Italian Davide Brivio is ready for MotoGP 2009, explaining many aspects of Yamaha’s factory MotoGP operation.
Davide, this will be your 6th year working with Valentino at Yamaha. Do you still have as much excitement and motivation as you did in 2004, when he first joined you?
Yes, absolutely. This is the 6th season, but each one is different. The first was the one of the biggest challenges, but we won two titles before we faced some difficulties. The 2008 season represented an opportunity for redemption for us and we won. We have always set ourselves new challenges. Working with Valentino is very demanding, because we always want to do better and everybody’s attention is on us, but we are always spurred on by this positive pressure. The new season is already bringing us great excitement.
Your role in the Team was different in 2008 to previous years, because you were working only with Valentino. Were you happy in this revised role, and will anything change in this year?
My work was different in 2008 because in the past I had always had to take care of two riders. This time I could focus on just one rider and this had many advantages, because Valentino Rossi could have a whole team working just for him. I was happy that I could dedicate my time exclusively to Valentino, because we have a great relationship, working with him is always fun, but above all it is professionally rewarding. It was a positive season, as the results we achieved showed.
Valentino won 9 races last year, every possible title, and broke many more records. Obviously your target is to repeat that again this year, but what are your specific aims for the team? Do you think you can be even more successful in 2009, or will it be harder this year?
Certainly next year will be more difficult, partly because in 2008, after two hard years, we were not among the favourites. Maybe some people thought that it was the beginning of Valentino’s decline from a competitive point of view. Instead we managed to have a great, redeeming season, so now everybody is waiting for us, especially our rivals. This is normal; when you don’t win, you become more hard-bitten. This year Stoner will be more motivated and aggressive, as will his team. Pedrosa will try to do well and also Lorenzo, after his debut, will want to profit from his experience. It’ll be hard, everybody is lying in wait for us. But this challenge is the good thing about sport, so we accept it and look forward to seeing whether Valentino will manage to hold these kids off!
Do you think that Jorge Lorenzo will be challenging Valentino for the title? And how do you think this will affect the atmosphere inside the garage and the working relationship between the two teams?
I think the atmosphere in the garage will remain the same as in 2008; there was a separation and this helped, because Lorenzo will be one of the toughest adversaries in the challenge for the title. He showed this last year although he committed a few errors due to slight inexperience besides some unlucky falls. He’s certainly thinking about his 2008 mistakes this winter and he’ll try not to repeat them; he will be one of the toughest rivals, but we already knew this. He is very motivated. For him and for the other riders beating Valentino Rossi is an achievement, so we’ll have to put up a defence, or even attack these young riders who are hoping for the recognition they would receive if they managed to beat Valentino Rossi!
The wall in the garage will remain? Can you tell us the reason for this and your opinion about why it is the right thing to do?
There has been a lot of talk about this solution, but now everybody is getting used to it. The dividing wall during 2008 was dictated by the presence of different technical partners, tyre suppliers, causing a divide in the technical structures. But this solution worked well. When two riders fighting for victory are in the same team, there can be some tension between them. This solution lets us manage the situation in the best way, because as they say we have ‘two roosters in the hen house’. Maybe it is better to keep them separatd and let them be at their best during the races. I work only with Valentino Rossi, this is a good solution for him. But it is also good for Yamaha in general, because it allows both leading riders, Valentino and Lorenzo, to express themselves freely, without tensions in their relationship. I think others will follow our example. Even if they don’t have a real wall, sometimes there is an invisible wall and that can be even thicker than ours, which is visible. Other teams are experiencing tensions between their two riders, physically there is no wall between them but in reality it is almost as if there is one.
Which riders, in your opinion, are going to be Valentino’s main title threats?
Looking back at 2008, Stoner is certainly the main rival. Then Pedrosa and Lorenzo, but we must also keep an eye on Dovizioso, who’s joined the official team, has one year of experience behind him and is very constant in his results. We’ll see how Hayden will adapt to the new bike. I expect a very hard-fought championship, with at least these six riders capable of fighting for victory in every race. The consistency in the results that was our winning weapon in 2008, with our victories, will be very important. However the season is going to be very tough and unpredictable, therefore exciting from this point of view.
What do you think about Kawasaki leaving the championship? Do you think that the FIM should be considering rule changes in order to reduce costs? What would you suggest?
The economic crisis, which is affecting all sectors of business worldwide, has made no exception for motor racing. Some companies are facing difficulties, although I think Kawasaki were also pressured into retirement due to a lack of results. With more success and chalenge for victories they might have postponed their withdrawal or even stayed. However, this situation requires action. All the manufacturers are planning cost-saving solutions and I hope the FIM might take up an active role again, as we are all asking them to do, because maybe in recent years the commercial aspects of the sport have received too much attention compared to the technical ones. This is the right moment for the FIM to do more, it’s the moment for reconsidering the rules. Cost-cutting is the priority, however I don’t think anybody should panic. Some things should be changed and costs reduced and resources need to be managed well for the next two years. Also to think of how motorcycling will be in the next years is important, because this sport will go on. The crisis will finish, we must be positive and try to survive like everybody else, but also try to lay the bases for an even better future for this sport. Many suggestions can be made: carbon fibre disks could be eliminated, practice times reduced, thus diminishing the wear of engine and tyres. There are many possible solutions, the engineers will choose which changes will allow them to save the most. We’ll all have to make an effort together. Yamaha will do its part, as it is right. Survival is our main aim, and managing resources well, but we must also think of how to improve this sport in the future.
What’s your opinion about the new tyre rule? How will it change the working system in you garage?
The mono tyre rule gave rise to a great deal of discussion, but it came at the right moment. As a consequence there has been a reduction in testing, which is exactly what was needed. I think it’s been a happy coincidence, very welcome. During this winter the number of tests has already been reduced and this trend will probably continue during the season, we’re still talking about that. This is not going to cause a problem for the next two years. Everybody expects there to be more of a show with this rule change, but I don’t believe things will change that much, as the strongest riders will keep racing competitively and the others will lag behind. With or without single tyre, the list of the candidates for victory won’t change, but it is a welcome solution considering the present economic situation. This will end all discussions on tyre differences. All the riders will be on an equal footing and, in this respect, it will be interesting.
Do you think the new tyre rule will produce closer racing, something that hasn’t been seen much for the last couple of years?
This year we saw some very hard-fought races, between riders with the same tyres and with different tyres. The race in Laguna Seca between Stoner and Valentino was great, but in other races Valentino was racing against Lorenzo, who had different tyres, or against Pedrosa. There won’t be a great difference. The top riders will be the same, but at least they will compete on an equal footing, which is good from a sporting and an audience’s point of view. We paid the consequences of the tyre rule in 2007, but it also happened in 2008, when some riders couldn’t fight for victory because they had the wrong tyres. This won’t happen next year, so the championship will be even more hard-fought because all the riders will have the possibility to race competitively.
Do you have any changes in your team’s staff, or the structure of the team for 2009? Will you be changing any working practices in order to keep costs down?
Never change a winning team! In 2009 we will keep on with this team, which is now preparing to challenge for a sixth season. The group is closely-knit and it includes qualified technicians. Nothing is going to change; we’ll face 2009 all together with the same spirit as last season, which turned out to be very successful. There is going to be a change at management level in Yamaha Motor Company as Mr Furusawa, the architect of the successes of these recent years, has been deservedly promoted and his responsibilities will therefore be increased. Mr Kitagawa, General Manager of the Technology Development Division, to which the racing department belongs, has been promoted in his turn and has become President of Yamaha Motor Racing. There was a change at management level, with Mr Hayasaki as the new manager, but nothing will change at the team level or with the engineers working on Valentino’s bike. We’re confident and we all know what we have to do to aim to winning. We’ll have to deal with this economic situation, but we won’t be dramatic and we’ll try to manage our resources at in the best way, with regards to logistics, business travel, and all those elements not directly affecting performance, the technical development and the on-track bike performance. We’ll try to do reasonable things, but on the race-track we want to be at our best in order to aim at winning again.
Do you think that Yamaha has built a bike which will enable you to be competitive from the very first race this year?
Good question, we’ll find this out at the first race. In 2008, when we won everything: the Constructors’ title, the Riders’ title, the Teams’ title, it provoked a great motivation and reaction from rival riders and factories and they must have all started working to produce a bike capable of beating us. We’ll do the same. This is the nice thing about motor racing: during the winter there is a lot of talk, because this or that rider is faster on this or that occasion, the fans and the journalists start passing judgements and making forecasts. Then, the facts disprove many of them and this is the most interesting part of our job. We haven’t changed much with our bike, but we have made improvements in important sectors, trying to keep the level of competitiveness high. We’ll see this at the first races and we hope that our bike will be up to the job. I believe it will be.
What is your feeling about Valentino’s request to reduce rider aids? Do you think this would help to make the racing more exciting?
Valentino has “suffered” as a result of the changes that have arisen since technology has progressed, more electronics are used and rider aids have been introduced. On the one hand aids are very useful for safety reasons and research, especially with regards to the production bike. These aids will affect production and therefore our customers, so research in this field is welcomed. However, from a sporting and performance point of view, this is an aid to the riders. This means that the difference Valentino can make due to his talent and experience has been reduced. This is why it was important to win in 2008, to show that, despite all, he was still the greatest rider. Sometimes Valentino has expressed the desire to reduce the rider aids, in order to allow the rider’s talent and ability to be properly appreciated. This is justifiable from the rider’s point of view. From a sporting and sentimental point of view I’d also like to see less aids and the riders relying exclusively on their talent. Thinking about our customers however, who will ride the bikes on the street, research and aid development are the right things to do. It would be great to be able to find a compromise for the situation, but in any case I believe the races will still be very spectacular, more so than ever next year with many riders fighting for victory. Ultimately it is always the best that are leading.
What was your feeling about Valentino’s request to take part in the Qatar World Superbike round? Do you think he would have been capable of winning?
We were very excited at the idea of riding in a Superbike race. Valentino influenced us with his desire for new challenges and experiences. The idea of going to Qatar and racing in Superbike was very exciting. We’d have done it with great respect and with the idea to have fun, this was our attitude. Valentino belongs to the MotoGP Championship, but he would have tried Superbike just to test himself against those riders, whom he always follows them because they, too, are very good. Unfortunately this wasn’t possible because Yamaha is working on the new R1 motorbike, and there are not many spare parts available yet. Setting up the bike for Valentino Rossi was technically impossible. Furthermore, because he is Valentino Rossi, we wanted to do things well and eventually we had to come to the conslusion that this wasn’t going to be possible. Valentino was very sad when we had to cancel this experience, but we might consider it again in the future. I believe he could be competitive, but we didn’t intend to win the race. We’d have gone with the idea of doing our best to see what level we could reach in one race. It would have been interesting, like a challenge of the past. I hope we consider it again in the future, I will keep dreaming of it.