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GP Week : Issue 36
GPWEEK: You’ve worked with Valentino since 2000. What’s he like? JEREMY BURGESS: With Valentino, what you see is exactly him. You see him in the pit where he concentrates, where he does his job and he can break away from that to smile at the camera. I think what we have in Valentino from the sportsman’s side is somebody who understands his industry very well. And he knows how important he is to motorcycle racing throughout the world. So he knows that racing is what the people at home want to see, and he was able to do that in the past, and entertain. And he is an entertainer. Was there any difference to his approach this year? What I saw a bit from Valentino this year is he was more keen to push to the front, in races. With Dani for instance in China he didn’t just sit behind him. He took the lead away as early as he could. He did the same with Casey at Laguna Seca. And if you look at the races that he won, he’s gone to the front very early. This is something in the past that perhaps he hasn’t done. Certainly on the 990 he was more in tune with being in the thick of it, then moving away. He used to make it more entertaining. Well that’s right. He would let the other guy go in front, then we’d see the lap times would slow up by about three-quarters of a second a lap. Then Valentino would move back in front and win the race. The new generation of the Stoners and Pedrosas don’t seem to want to get involved in a race with Valentino any more. They want to get out and get into their rhythm on their own, and make that break. When you work in the pit, is it you suggesting the changes, or him? It’s pretty much all together. If the bike works there’s no need to change anything. If the bike doesn’t behave as he wants it to, it’s all usually about too hard or too soft. Motorcycles transfer weight onto 56 the front as they go into a corner. This has to be at a controlled speed, not too fast, otherwise the bike becomes unstable. You want to take the weight off the rear wheel at a speed that doesn’t make the wheel leave the ground. So it’s all pretty much a fine adjustment. Really motorcycle racing is all about spring rates, electronics and gearbox ratios now. How did the change from Michelin to Bridgestone help him? I think certainly the tyres that we use now are much more in tune with what he wants. The support that the tyre gives in fast corners is much more for him the sort of performance we had from the Michelins in 2004 and 2005. The direction Michelin took in 2006 and continued in 2007 was a tyre that had a large contact patch under acceleration, that then changed the geometry of the bike, because it squeezed, and we would tend to understeer off the corner, and not have enough stability in the fast part of the corner, because the Michelin casing was not strong enough to carry the speed. I’m a firm believer it was developed more around the Honda, perhaps because Honda complained that the previous tyres didn’t suit their bike. It’s more than possible that some bloke who was a heavy hitter at Honda picked up the phone and spoke to somebody relatively high up in Michelin who then got to the competition department. Then they set about the path of maximum traction. I think it suited Nicky, and I think Dani didn’t suffer as much, because he’s a little bit lighter. But it certainly was not what we were looking for in our bike, and when we moved to the Bridgestone, immediately this type of character we’d had in 04 and 05 came back, and we were very happy about that. How does Rossi compare with Mick Doohan, in the pit? There’s a big difference in terms of their demeanour in the pit box and during the course of the preparation of the bike for the race: Mick’s probably more of the Casey Stoner mould. You could lip-read Casey in the pits saying: “It won’t f***ing stop!” You can see from the way he takes his gloves off. It’s great to be an Aussie and stand back and see another Aussie having a bit of a spit. The Italians probably just accept it as the norm, and it works very well together. Valentino’s the calm one on our side. What was Valentino’s great strength this year. The fact that Yamaha gave him a bike that he could immediately do the job with, and the improvement in general from Yamaha and from the tyres. He from his side made sure he came out and was determined. He said to me during the season, when Casey Stoner did get some momentum, that he didn’t want to lose this championship. He’s never said anything like that before. He’s a very calculating person. I think he knows when he has to make his attack on the opposition. He knows he has to capitalise in certain areas, and he knew he had to stop the run of Casey, who’d won three on the trot, to stop him gaining momentum. We didn’t anticipate Casey falling in three races consecutively. But we knew that Casey is the sort of rider we need to keep under pressure all the time. You can’t afford to give him a race gap or anything. You have to make him work every race. You’ve tested the new bike now. Any good? The new bike was fine. It’s not a big change. Again I do feel that this testing immediately after the last race of the season, having the riders come back to the paddock at 06:30, is probably not the smartest thing we do. Anything we learn here you have to take tongue in cheek and go and check it again after a month’s holiday. I wouldn’t be redesigning a motorcycle or doing anything without checking again at another circuit.