Your move to BMW for 2021 caused quite a sensation in the WorldSBK community!
Yeah and no one saw that coming. Even I didn’t expect it. I never thought I would go there. For me one of the big things was that everyone was getting a new bike, eve BMW, and Yamaha isn’t bringing a new bike. The bike is working really well now, but it’s more about the future, you know? I spoke with BMW and they said that they were bringing this M version. I spoke with the biggest boss of BMW motorcycles and he said to me, “We need to win and that’s it.” It was real positive. He loves the sport. When the president loves the sport, it’s a real good thing to have.
BMW is very committed to both you and WSBK, aren’t they?
Yes, they made a big step in their effort. BMW will also have two satellite teams with Eugene Laverty and Jonas Folger and this is all to get more information. They want to move fast now. They want to make steps. They want to make steps quickly as well.
You did well with Yamaha and more than a few people there were sad to see you move on. Was it a hard decision to leave Yamaha?
Yeah, it was a bit strange because I never thought I would make such a change. I went to visit BMW and I was confident, you know? I saw everything and I never had any doubt. I thought to myself, “Okay, I think I need to do this for the future.” Okay, we’ll have to see if I made the right choice, but I do feel like it was the right thing for me to do. It was also tough because I was enjoying t so much with all the people Yamaha and working with the team. I didn’t want to leave but I thought it might be better for my future.
You rode the BMW S1000RR the day after the final race at Estoril. Not long after, you put in your first laps on the new M 1000 RR at the Miramas circuit in France. Good first impressions?
Yes, unfortunately I only had 20 laps on it at Estoril. It’s always good when the first feeling is good and my first feeling on the BMW was good. And for the team it was good and it was positive to see what my feedback was. I felt good with the bike. I was up to speed quite quick. The first feeling was good and it is already a good start. You know, you ride a new bike and you’re not stressed and not thinking, “Oh, what have I done?!” I also tried the wings at Estoril and the change is massive on the bike. You have to get used to it, for sure. They are a big improvement and the bike is a lot more stable exiting corners. It’s all we need. The bike has more and more horsepower. We saw that when Ducati came with their V4. It had so much power yet it was so stable in the exit. Yeah, I think it’s the future. Whether you like it or not, it is the future. I think on the M 1000 they look really cool. I have to ride a lot with the bike to see what works and what doesn’t. The bike turns very sharply. That’s something that is always nice when you dive into a corner and the bike will still turn. I’m really encouraged. It’s always good to dive into a corner and be sure about it.
You’ll be teamed with Tom Sykes in 2021 and BMW will also back the Bonovo MGM Action team for Jonas Folger and the RC Squadra Corse for Eugene Laverty. Strength in numbers, huh?
Yeah, I’ve known Tom for a couple years now and we’ve already worked together. Even at Estoril, he was there also and we worked together. I think all the riders with BMW have talent and they have the experience and they’re all going to be fast. I think it’s good to have four or five fast riders on the team.
So now it’s just hurry up and wait to be told to climb back on your motorcycle?
Yes, we’ll just wait and see if we get an e-mail telling us where to show up!
Okay my friend, big question: Can you and BMW be world champions?
Yeah, that’s the ultimate goal. Exactly. I think with Superbike we have some top riders and some top bikes there and I hope we make a step forward and we will be able to fight with them. We want to win and we want to be successful. We have no other option.