Tuesday 1 March 2016
The 2016 racing season is just around the corner and Sam is now focussed on testing the new Kalex machine ahead of the opening round at Qatar on 20 March. We caught up with him yesterday to see how he’s feeling ahead of the season opener, who he thinks the top contenders are and what he’s hoping to achieve this season before he progresses to MotoGP in 2017:
1. What do you think are going to be the differences between the last two years and this coming season? Do you feel any better prepared?
I feel I’m more prepared this year as I have the last two seasons’ experience to work from. Between years one and two I made a big step up in this championship and I believe there’s no reason why I can’t go even further this year. I really like my new team and we all work well together already – It feels much more like a “team”. When we tested in November we were strong and I enjoyed riding the bike. I hope to start the 2016 season in a positive way at the official tests in Jerez, which start on 2 March.
2. We know that you’ve been working hard in the gym. Percentage-wise how much fitter do you think you are compared to a year ago?
I always work very hard from a physical point of view, and my trainer, Kirk Gibbons, is in my opinion, one of the best there is. During the past two years we’ve really focused and worked on my body to fit the Moto2™ style of riding so we’ve changed a few things. I would say I am the fittest I have ever been and the scales say I am the lightest too, so I’m really happy with my physical fitness heading into the first test.
3. It’s going to be an extremely busy season for you testing for MotoGP™ while also contesting the Moto2™ World Championship. When are we first going to see you on a MotoGP™ bike?
We have a small test plan in place, but a lot depends on how my season in Moto2 is going. I am very happy and excited to be going to MotoGP™ in 2017, but my goal and dream this year is to become Moto2™ World Champion. I will not ride the MotoGP™ bike until around June, as Fausto Gresini (Team Manager) and Romano Albesiano (Aprilia Racing Manager) and I agreed, we first need to get as many points on board in The series. The guys are also working hard to get the new MotoGP™ bike where it needs to be, so riding it any earlier doesn’t make sense for me.
4. You’ve just spent a couple of days with your new team. What are your first impressions of the Gresini Racing outfit?
I love the guys! I will still have my helper/coach, Torleif Hartelman, with me, but all the Gresini guys are really nice and they made me feel at home straight away. My crew chief, Tommaso Raponi, really works in a great way – he talks about everything and wants to win so this is perfect for me. I am lucky to have such a great and experienced crew, and I will do all I can to give them the results we all know we can achieve.
5. Who do you think is going to be in contention alongside you for the championship title?
In Moto2™ there are a number of riders who will challenge on any given weekend! For me, Zarco and Rins will be strong again. In my opinion, these two will be my main competition. I think Luthi will be strong, and also Danny Kent and Oliveira will be good coming from Moto3™ after both having good seasons. Baldassarri finished well last year and I think he will impress this season, as well as Folger and Cortese who can both win races. To be honest, I could list everyone! The Marc VDS team is always going to be strong, but all I need to focus on is being the best that I can be.
6. Having worked with WP Suspension last year, how do you feel about the switch to Öhlins with Gresini Racing?
I believe in Öhlins and from the first test they were working hard. It is true right now that WP is very strong and has many top riders, but with Öhlins and Gresini I will have all I need.
7. On reflection, do you think that deferring your entry into MotoGP™ until 2017 is going to work to your advantage?
One hundred percent the deal that I have is perfect – I have a fantastic opportunity to fight to become Moto2™ World Champion while also gaining experience in MotoGP™ in preparation for 2017. I’m very happy for the chance to fight for the world title.
8. With Michelin tyres and what you’ve seen so far in testing, who is in your 1, 2, 3 in MotoGP this season?
This is always difficult! Jorge Lorenzo looked incredible at the first test in Malaysia but the others will soon catch up. I hope after last season that Valentino Rossi can also fight again. The Honda doesn’t look so great at the moment and maybe the Ducati will be stronger than the past seasons with the new changes. Lorenzo has to be the favourite but I would guess that there will be two Yamahas and two factory Hondas in the top four places again. Honda will catch up for sure! It’s going to be a great season and I can’t wait to be there in 2017.
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