You seemed very confident on the bike today in qualifying?
This is as confident as I’ve felt going into a race all year after qualifying. I was always fighting with the PBM bike and Barcelona was probably the only time I had a feeling close to this. At Aragon I was learning the bike, Sepang I had really bad chatter and it was hard to get comfortable. At this circuit the bike is working nice and I’m going a bit better every time I go out because I’m getting more track knowledge and it’s definitely the most comfortable and confidence I’ve had going into a race.
Why didn’t you improve on your second run in qualifying?
We’ve got a better race pace than we had in one off lap pace. When I stay out there I keep getting faster and lap six and seven I keep getting better so tyre life hasn’t been issue. I’ve been able to keep it consistent. I didn’t get the best out of it in qualifying, I stuck in a new tyre and did my best time. I was going to do another lap because all weekend I’ve been faster when I do more laps. But I said that I’d try a new tyre, because everyone else can find a few tenths on a new tyre, but on the first lap I ran too hot into turn two and ran wide and the second lap Petrucci rolled off in front of me through Stoner Corner so that ruined my lap. Then I had one last lap and I was to desperate for it and messed it up and kept running in too hot and didn’t better my laptime. At the end of the day it was only for probably one or two places and it doesn’t make much difference from 18th to 16th on the grid. It’s looking quite positive.
What was the issue that caused you to change bikes this afternoon?
FP3 was a disaster because the bike that I was riding all weekend had an electronic issue with one of the sensors. It was picking up some false reading I think because you’d open the power and the electronics wouldn’t give you any power. I tried to persist with it in FP3 but then swapped to the other bike in FP4 and it felt good and I did my fastest laps with it. There’s a couple of things to adjust on it but there’s no chatter on it. There’s a bit of pumping under acceleration, especially into Stoner Corner where the wind can get under the bike, but the bike is working fine. I just hope that there’s enough mileage on the engine, it’s the Aragon and Sepang engine, so worst case we can switch engine tonight.
Where do you stand in the CRT fight this weekend?
Colin and de Puniet seem have a bit more pace this weekend, I’m not sure if it’s one off pace or race pace. So looking at my competition Aoyama always has good race pace and Hector is usually good in races. Espargaro hasn’t been a lot faster than us this weekend but I think that Petrucci and Corti find a good chunk of time in qualifying and don’t really match it in the race. So hopefully de Puniet isn’t too far ahead over a race distance. If I can get a good start and hang with them I think that I’ve got the pace to hang with them. If I can consistently do 1m31’s in the race I should be in the hunt and I feel confident. It’s nice to have a positive feeling about the bike and think you can get stuck in tomorrow.
Is this the best feeling you’ve had on a bike all year?
For sure. It’s the best I’ve felt since pre-season testing at Sepang 1 on the ART. We’ve had some OK feelings on the PBM bike such as Barcelona. Since I came back onto the ART bike it’s taken a bit of time to get dialled in and feel OK on the bike but now I feel like I’m riding it how it needs to be ridden.
How tough was it to go from February until now with a feeling that the bike was good but not great?
It’s difficult but you try and not let the frustration creep in. At different times this year it was frustration because you feel a bit limited but I knew that was what was to be expected with a development bike. It’s nice to jump on the ART and it proves what we’ve been saying all year about what we need to improve with the PBM bike. People outside don’t know how different the bikes are and I’m not knocking the PBM bike because it is a brand new bike and it was never going to be as good as the Aprilia. But it has been frustrating at times and it’s nice now to ride the ART and get the most from your riding and push harder and dig into yourself