MC: So, Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson: There has been a lot of American success in GP racing, but right now there’s sort of a lull. There’s Ben [Spies], and Nicky [Hayden] has enjoyed some longevity, but now all the talk is Bradley Smith and Danny Kent. What do you make of that?
CC: …for America, you’ve got two great guys who are in there challenging at the front with Ben and Nicky. Nicky’s a guy that’ll, y’know, he’ll be there forever because he won a MotoGP world title. But he’s a very, very good, fast rider, and you can never take a MotoGP title away from a rider, so, y’know, he’s had numerous podiums and numerous wins. Ben’s probably the fastest American rider, it’s just he hasn’t had the best luck this year and I really really believe that once he gets it back he’ll be back straight towards the front, and it’s good to see. Ben’s got a completely different style to a lot of the riders but he still makes it work.
Obviously, you did have your Kenny and Rainey and Randy [Mamola], and stuff like that, it’s just… I don’t know, motorcycling’s not where it was then, y’know? I remember watching the Grand Prix with [Mick] Doohan, and Randy, and people like that. There used to be 200,000 people deep at the race circuit. Now, we get 50,000. I think it’s… I won’t say it’s more difficult to be a MotoGP rider. There are more demands on the rider. We travel for 300 days a year. We have to pay our commitments, we have to…
MC: …do crappy interviews?
CC: No, no. At the end of the day the way I look at it is, the people that come to the race, buy the tickets, buy the merchandise, buy the bikes, y’know, all the fans you sign the autographs for, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be racing. And a lot of other riders don’t think of it like that. They just think they’re there to do a job and they [the fans] are coming to watch us, but in all honesty if those guys aren’t buying the bikes, we’re not going racing. And we have them to thank for it.
There’s not many people that do jobs they love. Now, every motorcycle racer loves their job, otherwise they wouldn’t be there, I can tell you that. Casey [Stoner], doesn’t love his job any more so he’s going home. And that’s fair enough. So, I think, the riders can’t lose sight of the fact that when the economy is down like it is, and people struggle to get to racing, it’s more important to be more interactive with the fans. Because we need them to come buy the bike, we want them buy the tickets and the hats, because that means Yamaha gets more budget to go motorbike racing.
MC: Tell us about that fan at Motegi who was walking around in… was it a piece of a fairing?
CC: Yeah, he was walking around with my helmet on and a piece of fairing around his chest. The Japanese fans? All day. From eight in the morning, he was just walking around the paddock.
MC: You’re known as an honest and affable guy. Is that something you focus on or is it just a reflection of you being grateful for the sport and for the fans?
CC: There’s not many riders that are, probably, as outspoken as me. Which, in a way is a good thing and in a way is a bad thing. I know sometimes I should button my lip but I don’t. A lot of people like it, a lot of people don’t. Y’know, I’m lucky in Yamaha, it’s like being in a big family.
You have other guys that just run the corporate line all the time, that will do anything and everything just to keep their job, and, y’know, doing it the wrong way. Their smile’s not a real smile. And that’s okay, I think it’s… if that’s what they want to do that’s great, but they [the fans] want a normal person, they don’t want a robot that’s been told what to say. I’m a normal person. I’ve got to go to a grocery store, y’know? I have to go clean my own house. I don’t have my food helicopter’d in through a top window or something. So, I hate the riders that act like that or they think it should be like that, because it’s not. It’s really not.
MC: Can you picture a time when you get sick of it? The 18 GPs a year, the living out of a motorhome? Stuff like that.
CC: When I’ve crashed, and I’m on a long flight home, it isn’t the nicest feeling in the world, but I can tell you now I wouldn’t change my job for anything. I love my job, and as I said it’s very rare people can say they love their job. Every day they do something they love. Yeah, we don’t enjoy the crashing part or the walking through the airport part,but… I think we still work for our hours.
MC: On the subject of work versus play, do you think someone like Casey Stoner would’ve been better off in the late ’70s or something? When you could go up on the podium with a cigarette in your mouth and not care what anyone thinks?
CC: No, I dunno. I think Casey’s great. Why? Because he never does anything different. He’s always said, “I don’t like doing the press stuff. I’m here to race a motorcycle, and that’s it.” So he was straight up straight away. And on any given day he was normally the fastest guy. But he never managed to put the seasons together like some of the other riders, but he was the fastest, yea. And, when he stopped enjoying it he left, it’s as simple as that.
MC: You can’t blame him. So, your room for advancement in Yamaha is for you to beat Lorenzo or to beat Rossi, right?
CC: Yeah, it’s going to be difficult, but it’s going to be difficult in Yamaha, because those guys have signed for two years. So that means I can stay in my position for two years or go to a different manufacturer. Now, I’m very, very happy with Yamaha and I’d love to stay with Yamaha, but it’s tough knowing that Jorge and Valentino are set for two years. We know that Yamaha hasn’t got the budget to have three factory riders; as in be paid, and have the same equipment, so even if I went and beat them both next year and won the championship I could still be in the same position I’m in now.
MC: Is that a tough pill to swallow?
CC: Yeah, it’s a tough pill to swallow when you’ve beat guys all year. Not Lorenzo, obviously, but beat Valentino, beat Nicky, beat… y’know, guys who are on factory teams and I’ve beat them on a privateer bike. It’s a tough pill to swallow when it’s only your second year in MotoGP.
MC: Would you rather be on a factory Ducati than a satellite Yamaha?
CC: Uhhhh…[pause] I would rather be on a factory team than be on a satellite bike. Now, at the end of the day, people say, “the Ducati’s this, the Ducati’s that”… But, y’know, they’ve been bought by a big company and you don’t know what they’re going to [come up with]. Now, I don’t think the bike’s that bad. I think that… Nicky’s a great rider. Is he ever going to win a Grand Prix again? I don’t know. Has he got the drive and determination to win a Grand Prix again, I really, really don’t know.
But, Valentino, I think was just at a point where he didn’t want to risk any more, and he didn’t get on with the bike, or the team or whatever, and moved on. Now, maybe they just needed someone to go in there and ride it and not care about anything. Now, Andrea [Dovizioso] is not that guy, I can tell you. Because… Andrea is one of the best riders that I’ve seen in MotoGP, but he’s so smooth and so… I’m not saying “fussy” about stuff, but really precise. And, the Ducati, you look at it and watch it on track and it doesn’t look like… if someone tries to ride it like that they’ve got no chance. Nicky, he’s quite an aggressive rider, so he rides the bike well. Is that its maximum? I really don’t know, because Nicky… Nicky doesn’t crash. Not that he doesn’t crash, but he doesn’t push to the point of crashing, and maybe it needs to be pushed harder, because Stoner was pushing all the time and he was winning on it. Now, Nicky never beat Stoner, so I don’t know. I really don’t know.
MC: Do you think Pedrosa turned over a new leaf with his win at Valencia?
CC: Yeah, and I think he’s the strongest guy for the title next year.
MC: Alright. That’s the hard-hitting stuff we like to hear. What do you think of Marquez?
CC: Marquez, at the moment, is the best rider in the world.
MC: Because it hasn’t been proven otherwise, or…?
CC: He’s… [sighs and shakes head] yeah, he’s good. Y’know the best thing about Marquez is he knocks people off, he crashes, he gets back up, he busts his eye socket, everybody else cares, he doesn’t. He’s not interested in what people say or think.
Now, I’ve only ever heard the front three guys in MotoGP say… not that they’re scared, but that they’re not looking forward to somebody and it’s about Marquez coming to MotoGP. I’m not looking forward to him coming. And at the end of the day, I think it’s going to be harder to be on the podium next year because Bradl’s fast, very fast, Bautista’s fast, Bradl’s got a factory bike. You’ve got Marquez, one of the best guys in the world now, on a factory bike.
The Ducati ain’t gonna do sh-t, y’know. Our bike, Yamaha need to step up with our machine, no doubt, because this year we ended the year quite a bit off the back of the factory. We started the year close, we ended up quite a bit off. The Yamaha package needs to step up compared to the other manufacturers, really, because Lorenzo’s making the difference, I can tell you that.
MC: So, in other words, Lorenzo is an X-factor that Yamaha has been leaning on?
CC: Yeah, by a long way. He’s just… yeah, he’s something else.
MC: When you see a guy who’s packed up all his stuff on a bike and takes off around the world, what do you think? Do you laugh at that idea? Are you jealous?
CC: I’m not jealous because I don’t really want to get too cold [laughs]. No, anybody who rides a motorcycle, I like. Sometimes I’ve had a few rivals, [laughs], no, but, I’m pleased if people are riding motorcycles, I’m pleased that people enjoy bikes. As I said, if it wasn’t for those guys, we wouldn’t be racing. They’re helping promote two wheels. Some people say, “It’s this, it’s that, it’s dangerous, it’s not dangerous,” but at the end of the day when people get on motorcycles they normally love it. I’ve not met a lot of people that get on a motorcycle and then say, “Oh, I really don’t want to get on a motorcycle again.” What I’ve always said about motorcyclists is that they respect each other. In England, I don’t know if you do it here, but we nod or wave or whatever. It’s like a community.
MC: Last question, what do you see yourself doing with motorcycles when you’re done racing? Get a modular helmet and an ADV bike and go around the world? Probably not, because you don’t want to get cold, but what do you see yourself doing with motorcycles after you race? Or do you think it’ll be a departure and you’ll go do something else?
CC: I don’t know, I’ve never really had a desire to run a team. I’ve never had a desire to do something like that. I don’t really know why. Maybe I could do what my manager does, Bobby Moore, he looks after me. So I could maybe do that, but it always depends. It depends if you’re happy with your life, it depends if you feel like you’ve achieved enough. If I went through and never won a MotoGP race, I probably wouldn’t be happy, I’d probably want to do something… I don’t mean never happy, just I’d want to do something. I don’t know maybe become a cyclist. It’d be late, but I could still win. But, I think, y’know, you look at most motorbike racers that have retired and they always have to do something else. I don’t think I could just sit on a beach for the rest of my life. So yeah, maybe I would have time to ride around the world.