Randy de Puniet Interview: "Top 5 Is Possible"

One of the most remarkable transformations this year has been Randy de Puniet's change from crash test dummy to fast, consistent finisher. MotoGPMatters was fascinated by this change, so we caught up with de Puniet in LCR Honda's rather splendid hospitality unit.

Randy de Puniet at Donington

MotoGPMatters: Last year, you got 61 points, and after just 9 races you're already up to 58 points this season (this was before RDP's podium at Donington). How do you explain that?

Randy de Puniet: Last year I had many crashes during the race and the practice, and I decided to change many things at the end of the season, and we also changed the tire. I think for me this was a good step. I feel more confident with the Bridgestone front tire. That's why I have better results and less crashes this year. Also, I know the bike and the team better, because it's my second year in this team. I think I've had a good season so far at this moment.

MGPM:  Does your style suit the Bridgestone front more than the Michelin front? Is this from a 250 riding style?

RdP: The problem was not that Michelin was worse than Bridgestone, the problem was that with Michelin it was impossible to find the limit. Many times when I was in the gravel, I say "why did I crash?" Many times, many times. With the Bridgestone you have a better contact feeling and you know where you are. That's why I think this is better for me.

MGPM:  So you know when you're almost at the limit?

RdP: Yes.

MGPM:  Do you think this is a little like Casey Stoner in his first year on the LCR with the Michelins, when he had lots of front end crashes. As soon as he gets on the Bridgestones, he stops crashing.

RdP: Maybe, maybe.

MGPM:  You also changed your trainer at the end of the season as well. Why, and how did that affect you?

RdP: I didn't change my trainer, because my manager does all those jobs for me, he was my coach, my manager, he did many things for many years for me. I decided to stop the job of him being my coach. So I tried to find another person, and I found (former motocross World Champion Yves) Demaria during the winter, we started to work together during all the winter tests and the preparation for the Grand Prix, and after the tests I decide to continue with him for all the races and we have a good collaboration, and I think this has helped me for this season.

MGPM:  So what has changed in your preparation?

RdP: We talk about the race, but also about everything. I have a different preparation before the race and the practice, I do a warm up and do some cycling. I changed completely my vision for this year, and I think this is working well.

MGPM:  You've been with LCR Honda for the past two years, and we're hearing you could be moving on. Herve Poncharal has mentioned your name. Can you tell us anything about your future?

RdP: For this moment, my manager is speaking with Lucio (Cecchinello, boss of LCR Honda), with Tech 3, and also another team. For me, the most important thing is to continue to work well and to do a very good result at this moment. We'll see what happens, but sure, I would like to be on a top team next year, with a good bike. That can be here, than can be another place. I feel very good in this team, and I would like to be on the top if it's possible with Lucio, but we'll see.

The Playboy LCR Honda garage

MGPM:  Do you think you can be competitive on a Honda? It's clear that the Yamaha is the best bike on the grid this season, so would that be a reason to go, or do you have confidence that Honda can make the step?

RdP: No, I think Honda is a good bike, but I have a standard customer bike, and the target this year is to be between 6th and 8th. I think that's OK, but for next year, I would like to be in the top 5. That's why we are trying to get a better bike, maybe here or maybe another place. This is my target. We'll see, but I need to do a good race at this moment, and if I can do this, I will get a better bike. For sure.

MGPM:  You mentioned the top 5. Is it possible to go any higher than the top 5, because above the top 5 you have Stoner, Lorenzo, Rossi, Pedrosa...

RdP: Yeah yeah, I know, but I think if I have a better bike, I can fight with these guys. Because for example at the Sachsenring I was very fast, and the top 5 was possible for me. OK, I made a mistake, but in Jerez I finished 4th, at Assen, I had a very bad first lap because I had some trouble, I think I finished 7th, but top 5 was possible. That's why I'm confident. Also, with the bike, when everything is perfect, I'm confident I can be 5th.

MGPM:  So at Germany, that crash on the first lap, what happened?

RdP: I lost the rear. The rear tire was not too warm and I changed direction too fast. That's why I lost the rear, but anyway. That race is my first crash this year.

MGPM:  First crash in 13 or 14 races?

RdP: Yes, I heard that. Which is pretty good, because my problem last year was the crashes.

MGPM:  Is it true that you called Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Stoner and Rossi "the aliens"?

RdP: Sorry? (Turns to Elisa, press officer for a translation) No! They're people, normal people. Sure, they're fast, but I think that if I can continue to work and get a better bike I can fight with them.

MGPM:  You don't think they are such a step above the rest that it will take a huge improvement to catch them?

RdP: For me, I think Rossi's the best rider. After that, Lorenzo is very fast, but sure, the job will make Rossi help Lorenzo, but I think for me, the best rider is Rossi. If I had the right bike, I could try to beat them, and fight with these riders, but sure it will not be easy. I don't know if it will be possible, but sure I will try to beat them.

Randy de Puniet leads Dani Pedrosa at Donington

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The parallel with Stoner's progress is compelling, though it will probably not quell established prejudices about either rider. The fact, however, that LCR seemed to be the team that had the most difficulty setting up their machine with Michelins is a sub-text that supports some of the comments Stoner made and earned himself few admirers by providing too much information. It suggests the difficulties that any one-bike team has in achieving set-up without comparative data to work with.

More power to both De Puniet and LCR for achieving a combination that can, at least in certain circumstances, be highly competitive.