Loris Capirossi

After 14 years in GPs, Loris Capirossi knows more than most about the sport. Now riding a wave with Ducati he's more fired-up than ever

You'd be hard-pushed to find a happier man in the MotoGP paddock this season than Loris Capirossi. On his own admission he feels like a new man having been completely rejuvenated by his success with the new Ducati MotoGP squad. And the diminutive Italian says his enthusiasm for racing is strong as it was when he first started Grand Prix racing - way back in 1987. He's riding as well as ever, but he promises, 'you ain't seen nothing yet!'

"This year is a dream situation for me. It's like I have a completely new life, and I feel as happy as I was in my first year of racing.

"The Ducati project is very exciting and it's great to be part of its development. At last I can get a bike designed just the way I want it, and I have a big factory working behind me helping me to do that. It's the first year for the machine, and already the results are unbelievable but the potential for the Ducati is even higher, as long as we are patient.

"Because the Desmoseidici is new for this season, we expected some problems - like the one we had at Brno. It was unfortunate for it to happen so late in the race, because I'd been saving the tyres for a push towards the end. But these sorts of things have happened to me many times in my life, so at this moment I am okay. We'll learn from these things and get stronger."

Logical and philosophical thinking seem to be the trademark of the former 125 and 250cc world champion, and his quiet and unassuming character is immediately evident when you first meet him though this modesty masks a ruthless competitive streak. Something that was clearly underlined in days gone by when he deliberately downed rival and teammate Tetsuya Harada to seal his 250 title for Aprilia in 1998.

The Italian firm was less than impressed with the tactical argy-bargy, and Capirossi was promptly shown the door. The sacking lead to him riding for Honda in the quarter-litre class the following year, and he's ridden continually for the Japanese brand since then, until he signed for Ducati this year.

But returning to work with an Italian factory once more has really suited the 30-year old, who now lives with his new wife Ingrid in Monaco.

"For me it's much easier to work with an Italian team. Of course the chief advantage is that everybody speaks the same language. But it's the structure and mentality of the team that makes them so much easier to work with compared to the Japanese.

"With Ducati, I'm in direct contact with the factory. And if I want to make some changes then I pick up the phone, discuss things, and usually have them sorted after just one or

two weeks. This is one of the reasons why we've made so much progress this year - it's because we can make things happen very quickly. With the Japanese the communication takes much longer. I've worked with many Japanese teams and their mentality is very strange, and so difficult to understand at times. There are many chiefs with different responsibilities and, after you speak with one of them, they have to go off and discuss it with the rest before anything can be done.

This can take much longer to get things organised.

"At Ducati we work as a very close group with everyone working towards the same thing. We have a very good focus and objective as a team - to win. I think it's one of the secrets to us doing so well this year. For example, Troy (Bayliss) and I don't have any team orders and we help each other a lot. He's got much more four-stroke experience than me (Loris had never ridden a four-stroke until the Ducati ride came along), and he's helped me with that. I've helped him with chassis set-up, as there's a lot more adjustment available on GP bikes than superbikes. And I've helped him at the tracks he doesn't know - we happily share lots of information with each other.

"Troy is a good rider and a very nice man, and when the bike is not good he tries even harder. I'm not surprised he rides well in MotoGP as last year's World Superbike championship was very hard for him with his battles with Colin (Edwards). It will be tough for Neil (Hodgson) in MotoGP next year because the riding level is so very high now. But I think he will adjust okay in time because he is a good guy, and the four-strokes are much easier to ride than the old 500s."

Capirossi wears a look of regret when he momentarily considers the bikes of yesteryear. "The 500s were more special for me. Only about three or four guys could ride them near the limit. They were very, very difficult to ride fast, and if you made only a small mistake, you would crash. The four-strokes are a lot more forgiving and easier to ride, and there are about ten guys who can ride them near the limit. Even when they have even more horsepower they will always be easier to ride because the power is so much better spread and the delivery more linear. 

"Of course one of the other main advantages we have at Ducati is our engine which is unbelievably powerful and fast. But, for sure, next year the bike will be even better. It has so much more potential and, at the moment, we're hampered by lack of experience and settings at some circuits. Sometimes we only have four hours testing to set the bike up at a track that is new to us - sorting the engine and gearbox, chassis and so on - and sometimes that's not enough time. 

"Next year we will have developed the bike even further and will have much more experience. I think we can really push for the world championship in 2004. This season is a development year, and we can do much better than this. And I think that because Honda and Ducati are fighting each other so hard this season, it's the main reason why our bikes are so much ahead of the rest."

Any ambitious GP campaign needs good riders, and many of the best riders are coming from Italy at the moment. Capirossi has views on the Latin phenomenon.

"We have a lot of tracks and races in Italy, and we have lots of manufacturers like Ducati, Aprilia and Cagiva from the past. Bike racing is a big sport in Italy so naturally we can find lots of good riders. We all start to ride when we're very young; I myself was just four when I rode a bike for the first time.

"But I think you can have a stronger passion for racing, like I have, if you've had to fight for things more. When I first started racing my family didn't have plenty of money and I didn't have a motorhome. It's helped me to be stronger and fight for things for as long as I have. I've been GP racing for 14 years now. Some young riders arrive with a lot of money, and after one or two years are finished because they're not hungry enough.

"I'm lucky to have some strong family support at races and they are always there with my manager Carlo (Pernat) at every race meeting. It's a very good and strong group and it helps me a lot. It's another reason why I have enjoyed racing for so long, and why I still love it as much as I do now. I can't wait to be riding again. It's not a job for me, it's a great big game and I love playing it."

Loris's love for racing doesn't extend to all things though, and Max Biaggi has lost favour with the Ducati rider.

"I've known Max for a long time, and have been friendly with him for many years. He's a brilliant rider but his personality is a bit strange. He talks too much, but will only speak to you when it suits him and he needs something from you. I live very close to him, but sometimes when I ride my bicycle past him on the way to training and say hello, he just ignores me. However, if he needs some help he approaches me every time. Now he's not a friend of mine, and I don't want to talk to him again. He's not an easy man.

"Valentino is a very good friend though, like everyone else he is just a man, and Sete and I have proved that he can be beaten. Though I think Honda will not allow anyone to beat Valentino, as he is the number one rider.

There are a lot of politics in Grand Prix racing these days.

"At the moment my dream is to beat Honda, and I think I'm in a position to do it. I rode for them for many years and they promised me the best factory bikes but never delivered them to me. I don't care so much about the past, the future is more important. But my desire to beat Honda gives me another ten horsepower.

"Right now I don't have to care too much about the Japanese. I'm 30 now, and have two more years with Ducati before I decide on my future in racing. If I'm enjoying it as much as I am now, I'll carry on. If not, I'll stop."