Ahead of the final preseason test in Jerez next week, motogp.com took the opportunity to interview Álvaro about his expectations for this season, how the preseason went with his new team and more.
Upon his return from Italy, where the San Carlo Honda Gresini team’s ambitious 2012 project was officially presented this week, Álvaro Bautista spent the last few days working on his fitness. After a prolonged Supermoto session on Friday morning, Bautista spoke about objectives for his third year in the premier class, work at the official test in Jerez next week and the challenge to pick up the baton on the team which was formerly led by Marco Simoncelli.
How was the presentation in Milán? What was the atmosphere like in the team?
“It’s a unique situation with respect to last year. In 2011 I was the only rider for Suzuki and this year I’m on the Gresini team, which has a presence in all three classes in the championship. I had the opportunity to get to know the sponsors, the people that work on the team, and over there everything was really positive. After the final race of last year, which was really difficult, it seems like everyone really wants to return to racing and getting good result and the atmosphere was really positive.”
This year presents many changes for you, not just the engine capacity, but because you are on a new team and riding a different bike. How has it been to far fitting all the changes into the preseason?
“So far the testing has gone really well. The capacity is different, but so is the bike. It’s quite different from the Suzuki that I rode until now in MotoGP. There are far more electronics and I had to learn how to ride it with them. It now also has a lot more power than the 800cc. The conclusion so far is positive, because every time I have ridden it, I’ve gone better. It’s a good feeling. There is still a lot of work left to do but I think we are on the right track to continue to improve.”
You left the second Sepang test satisfied despite the weather keeping you in the garage for a lot of the test. What do you have left to work on at the final official test in Jerez next week?
“At the last test we didn’t get out on track much because of the bad weather and a problem we had with Pedrosa’s engine [which caused a recall of the engine and prevented all Honda riders from riding on the second day of testing]. We would have liked to try some things with the geometry of the bike to let me be more comfortable and that’s what we have pending for Jerez. Overall there is a good base as far as electronics are concerned, because as I said, this bike has many more parameters than the Suzuki, I still need to understand what does and does not work for me. I’ll try to put everything in place and get a good base, because in two weeks it’s the first race of the season.”
How are you doing physically right now?
“Very good. This year I wanted to prepare myself well, because the engine is a 1000cc. I hope that this hard training will help me on the bike so that I will be less tired and can perform my best.”
This year you will be on the same RC213V as Stoner and Pedrosa. Are you going to compete with the exact same bike as them or will your bike have some differences from the official factory team?
“In theory, there are four Hondas. Two on the factory team, Bradl’s and mine, and they all start with the same base level of parts and electronics. The only difference is that my bike will have Showa forks and shock instead of Öhlins and the brakes will be Nissin. Those are the only differences. Showa wants to return to the World Championship and they proposed that I be the rider for the brand and develop it. So, the bikes will start equal and as changes are made obviously the factory riders will take precedence.”
You are starting the championship with an unusual black fairing, a tribute to Marco Simoncelli…
“Yes, it’s a small showing of respect. We are starting with black fairings, as you know in other years the bike was completely white, so this year as a sign of respect to the team, a sign of mourning so to speak, I’m starting with a black bike. Throughout the season it will change color and at the end it will turn white.”
How do you manage the fact that you are occupying the place of a rider who has left such a big void in the MotoGP community and among fans?
“Well, I am trying not to think about it actually. I’m on a really profesional team and focusing on my work. There is always the wake of the rider who came before you on a team, but this is a different situation. I am working with different technicians and mechanics and it’s not quite the same situation, I don’t feel like I’m taking on all the weight and responsibility. I have this opportunity here and have to try to make the most of it.”
Do you believe that the technical level of the team and the bike you are on this year will allow you to make a big step in terms of your results?
“Yes, I’m on this team for this reason, to make a step forward. This team has always had good support from HRC and got good parts. This year we have the support of Honda and in principle we’ll have the parts to try to fight for good results. I trust the team and the team trusts me, so together with the support of Honda I think we can do well.”
As for the lists of title favorites, as nice as it would be to be there, at the moment you are not on the list.
“At the moment this is so. The logical favorites are the reigning champion, Stoner, the runner-up, which is Lorenzo, Pedrosa, who also needs just a small step to get there, and Dovizioso, who was third. I think those are the candidates for the championship… Our goal is to be there, but for the moment the ones who have to defend their status are those who are the favorites. We will try to get there, but for now we are still behind them.”