FreestyleXtreme Magazine Issue 25 - Page 58

much he can improve. He is already very fast and was right behind Valentino and Maverick Viñales in some stages of the race in Argentina, which is very impressive. I always like to take a humble approach so I don’t know for the future but right now we are very happy. I’m sure he has margin for improvement because he is the newest guy and the one with the fewest kilometres under his belt in the MotoGP class so the margin is there. I like to live life step-by-step and day-by-day so we will keep ‘in the moment’ and we are pleased with the first two races. Hafizh is flying directly to Texas and will stay all week with Colin Edwards and at his ranch to train. For sure he will come to Austin fit. It will be another tough weekend because every circuit is new to him on a MotoGP bike and there is the learning process and many things to do. A word about Johann; he is knocking on the door of bringing the team’s first MotoGP win… You know Johann was the surprise of the 2017 season. He was not only the rookie of the year but also the top satellite rider and was just 0.3 from winning the last race in Valencia. We didn’t know what to expect for ’18: we wanted to improve on 2017 but we knew it would not be easy. Winter testing was a dream and then Pole Position in Qatar and leading 17 laps from 22 and unfortunately only a tyre problem robbed him of a potential victory or podium. Argentina: front row again and a good fight. All credit to my old rider Cal Crutchlow because when he was behind Johann I could see that he was strong and Honda have always been fast in Argentina. Cal was also on the podium last year. It was a tough track to pass and there were still some wet patches. He wisely decided to settle for second, which puts him third in the world championship and the best Yamaha. We can look optimistically at the future. People see Johann as a quiet and polite guy. Now into your second year working with him what is his character like and how has he handled the whole adaptation process to a new level of profile? What did you discover? I’ve discovered that this guy is very different to all the others I’ve been working with because he is, as you say, polite and almost shy in a way: but not on the track. He comes from a very normal background and he had to work, together with his friend, to climb all the steps from local racing to MotoGP. He has been more dedicated than anybody I’ve seen. It was never easy for him and he is the hardest worker I’ve had; second behind him was Andrea Dovizioso. Johann is so motivated and willing to succeed. More than anything he loves MotoGP racing, more than a lot of riders; he lives MotoGP. He has an attitude that you [as team manager] dream for. They are all very fast and very talented and all work very hard but I think he has that confidence that not many have. He is not surrounded by bodyguards or beautiful girls; he is just focussed on the job. If you plan to have a ten-lap stint then he will do the ten laps, even if the setting is not ideal. 99% of the riders will do three laps, come in and say ‘it’s not working…’ but Johann wants to go ‘into’ and look at everything before he says ‘that’s not what I want’. He will really push to find out. Some top riders get confused and won’t have the results people are expecting and sometimes I think that is because they don’t have the method to work and also the surroundings. I’m not a nationalist and will never be but I think speaking the same language – even though Johann and the whole crew speak good English – helps to really convey some feelings. He seems really good with the team, especially Guy Coulon [Crew Chief] and Alex Merhand [Data engineer] and this is really important. Johann is one of the guys who has spent the most hours in the [pit] box to understand, to talk, to read and to check, and at this level this is also important. u