Interview with Randy de Puniet
February 20, 2007
Randy de Puniet is one of the emerging young stars of MotoGP, entering his second season at the elite level of racing with Kawasaki. By his own judgement his rookie season in 2006 was not easy, a learning year slowed by some unlucky crashes and injuries.
But, having achieved a childhood dream of reaching MotoGP, the five-time 250cc GP winner is now aiming for success in the premier class. He is intent on improving on his rookie season result of 16th in the championship standings, and the 25 year-old Frenchman has shown impressive speed in pre-season testing, with a smooth transition to the new 800cc ZX-RR.
In 2007 he will race alongside the experienced Olivier Jacque in an all-French squad at Kawasaki. From scooter racing as a youngster to the ZX-RR in 2007, De Puniet is out show to that he has a winning future with Kawasaki in MotoGP.
Q: What are your feelings in advance of your second season in MotoGP with Kawasaki?
A: I’m feeling very positive about the new season, I feel very settled now with the Kawasaki team. One of the most important things for me as a rider is that my crew chief and mechanics are same as last year; it is very good to have the same staff. We did a lot of hard work last year, even though my results were not that satisfying, and I’m looking forward to a much stronger season.
Q: Looking back, what were some of the problems you encountered last year?
A: As a rookie I had a lot to learn and everyone understood that, but even so I thought I was unlucky with some crashes and injuries. I was an innocent victim of that big, six-rider crash in the Barcelona race and those things do not help in your rookie season. But I’m looking ahead, not back, this is a new year and I'm very positive.
Q: Have you set any goals that you would like to achieve?
A: My first target is to improve at every race and improve my consistency over the race distance, which is what I have been working on during the winter testing. We have a very good base with the new 800cc ZX-RR and I’m looking to go a step forward with my own riding performance. But there are now a lot of factory bikes and very good riders in MotoGP, so it will not be easy.
Q: How have you had to adapt your style to riding the new 800cc machine?
A: Without the same level of power as with the previous 990cc bike you brake later and carry more corner speed, so I have done a lot of work on adjusting my style to suit the new bike. For me, it’s a nice feeling as a rider on the 800, my first impression was very positive and after many laps in testing I’m enjoying it even more.
Q: What do you feel will be the important areas for a fast lap time on the 800?
A: Perhaps the key factor this season will be good tyre life and durability, especially at the end of the races because of the close competition. And braking stability will also be very important, as this will assist in carrying higher corner speeds.
Q: You come from a background of 250cc grands prix, has this helped in the transition to the 800cc concept?
A: Not so much, because I don’t think the 250cc riding style is exactly what is required on the 800. Now on the 800cc ZX-RR I’m working on moving my weight around to able to pick the bike up earlier on corner exit, and get on the throttle earlier. And during the winter tests I have been concentrating on doing race simulations, so that I can understand how to change my style towards the end of race when the tyre performance is going down, to be more consistent. At some of the tests I have done a long race run each day.
Q: How have you prepared for the 2007 season?
A: I have done a lot of cycling and motocross, and also some supermotard riding. In the winter break I have been out with some other French riders, Regis Laconi and Fabien Foret, and we do 45 minute runs on motocross bikes, which I think is more exhausting than a MotoGP race. I’m hoping this will help my endurance over the race distance this season. I’ve also done some work in the gym, but once the season starts you need to balance fitness with recovery time, because it’s a long year.
Q: For the first time there will 18 races in the MotoGP championship, what do think about this?
A: I like racing so this is not a problem for me. The difficult part will be in May and until the end of June, that is a busy period on the calendar, but it’s the same for everyone. This season will be an important one for me, so I hope there are not too many surprises.
Q: Did you get some time for holidays and to relax during the winter break?
A: Yes, I was in Ireland with my girlfriend for ten days and then mainly at home training, maintaining my fitness and just relaxing.
Q: And where is home for you?
A: I live in Andorra. It’s a nice place and in the winter there is snow, which is a lot of fun, plus I have many friends there.
Q: And this year there are two French riders in the Kawasaki team...
A: It’s great, the more French riders in MotoGP the better. For Kawasaki this was the best choice this season because Olivier has been the test rider and doing a lot of work with the team. I already had a two year contract and I’m happy OJ will be racing with us this year.
Q: With less electronic control on the 800cc motors this year will this mean the opportunity for greater rider input?
A: Yes, there will be more influence from the rider and I prefer that, especially towards the end of a race when you have to manage the tyres. Fortunately it is not like F1, this is important, because in MotoGP the rider can make the difference.
Q: What is the difference between testing and racing?
A: Testing is more relaxed even though it is an eight hour day at the track, which can sometimes mean 85 laps. But you do not have the same pressure as a race weekend when there is less time. At the race weekends I try to carry over that relaxed approach because when you are relaxed it is easier to perform at your maximum.
Q: Do you have some favourite tracks in MotoGP?
A: I like the fast circuits, like Mugello, Sepang and Barcelona but not so much tracks like China and Estoril.
Q: What is the best part of being a MotoGP rider?
A: Just to be able to ride these bikes, which are at the top level of performance in motorcycling. My dream is keep doing this for a long time and become one of the top riders in the world.
Q: This year you will race with number 14, not your usual number 17. Why?
A: Last year was not a good season for me so I thought I would change from number 17. I wanted to use number 7 but Carlos Checa uses this number - so it is 14, two times seven.