Talking to MotoGP’s Rookies: Franco Morbidelli

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The Jerez MotoGP test provided three of the four MotoGP rookies with a chance to get familiar with their new bikes and their new teams.

The second test is often more important than the first one, as the rookies have had a chance to think about and absorb the data from the first test directly after Valencia, and approach the test with less pressure.

Expectations are mixed for Franco Morbidelli joining the Marc VDS MotoGP team. The last Moto2 champion to move up to MotoGP with Marc VDS was Tito Rabat, and Rabat endured two long and difficult years with the squad.

Morbidelli will be hoping that the Honda RC213V will be a little easier to adapt to than it was for Rabat, and that he will be able to pick up the pace more quickly.

So far, Morbidelli’s progress has been promising. The reigning Moto2 champion ended the Jerez test as eleventh overall among MotoGP riders, 1.260 behind the fastest man Andrea Dovizioso.

Best of all for Morbidelli, he was just a few hundredths behind MotoGP regulars Jack Miller and Scott Redding. There is still much room for improvement, but things are looking positive.

We spoke to Morbidelli on Thursday, his second day on the bike. Here’s what he had to say about the test.

Franco Morbidelli: Today we improved the lap time from yesterday, but especially we improved the pace by a lot.

I’m also happy about my final lap time which is not so bad. We focused to work on the medium tire, and then at the end of the day I tried the soft one and I improved my lap time. So I’m very happy how the day went.

Q: How is the adaptation to MotoGP going?

FM: Well, everything is a bit more difficult, so I have to adapt to everything, every detail, every aspect of the bike, every aspect of the riding style. It’s a bit more difficult, and the limit is a bit further, so I have to step by step try to reach the limit in every aspect.

Q: Where did you improve today?

FM: Well, yesterday we were looking for a bit more corner speed, and today it looks like we found it a little bit. So I improved basically in corner speed today, and I improved the lap time.

Q: Did you find more corner speed from the bike or from your riding?

FM: Both. You know, a little bit the bike improves, and you improve, and then the bike needs to improve again, then you need to improve again. It’s me and the bike and the crew, we are making small steps to improve.

Q: Can you give an indication in terms of percent how far along you are in your adaptation?

FM: 1.2 seconds [laughs]. That’s without Márquez. Now without Márquez it’s 1.2 seconds, then we will have to see how much it is.

Q: Are you looking forward to Sepang, a fast wide track, after riding a MotoGP bike at two tight and small tracks?

FM: I think it was nice to ride here and Valencia, because these are two tracks you learn a lot, I think. These are two tracks that are really demanding for your riding style, and are really tricky for riding a MotoGP bike at.

Because it’s really hard to ride a MotoGP bike at Valencia and it’s really hard to ride a MotoGP bike here, because these are two really narrow tracks with tight corners, and stuff like that.

I’m looking forward to going to Sepang and letting the bike loose, letting it express its power, and see how it goes in a bit more flowing track.

Q: Are you used to the power of a MotoGP bike yet?

FM: I think you never get used to this power, because your nose is always pointing to the sky. Not only me, also Crutchlow and everybody else. So it’s really hard to get used to this power. But I think I’m getting used to it.

Q: You started at Valencia on a bike with the electronics set quite low. What were you riding now?

FM: Yes, now we are I think on the standard electronics, HRC gave us a good mapping setup, so we are using that mapping setup, and we are just trying to learn and trying to improve the base that HRC gave us.

Q: Honda riders say it’s a very physical bike to ride, can you feel that in your body after 2 days of test?

FM: After two days of testing, especially here and Valencia, here is a track where it upsets a lot the right side of the body, because a lot of right handers and hard braking on the right side, and Valencia is a track that upsets a lot the left side.

I think that of course compared to Moto2, I need a bit more strength, but I was expecting to be further away. After two days of testing I feel good. I think it’s a bit more a question of strength so I can push more when I am on the bike, but when I jump off the bike, I feel good.

Q: What are your expectations for next year?

FM: Now, for all the period we are testing, we just have to get prepared as best as possible, and after three or four races, we can see where we are and we can see where we want to get.

Q: You’re the first VR46 Academy rider to reach MotoGP, did you speak with Valentino about riding?

FM: Yes, I spoke a little bit with Vale about MotoGP and about everything. And it will be nice to share the track with him next year with a real bike, and it will be nice also to learn from him from up close.

Photo: Marc VDS Racing

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.