Championship is the highest title a rider can get, to get it at 23yrs old makes me feel very proud of my team and of myself. We enjoyed some time over the winter break, I would have liked some more free time but I understand that when you become a champion you have responsibilities for your team! I did have time to take a holiday in Bali and relax, so we celebrated and now it’s time to start again.2. Does it feel different to start your racing season as the reigning world champion?No, I try not to have so much pressure on myself. I always try to improve and work harder every year. If I am prepared things can be good, if I’m not then it’s more difficult. Not everything depends on me, racing is difficult and success depends on many things so I try to make sure the rider is as perfect as can be.3. This year is a very special racing year for Yamaha as it is the 50th Anniversary of MotoGP participation, what does this mean for you to be part of it?When I first came to Yamaha it was a dream for me at 19 yrs old, the legend of Yamaha was very big. To be one champion in the history of Yamaha champions is good. I am looking forward to being part of this special year.4. You have a new team mate this season with Ben Spies joining the team, are you enjoying working with a new rider?Yes, Ben is a friendly guy, he is serious on the track like me but we have no problems between each other and I don’t think we will have in the future either. Our situation is very strong as we are two very fast riders. I think the way we are on track and the way we are away from the track are very different. It’s good for us to have a great relationship, not just for us but to help Yamaha to develop the bike.5. You have completed one test now here at Sepang, what is your feeling for the 2011 YZR-M1?I don’t think any rider is ever totally satisfied but I understand it is really difficult to improve a MotoGP bike at this level when it is already so successful. I have confidence in Yamaha and believe we will keep on having a winning bike like the previous years.
6. This year you have chosen to run the number one on your bike, what was your reason to do this?Whenever I have the opportunity I will put the number one on my bike. When I was in Mallorca racing in the Mallorcan championship I always put the number one on and when I won the world championship in 250cc I put the number one on. Traditionally when a rider becomes champion they earn the right to do it so I will keep doing it whenever I have the chance.7. Last year you were famous for your unusual race victory celebrations, do you have anything exciting planned for this year?No plans yet but if I did I couldn’t tell you!8. You will be testing again tomorrow here at Sepang, what is your focus for this test?I’ve worked a lot on my physical condition over the last two weeks as I felt quite tired in the last test after so long not riding a MotoGP bike. Now with a better condition and more used to the bike again I’m going to push harder and see what Yamaha has to bring for the test.9. Do you have a message for Yamaha racing fans?It’s the 50th anniversary of Yamaha in Grand Prix racing so it’s a very special year. Finally we have the number one on the bike after 17 years so it’s an important year for the whole Yamaha family, I hope you all enjoy this year’s races.10. You’ve had an opportunity to see the 2011 special Yamaha corporate racing blue livery on your bike now, what are your first impressions?It’s really nice, I’m a big fan of the official colours of Yamaha so I’m very happy with it.11. What are your predictions for Ben this season?I think Ben is going to fight for the championship. He is very fast and has already shown he can fight to the front of the pack and was the best satellite rider last year.Ben Spies, Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP (#11):1. 2010 was an impressive MotoGP debut for you, earning the Rookie of the Year title, how was your first full season in MotoGP?It was good, I had a lot to learn. It was definitely the most learning and the toughest year I’ve had in racing, which was to be expected as MotoGP is the elite racing league. I learnt a bunch of new tracks and got to grips with a new team, it was a big learning year! We hit our stride mid-season and kept working on it, scoring a second place, a pole position and a couple of podiums. Securing the factory ride made it a great year.2. As a result of this success you are now a Yamaha Factory rider this season. How does it feel to join the top team in the championship? Is it a different experience?A lot of people might look at it and think it’s a lot of pressure but for me now the pressure is off. Last year I needed to prove something which I did. Now I’m on the factory team I feel I worked hard last year to get there and deserve it. Now I need to keep giving 100%, I’ve got a great crew behind me and am riding for a great manufacturer. We should have a great bike this year and I’ve got a world champion team mate so I’ve got the best of the best. This is the last step, MotoGP, on a factory bike, the only thing left to do in a rider’s career is win a MotoGP race and win a MotoGP championship and that’s not impossible.3. This is now your third year as a Yamaha rider, considering this is the 50th Anniversary of Yamaha’s MotoGP racing is it a unique experience to be part of the Yamaha family?For sure, just to be part of the Yamaha family is a big thing, I’ve been here for three years now and it’s been great. They welcomed me in my first year and I’m proud that I’ve been able to win the first world superbike title for them. This year moving to the factory team in the same year as the 50th anniversary is huge for me, there’s going to be some special things going on during the season and being team mates with the world champion at this time is very cool.4. How are you finding the 2011 YZR-M1?It’s good. We’ve had three days on it now to evaluate. We’ve still got a lot of stuff to work through and test and look at and hopefully some more stuff at Qatar. With 2012 coming and 1000cc rule changes there’s not going to be any mind blowing changes to the bike on the grid, but Yamaha have made some improvements for what we needed.5. It must be a great learning opportunity to share your garage with the reigning world champion?Absolutely! Jorge is the fastest guy in the world, you can either be intimidated by it or learn from it. I’d like to think there’s a lot of things I do like the way I approach my racing and the way I race a motorcycle that I like, but there’s things I need to learn that I’d like to learn from Jorge, not just how to go faster on a motorcycle. He’s got that pure speed so again there’s no one I’d rather be team mates with than the fastest person.6. You spent a productive year in 2010 learning the new circuits of this championship, what are your goals for this season?You can’t just jump in and say we’re going for the championship this year, it’s still early and it’s only our second season. We finished sixth at the end of 2010; I always want to do better every year I race so I want to finish inside the top five this year. Realistically my aim is to battle for wins and podiums. Usually in a MotoGP race you can see clearly one guy who looks good for the win, and then you can see the podium battle, I want to be in that battle every weekend and I want to win a couple of races. Obviously we want to win the title, that’s everybody’s goal, but realistically a battle for the podium and aim for top five every race is the target. When there’s a win possible we’ll go for it and hopefully we’ll get a couple of shots at it.7. You have some old faces and some new faces in the pit-garage this year, following your test two weeks ago, how is the feeling with your crew?The feeling is really good, the last test was the first time I’ve worked with everybody on the team, it’s my first year with the data engineer who used to be with Valentino obviously knows the bike really well. I’ve been with my Crew Chief and head mechanic for years so I know them really well. I’ve worked with some of my mechanics before either in World Superbike championship, wild cards in MotoGP or in AMA. The team director Massimo Meregalli was my team manager in Superbike and helped me win my first world title.8. What’s your game plan for this next test here in Sepang?During the last test we worked on some key elements, this time we’ll be working on the set up, trying to get that fast lap time out of the bike and some more race distance runs to see how the bike behaves after a few laps. We’ll mess with the electronics a little bit and see what we can do. The last test was evaluating and choosing parts to use for the year, now we have a base pack and we need to fine tune it to go faster!9. Do you have a message for Yamaha racing fans?I think Yamaha is a great team, it’s a great year with the anniversary going on so it’s going to be spectacular. A lot of people are going to be wanting to watch the racing and be involved.10. You’ve had an opportunity to see the 2011 special Yamaha corporate racing blue livery on your bike now, what are your first impressions?I think it’s really good, I love the corporate colours and think it looks very professional. It’s pretty loud and very unique and classic. I’m a big fan of the style!11. What are your predictions for Jorge this season?I think he’s the man to beat for sure. He’s the guy that when he puts his helmet on he has one thing on his mind. On the track he’s matured and we can all see that. He’s got the speed and he’s learnt how to harness it. When he needs to turn it up he’s able to do that so I predict he’s the man to beat, if anyone wants to win the world title they’ve got to go through him.Lin Jarvis, Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Racing Srl:1. How significant is the 50th Anniversary of Yamaha’s involvement in Grand Prix racing for the team?This year will be a very exciting year for us. Yamaha has been involved in racing for so many years, since almost the beginning of the company. It really is something that’s in our DNA so to celebrate the 50th Anniversary as the factory team this year is an honour.2. This will be the third consecutive season start for you as holders of the Triple Crown in MotoGP. Does this give you extra pressure for the championship?Not really, in racing you have to be realistic; at the start of every season you actually have nothing to lose because everybody starts with zero points. What we’ve achieved with the hat trick of Triple Crowns is fantastic and it’s in the history books already. If we can do it a fourth time that’s great, we’ll certainly be putting our maxim effort in.3. Jorge Lorenzo performed fantastically last year, taking the well deserved championship title, what are your hopes for him this season?We’ve seen Jorge grow step by step in the three seasons he’s ridden for us. In the first he was fourth, the second he was second then he became champion. If he can keep his focus as pure as it was last year, have the same dedication towards the title and if we as a team can provide him with the bike then I think he’s in good shape to win the title again.4. You welcome 2010 rookie of the year Ben Spies this season as you go into a new era for the team, why was he chosen as Jorge’s new team mate?Ben was a natural choice for us, he’s entering into his third season with the Yamaha family now. He joined us in World Superbike and that sensational debut year gave Yamaha its first ever WSB title so he showed immediately his potential. We knew before we signed him he had talent, once we saw him close up it was confirmed that he was a very talented rider and very ambitious as well. I think he can have a very strong year and I think he will really benefit from the step into the factory team.5. There are many new faces in the team with a new crew supporting Spies, how is the feeling in the team for the new season?It’s good! Obviously we had Vale with us for seven years which was an amazing era. Now were stepping into a new time. The whole team has been refreshed and regrouped. We have Maio Meregalli joining us from Word Superbike as Team Director and we have Wilco Zeleenberg staying onboard with us for his second full season so we have a strong management team. Although the Ben Spies side of the team is new many of them have worked with Ben over the years and some have worked with Yamaha last year so it’s a re-assembly of Ben’s side of the garage. On Jorge’s side of the garage there’s no change. They say you should never change a winning team so we haven’t changed a single thing. I think we’re in good shape and I can see the team working more as a single unit this year.6. After a successful relationship with FIAT you will be starting the 2011 season with no title sponsor, how does this affect the team for the season?Obviously it’s a pity that FIAT is not with us this year as we had four fantastic seasons together, I think they were probably the most successful title sponsor ever in the sport; four seasons, three championships and three Triple Crowns. They have now changed their communications strategy and along with the departure of Valentino we have seen a shift in our focus area towards sponsorship, having been primarily Italian based in the past. We’ve been talking to several potential sponsors and partners in Asia and in Spain but finally we haven’t been able to find anything that will work well for us at present. As a result we will start the season in blue which is quite appropriate as we are celebrating our 50th anniversary so it’s fitting we begin in our corporate colours. There’s no negative consequence of this situation, it actually gives us freedom to do some extra special things in our 50th year. For the future we would welcome any new partner to get involved with us and we are open to changes.7. Although Yamaha Factory Racing will not be starting the season with a title sponsor, we do have two new official sponsors joining us this season, would you like to introduce them?Firstly, before introducing the newcomers, I would like to reconfirm that we will be continuing with our existing important major sponsors which are Petronas, the Malaysian oil and petrochemical company and also Semakin di Depan, which is our Yamaha Indonesia sponsor. In addition to that we have Yamalube and Iveco on board and all our technical sponsors are staying with us.The two newcomers we have this year are an Italian company called FAAC which is a leader in electronic gates, barriers and security systems and we also have Akrapovic joining us as an exhaust pipe manufacturer, supplier and sponsor. We have many partners that we continue with and we are delighted to welcome some new.