With MotoGP’s summer break officially underway (and just days away from now concluding), Asphalt & Rubber sat down with Randy Mamola at the finish of the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, to get the Grand Prix legend’s perspective on how the 2013 MotoGP Championship was shaping up so far in his eyes.
Obviously, the man of the hour at the time of our discussion was Marc Marquez, who had just recreated one the most talked about passes in motorcycle racing history, and had won at one of the most enigmatic tracks on the GP calendar…after having never been to Laguna Seca before, naturally.
Sharing his insights on Marquez and the talent that the Repsol Honda rider exudes, Mamola gave us his unique perspective on the leaders for this year’s MotoGP title, amongst other issues in the paddock. Read the Q&A from our dialogue after the jump.
Q: Halfway through the season now, I wanted to get your impressions on how it is going.
Nine races into it, 16 point lead, who would have thought Marc would be doing that — including Marc? Racing as many grand prix, and as many years as I have been involved, there is an element of luck and that luck can either be bad or good.
On injuries, we have had bad luck with a couple of guys. You know when it was Jorge who did it, and Dani scored only two points, that was one thing. And then when Jorge did it again, and Dani got injured — it was bad luck when the thing bucked-up and through him down the road — but that’s racing.
It makes this championship exciting, because there’s not one person that’s really running away with it, but I’ll tell you what, if Dani and Jorge don’t get this thing pulled together, that kid [Marquez] is going to be gone. You just don’t come to Laguna Seca, and do the things he did.
The thing about Marquez is that he emits this that he has no boundaries. Those boundaries come from experience, and his inexperience at these race tracks — although he knows the tracks — but he doesn’t approach it the same way as Jorge or Dani.
If you look at the beginning of the year, he’s following Dani everywhere, same bike and so on and so forth. He immediately changed his colors, he immediately adapted to what the color was at that point — red, blue, green, or whatever. Not only that, he has taken it to the next level, and he’s learned how to do things.
You can see my strategy of what I’m trying to say. That was the exception to the rule on who he is as a talented kid. Twenty years old, and I talk to McGrath [Supercross Jeremy McGrath], which is so funny, you talk to these guys that have been around for so long…
I bet Rossi had a smile on his face at the top of The Corkscrew, I didn’t even go to the press conference, but for sure there’s a smirk on his face, and for sure in that motorhome, him and Uccio are laughing about it, which says so much about the nine-time World Champion, the respect and everything that he has.
He got his ass whooped, by a kid again, at Laguna Seca, in that same corner, even though he’s not Marquez’s competition.
So getting back to the championship, these guys need to heal. We are going to Indianapolis, and Marc needs to make sure that he doesn’t get injured. We saw that at many races this year that he has crashed a lot already, and being called a Chicklet piece of gum, because he seems to bounce and pull himself back up — that doesn’t last forever.
We’re coming up to Indy, which is a tough race track, we saw a lot of crashes there in the past and so on, but then we go straight into Brno, which is a really fast track.
I know that at the end of the season, Dani performs really really well, like we saw last year. We know that the Honda in particular performs well at those race tracks. That’s why Jorge knew the pressure he was against to try and get as much as he could up to this point. But we will just have to wait and see where that goes. But, the pendullum has swung in 93′s way for the moment.
Q: How do you feel about the pace that Valentino has shown? Do you think he is living up to the expectations of coming back to Yamaha?
I think the general public is happy enough that he is on a podium. To Rossi’s standards, he is happy to be on that podium, whether it is second or third. Obviously he likes first, like he did in Assen, but it’s going to be few and far between.
This is nothing against Valentino…in Texas I was asked a question on stage: “Do you think Valentino can win the Championship?” — and I said, “absolutely not.” He can win races, but not the championship, and because Texas was the second Grand Prix, Valentino showed something, and everyone thought he’s gonna go, but I watched the tests.
I was in Malaysia for the two tests, I was standing in Jerez at every corner, watching what he was trying to replicate from all these young guys, and I know, I know how hard he was digging. The thing is, he’s been able to control himself enough to where he is not getting off the bike, and that’s obviously enabled him to score descent points.
Cal is pushing him, but it’s not just Cal, now it’s Bradl, these young guys are nipping at those heels, and now we’ve got to go to Indy.
Go over there and look at the podium, I looked at it for 10 seconds. The smile that Vale brings to the rest of them, Marc and the rest of them, he is just happy for Marc. He is happy to be a part of that. This is his championship, like it’s Marquez’s championship, like it’s Bautista’s championship, or whomever.
This is why you love who Valentino is. He is real like that. If you watch the video he just did, how freaking funny is that? He talks about the mile high club and all that, it’s just genuine.
Him and I talked a few times, I didn’t see him after Assen, and I saw him Thursday here at Laguna Seca, but I said “fantastic job!” and he says “yeah, it was beautiful!” You know there is nothing better than winning a race such as Assen, because it’s so iconic. He just knows everything.
The thing is Jorge pushed Valentino into that accident [Mugello 2010]. Not with a knife to his throat, just Jorge was blindingly fast. Rossi had no control over him. He’s always had control with Stoner, he’s always had control with Sete, he’s always had some sort of control.
It was like Jorge had this sort of thick wall around him that there was no penetration, and when that happened, Vale was getting his ass whooped then. And then of course he broke his leg, and the rest is history in terms of going to Ducati and now coming back to Yamaha, and coming back to this level. It was truthful when Vale said, “I have to see if I can get on the podium first.”
First race it was, and that made it harder for him, because he didn’t expect that. It was a gain of momentum.
Remember though, Yamaha is behind — not to say that they cannot win this championship — but their riders have to ride in such a certain way, and the Honda can be ridden in various ways at the moment, and can win in each of those various ways.
The only way the Yamaha wins, is to ride it as smooth as you can, without getting it out of shape. The Honda can bend, it can tweak, and twisted, and so forth. It’s point and shoot, we know that. In Japan, there is no way you’re going to beat that thing. It’s just so fast.
Q: The last two races we have seen exhibitions of mental toughness and determinatio. When you talk to Dani or talk to Jorge, who do you think wants it more? Who is willing to push themselves the furthest?
I’m a Monster athlete, or representative, or whatever you want to say, and obviously Jorge, Valentino, and Cal, etc are people I admire, and we run the same brand, but Dani is somebody who deserves a lot of patting on the back, and I think Jorge realized that a few years ago, and this is why in a sense there is a friends, but not friends, type of thing. There’s a real strong type of mutual respect.
Dani, it’s funny, Dani never shows his cards. He’s got them against his chest, and he never even looks at them himself, because he’s afraid someone is going to peek — he’s that kind of person.
I did an interview with him on the Parts Unlimited stage yesterday, and asked him why he missed the race in Germany. I know how bloody fast he is around this race track [Laguna Seca] – Marquez, on the championship side, has got a bit of a bonus that these guys are injured, because they are bloody fast here .
Q: Is this Dani’s last chance at a Championship, with Marquez looking so strong already.
Again, it goes back to injury. You don’t fall off a motorcycle at 335 km/h and survive from it. But Marquez, the Chicklet, kind of does. If there ever was somebody that had a Michael Jordan smile, an infectious smile, it’s Marc Marquez. The thing is, pesonally I’d like to see Dani do it, just because Jorge’s done it, and Dani deserves that sort of result. Marquez is going to be here for a long time…
Q: Looking at someone like Nicky Hayden, with a lot of options on the table, and talk about World Superbike, do you think that championship would benefit?
For the Americans, for sure there would be a void, but to the championship there wouldn’t be a void if Nicky is not here. Dorna owns both championships, Nicky would put a nice spotlight over there. I think that championship needs a nice spotlight, though everybody wants to swing over to here [MotoGP], but why swing over to here if you can’t run the right equipment?
You’ve got one of the best guys, who is considered to be an alien [Crutchlow], and he can’t even run the right kind of equipment, and that is what has to change. When these manufacturers are pushing so hard, and the regulations continue without a rooftop, that makes it very hard for the manufacturers to pass this stuff down to other riders.
There are a few riders who are going “man, I don’t want to race in there!” but you know that today there was a great battle in the CRT class — freaking awesome. There are great battles down that line, that’s what’s nice coming to races as opposed to watching it on TV, because you can’t always see that.
With Nicky, I don’t know really anything about what the decision was, or what was behind it, Nicky has been there a long time, and kind of been stagnant. Dovi comes in there and kind of challenges Nicky right away. It’s a shame with all of that.
The 2006 World Champion loves racing so freaking much, that he doesn’t want to leave it, but unforunately he is going to be beat up a bit inside that motorhome, by losing where he’s at. Where do you go from that? What equipment? What is there? As soon as you get to the level of CRT, there are no budgets and no salary. So, it depends on what you want to do.
Q: Thanks Randy.
No worries, I’ll send you the invoice.