By Christian Tiburtius

An exclusive interview with MotoGP race winner and 2010 Moto2 champion Toni Elias, who has just announced he is leaving Moto2 and will make his World Superbike debut at this weekend's Turkish round.

Elias, a grand prix rider since 2000, looks back on his racing career to date and then explains the decision to move to WSBK...

Related Articles

Crash.net:
Where are you exactly?

Toni Elias:
At home in Manresa, it's about 20 minutes away from Barcelona. I'm a Catalan.

Crash.net:
Why are there so many famous riders who come from that area?

Toni Elias:
There's a big tradition of motorcycling in this area, also there is a federation which encourages kids when they start racing. Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Bautista, Marquez, they all came through the federation system. Also there's RACC, a motorsport club which helped promote us all in the sport and also provided a bit of sponsorship.

Crash.net:
Doesn't Carlos Checa also come from around there?

Toni Elias:
Yes, Carlos Checa is a good friend of mine and lives 3 minutes away from me here. Carlos actually learned to be a mechanic in my fathers shop. I've known Carlos since he was 15 and I was only a child. He quit working in our garage because he'd started in the 250 world championships.

Crash.net:
Apparently you're the third Elias to race motorbikes

Toni Elias:
My grandfather was a road racer like me. He raced for Ducati a long time ago at a time when there weren't any tracks and everything was on the road like at the Isle of Man. He was also a mechanic for Ducati in my home town but unfortunately died very young.

My father was a motocross racer and was 10 times Spanish champion. My uncle was also a Spanish champion and after finishing their racing career they opened a motorbike shop and we've still got it. I grew up there between bikes and they're in my blood.

Crash.net:
How did you develop you all action style?

Toni Elias:
It just came naturally. I think that people like it because they're always telling me how they enjoy seeing me almost off my bike with my knees and elbow scraping the ground.

I was always criticised by teams for it though because they would say it wasn't good because my body was totally outside the bike. They said that I didn't put enough weight on the tyres and therefore that the tyres didn't heat up and that's why I didn't have traction.

Now Marc Marquez has got a similar style though and he's winning and that made me very happy because it shows that that style was not a problem. I'm happy that Marc is winning with a similar style to mine as it vindicates what I was saying. Sure we are a little bit different but our elbows are down near the ground and our backsides are also hanging off the bike.

Crash.net:
Is it true that Bridgestone made a particular tyre for you to suit your style?

Toni Elias:
Yes, in 2007 when I raced for Gresini and they decided to change from Michelin to Bridgestone. When we tried the Bridgestone for the first time, we said what we were looking for and Bridgestone made the tyre to our specifications.

I used a very big front tyre, a very soft rear and wow!, that bike was incredible. The combination of the Honda and the Bridgestones in 2007 was the best bike I've ridden in my whole life because I could do what I wanted. My body was out of the bike and my elbow on the ground but we were fighting for the top spots until I broke my femur at Assen.

Crash.net:
And that tyre was made particularly for you?

Toni Elias:
The construction, yes. It was a little bit softer to help me. The front one was very big, now in MotoGP they use 400's and in the past the tyres were 375s or something, but at the time I was the first one to use 400s. They're a little bit wider and that helped me.

Crash.net:
Does your style depend on particular tyres?

Toni Elias:
No, not really. Everybody says this. For sure very stiff tyres don't help me but you can mitigate that with the frame and rear suspension linkage. You can also move the bars further back so it really isn't a problem.

I usually like a soft rear and a stiff, hard front because I like to brake very late.

Crash.net:
What are the low and high points of your long career?

Toni Elias:
My worst year has to be 2011. We suffered a lot and probably had all the problems you could have. I don't want to talk about that much, but when I left MotoGP, I left in seventh position and sometimes made a podium. I felt that was a great position for a satellite bike at the time. When I came back after winning Moto2, I'm fighting over the last positions and my best result was eighth. That was very disappointing for me.

That was the year that Bridgestone made their stiffest tyre ever as the control tyre. Also we had a lot of problems in the team. Either way, that's the past and I'll put that down to experience.

I've had many happy moments, like my first victory in 125s and 250s and also winning my first MotoGP race and beating Rossi - that was a beautiful emotion!

But the best year has to be 2010 because I finally attained my dream of being world champion. After that nobody can take that away from me, it'll make me happy for the rest of my life. The title made up for missing out on 125 and 250 world championships in 2001 and 2003.

The whole team came together, the technicians, Moriwaki and everybody. I was also very involved in that project and could decide many things. Everything was perfect.

Crash.net:
Has Nicky Hayden thanked you for his championship?

Toni Elias:
Yes (laughs). Him and his father also. They lost a lot in Portugal when Dani [Pedrosa] took him out and it looked as if he didn't have a chance in the championship and after the race I won he thanked me for keeping his chances alive. In the last race Valentino fell and Nicky won the championship by three points.

Crash.net:
What were your impressions of the Ducati you rode?

Toni Elias:
Everybody said that the only person who could ride the Ducati was Casey Stoner. But I would say that Capirossi, Troy Bayliss and me did OK. I don't think it's a bad bike and it has a lot of potential. I was comfortable with the bike and when we could find a good set up, I was fast. I have been able to get onto the podium on a large variety of bikes.

The thing that impressed me about the Ducati was the power, it was enormously powerful, it was like riding an animal. The thing that needed improvement though was the balance, in my opinion the balance was too much towards the front wheel. If that's the case, you can't get any traction and power without traction is uncontrollable.

Crash.net:
You always got solid results but often seemed to have difficulties getting a ride.

Toni Elias:
Yes, I normally got good results but I was never taken on by a factory team. That's not been easy for me but that's the pathway I've had, some people have a smooth pathway and some a rocky one but the important thing is to get what you want in the end.

Crash.net:
Do you keep your crew with you when you move between teams?

Toni Elias:
No, I wasn't able to. Many other riders move with their crew but I couldn't and I think that was very important. You change teams, you change bikes and everything is new but at least you have you crew to give you continuity. When you move to a new team with a new crew, things are always very difficult.

Crash.net:
What do you think is holding you back this year?

Toni Elias:
We're having problems with the traction, at the moment it's very bad and we don't know why. I haven't been the only rider to have this problem, my team-mate feels the same. Dani Rivas, a rider with a totally different size and style to me has the same problem.

Crash.net:
How did it end with Avintia?

Toni Elias:
My relationship with Avintia has always been good and still is, but my results there haven't helped me or them.

Then last week I got a call from Aprilia with this offer to ride the Superbike and I said that I would talk with my boss at Avintia to get his opinion. I talked with him and he said it would be no problem for me to go to WSBK, It was mutual. He said he was happy for me to move because he knows that I was thinking of moving to WSBK in 2014

I stop riding with Avintia as of now and they have found an Argentinian rider to take over my bike until the end of the season, I'll finish the year with Aprilia and ride the last four races with the Red Devils team in WSBK.

Crash.net:
So does that mean you have an offer to complete this year and continue in 2014 with the Red Devils team?

Toni Elias:
No, only to finish this season and then we'll see.

Crash.net:
The bike is being ridden by Michel Fabrizio at the moment isn't it?

Toni Elias:
I don't know exactly, but Johnny Rea just broke his leg and I think that Michel was going to take over Johnny's bike and after that the Red Devils team called me.

Crash.net:
Do you see your future in WSBK?

Toni Elias:
Probably yes. But at the moment I just want to enjoy things and see how it goes. Careerwise though it has always been my aim to be with a factory team and if that were possible in MotoGP then I'd stay but it might be possible in WSBK.

Crash.net:
Have you tested a Superbike yet?

Toni Elias:
Yes, two years ago I tried the BMW Italia bike for 2 days at Misano so now I have some idea of how a superbike and the Pirelli tyres work. The bike had a lot of power, like a MotoGP bike, but also had a bit more weight.

My physical condition is very good at the moment though and I just hope it's enough to put up with 2 races in one day.

Crash.net:
Does that mean you'll be on the grid in Turkey for this weekend?

Toni Elias:
Yes I will, and I will have a lot to adapt to. Luckily I have had a lot of experience in adapting and Turkey is perhaps an easier track to get to know than others. I just want to go step by step this weekend though because I've got a new bike, new team, new crew and new championship, but the last race is at Jerez so I'll try to push there. Maybe it all sounds a little crazy but I will do my best.

Crash.net:
Really looking forward to seeing you race in Turkey.

Toni Elias:
Me too, thanks a lot.