Q: You have been active on the world motorcycle
racing scene for over a decade, and have had some pretty fantastic
results in your career. Some of the best were your victory in the 8
hours of Suzuka in 1996 and winning the Japanese Superbike Championship
the following year. In 2001 you raced in the two-stroke 500 cc class,
two years later you rode for Aprilia in MotoGP, and for the last few
years you have been regularly near the top of the Superbike standings.
What is your favorite kind of racing?
A: The first and basic point of my racing is that I
really enjoy it. The pleasure is even greater when I’m on the track with
other racers fighting at the limit. You’ve got to give a rider space
where he can prove that he’s the best against the other riders. Modern
technology and electronics are replacing riders more and more, and of
course the amount of money you spend plays the most important role here.
That’s why MotoGP for instance is not my favorite. There is a little
less of that in the Superbike championship, so this championship is my
favorite. The competition is equal on different machines and on tires
from the same manufacturer, so a good rider can show what he can do.
Q: You have a special status among the fans, some think of you as very charismatic. Why do you think that is?
A: I don’t really know. I never planned to develop
my charisma and I never especially worried about what the fans would
think about me; they either like me or they don’t. On the track I simply
am who I am and obviously I am something the spectators like, or they
accept me like that. Of course I like it that way.
Q: What are your goals for the 2007 season? We
are already half way through the season and you are in the fight for the
A: We have an excellent package this year and a real
chance for the title. I really hope that this time I will manage to
take the world championship title, since it’s gotten away from me for a
few years. Only top results, primarily wins, will get us to where we
want to go. There is still a lot of time left in the season (this
interview was conducted in Monza, a/n) and a lot of unexpected things
can still happen. So we still have a lot of work to do, because the
tracks are very different and given the equality of the riders every
little thing will count.
Q: You are riding with an Akrapovic exhaust system this year. Can you tell us your opinion of them?
A: Akrapovic exhaust systems are some of the best, I
rode with them a few years ago. Their quality and looks are excellent,
and I’d want to have them on my own bikes that I use in the little free
time I have.
Q: Did you know that when you were racing for Aprilia, Akrapovic made 68 mufflers for you over the course of the season?
A: I didn’t know that, but that’s certainly an
impressive number, which proves the attitude, seriousness and dedication
of the company.