Under the bright Qatar klieg lights. Sort of like an American Supercross, huh?
Yeah, I wish it was Supercross as I’d have a bit more style then, wouldn’t I? (Laughter).
In the MotoGP media in recent weeks you haven’t been shy about stating that you truly are out to win the Moto2 World Championship in 2021. All systems go?
We are. Obviously last year we came really close and that kind of built us a good foundation to have a nice winter and of-season as we have had and then we’ll now go straight into the year. Obviously, we are going after the championship and that’s a big target and we’re looking forward to giving it a proper go. The team is great. As we’ve seen in the past when you’ve got something that is working with a good group of guys, you obviously try to keep it all the same because as they say, if it’s working, keep it going. That definitely helps a lot.
You’re about to enter your seventh year in the Moto2 World Championship division. It’s an extraordinarily competitive class and you have spoken quite a bit during the off-season about concentrating on fine-tuning the small things for 2021. Has that all gone to the master plan?
Yeah, yeah because we just missed out on things a few times in 2020. Like you just said, we missed the first race of the season at Qatar and we also missed out on a few other little things. Now, we’ve worked really hard this winter and tested all the parts, and given ourselves a lot of different directions to go in on specific race weekends if we need to, and that’s something that has given me a lot more confidence. I now understand the bike even more and I think that just makes you a little bit more relaxed when you set yourself up for different scenarios, you know? As they say, the hard work pays off long before the start of the year and I feel like we’ve done a lot of that.
For the approaching start of the season, you’ve talked about working on staying calmer and perhaps not pushing too much during the races when maybe you don’t need to. Any truth to this?
Yeah, in the end, and it is obvious to say, but the guy who scores the most points over the whole year is the winner. In a race where maybe you’re not feeling it or you get a bad start or you end up in a bad situation, you don’t have to try and risk too much. You don’t have to win every race. You just have to get the most from every situation. So I just want to be a bit smarter about all that. Obviously, I want to start the year thinking of the bigger picture. I think subconsciously that helps me be a bit more relaxed, as well. I know I have to do the best I can every day and see where we are at the end.
During the first half of the 2020 Moto2 season, you hovered in and around the top five before reeling off three straight wins beginning with the French Grand Prix. Will momentum play a big part in it all in ’21?
Yeah, I think you feel like you’ve got to sort of building a base in the early races and then sort of hit second gear and then get the momentum and some wins and that has what I’ve been lacking in past years. You see it in racing. You see some guys start real hot at the start of the year and then sort of fizzle out, and then some of them just build and build and build and that’s what I think you need to do if you’re looking at the bigger picture for the championship. You want to build your base and then get into the solid part of the year and then sort of try and take off and that’s the target.
As we all know, upwards of 10 racers can win a Moto2 Grand Prix on any given Sunday. To that end, how are you looking at the competition you’ll face beginning with this weekend’s race?
Yeah, I think they’re definitely talking about a race win. That’s what you want out of any weekend. Yeah, there are eight, nine, or 10 guys that can possibly win a race. For the championship, you’ve got Marco Bezzecchi riding for the VR46 team. He finished fourth in the championship last year, so he’s obviously a strong rival. Remy Gardner riding for the KTM team will also be strong. He won the last race last year. For me, I think those two guys will be the main guys in the championship week-in and week-out. There may be a lot more, as well. Some rookies will improve over the season and some of the second-year riders will be a bit better. As I said, I think there are a lot of guys that can win races, but for the championship, I would say there are probably four or five that can be there week-in and week-out.
When you won your third consecutive race in 2020 – the Gran Premi Liqui Moly de Terul – you became the first British racer to accomplish such a thing since the great Phil Read pulled off a hat trick of wins on his way to the 1971 250cc World Championship. Do you know who Phil Read was?
Yeah, he raced quite a ways ago, but yeah, he was obviously a very famous British rider. Last year when I won three races in a row, it was the first time a British rider had done that since him, so it is nice to feel that history. It’s been too long for a British rider to achieve such a thing, but it is nice to be spoken about like that and when you hear those things it is just great to see. It’s great and I feel a lot of support from the fans because it has been a long time since we have had something like this. It’s really nice to see and feel the fans. I also actually just got an award this week from the Motor Cycle News in England. I won the award for Rider of the Year, which is voted on by the fans. It’s really great for me when you have a great season and you sort of turn it around and fight for the championship. To win an award voted on by the fans just gives you a bit of motivation let’s say because it shows that people are feeling it and are behind you and are loving what you do. It’s a fantastic feeling. You know to be a fast rider is obviously great, but to be a World Champion is another step. Now, it’s all about focus on Moto2 and if I become a champion, it is something that you have forever.
How are you going to approach the opening Grand Prix this weekend?
The first stage will be just getting up to speed. The biggest thing for me will be the qualifying. The minimum for me will be the front two rows or in the top six, just so you’re there at the start of the race and getting into the rhythm. That is where we will need to be fighting for that podium, if not the win at the first round.