In an exclusive interview with Fast Bikes India, PETRONAS Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli speaks about his journey into the top echelons of motorcycle racing
Fast Bikes India – You’re a son of two cultures (an Italian father and a Brazilian mother). So are you involved in other sports; football for example?
Franco Morbidelli – Yes sure; Football is a big part of my life. It’s a great sport, and something both sides of my family are equally interested in. I would always play football with my friends and cousins during my childhood. However, my priority has always been motorcycling, and I have never played football competitively or been part of any team.
FBI – Your father was also a racer. What has been his impression on your childhood dreams or career?
Franco – My father believed very much in my abilities, and made a lot of sacrifices towards my career. He was a big support in my early years, when I was racing pocket bikes, or during my 125cc days. All this made me think I could do well in this sport. I later realised he did all this as he saw something in me that even I couldn’t see in myself; something I only understand now.He never gave me any specific advice on how to race; he was just supportive, and would trust me a lot. I believe he just wanted to see how I would have reacted to situations all on my own.
FBI – Who is your role model, in racing as well as in general?
Franco – Valentino [Rossi] for sure. I appreciate his riding, as well as his personality. I’ve spent a lot of time with him, and have tried to pick up many things from him as well. However, there are other sportsmen too, like Ayrton Senna, and even Mohammed Ali. I look to pick up important things from them, their experiences, even their thoughts, so I can implement all of it in a good way; I try to be as young as possible but as wise as possible, and be able to face every situation in the best way.
FBI – How do you mentally prepare yourself before a race?
Franco – It’s a slow buildup, between Friday, Saturday and race day, and I try to get the maximum confidence and focus by Sunday afternoon. I try to analyse and prepare everything, though I know I won’t be able to prepare everything. So I need to be ready to react to everything I face.
FBI – How much has the VR Academy helped in terms of race craft?
Franco – Big time! Working with the VR Academy was fantastic because of the level they operate at, and also because you have the chance to work and train with great riders. All the riders in the academy are great, and they push each other to improve in each session. That’s a great environment, as competition makes you grow for sure.
Franco – There’s of course a big jump in performance – it’s especially a shock initially, everything from the brakes to the acceleration to the wheelies, and takes some time getting used to. But it’s super nice and sometimes you even crave the excitement. And, to race with 25 others on track, going at 300kmph and above with hardly any gap between you and your opponent is quite a big adrenaline rush.
FBI – You’ll be riding alongside Valentino Rossi next year. How does it feel?
Franco –To have Valentino as a teammate is wonderful, and I’m really looking forward to it. He’s a great character and rider, which is a great combination. It’s like this with our partners as well: PETRONAS brings their expertise in Motorsports and they improve their products through our learnings. It’s a win-win situation.
FBI – How do you feel about Fabio moving to a factory team?
Franco – I’m happy for him and I congratulate him. He had a great first and second year in MotoGP, and seeing his riding, Yamaha has signed him on very soon. I don’t think there is much difference, as our team is already on a great level especially technically. All this is thanks to PETRONAS. Yes, he might get to interact with more engineers, but I doubt he’ll be decidedly better equipped.
FBI – Tell us more about your victory at San Marino.
Franco – It was a dream come true to win at a home race, and thinking about it, it still feels great. Considering how tough this championship has been, I guess It’s only when everything finishes that I will have the time to process everything: my home GP win, in front of my crowd, perhaps the best thing in my career so far.
FBI – Along with the victory at Aragon, you also set the new lap record. How does it feel?
Franco –Fantastic. I wanted a lap record at MotoGP. I had one in Moto2, but none in MotoGP. And now I have a lap record at Aragon! Also, the record had been unbeaten since 2015, so of course it wasn’t an easy one, but we managed it after an extraordinary performance in Aragon. At the end I’m grateful to the team for such a chance.
FBI – Who did you consider your biggest rival this season?
Franco – It was mostly Fabio; he’s my teammate at the PETRONAS Yamaha SRT MotoGP team, and was initially at the top spot in the championship, before coming to second, which was the spot I closed the championship at.
FBI - The 2020 season just finished: what have you learned this year? What are you thankful for?
Franco – There were many things I learnt this year. I learnt that believing in yourself is one of the best things to do as a racer as well as for everyday life. Believing in yourself and your means, and the people working with you. I have also learned how important teamwork and collaboration are, from the team to the partners: there is so much work behind every race! For example, PETRONAS has a dozen scientists and engineers working exclusively on race fluids: it’s incredible to have so many amazing people behind our backs, helping us progress.