By Christian Tiburtius

An exclusive interview with Moto2 star Thomas Luthi.

The former 125cc world champion missed the end of pre-season testing and the opening rounds of this season due to a serious arm injury.

The Swiss Interwetten Suter rider, 27, has since taken three podium finishes and is eighth in the world championship standings heading into this weekend's Aragon round...
There are no race tracks in Switzerland, how do you start racing there?

Thomas Luthi:
Yeah, it's a pity that we don't have any tracks. I think I did it in a rather unusual way, in Switzerland we have a pocket bike championship and it happens in commercial car parks and kart tracks. You don't have any chance to make the step up to 125's or bigger bikes in Switzerland though.

After that I took part in the German championship. I lived and went to school in Switzerland but travelled a lot. I got every Friday off from school, travelled to the race - some races were up to 1000km away - took part in the race and then travelled home on Sunday evening. Some Monday mornings I'd get home at 6am and have to be at school at 7am, a little bit tired, but it worked.

It was tough and I was lucky to get the Fridays off. The teachers told me that as long as my work and grades at school didn't suffer too much then they'd let me do it, so that was a big motivation for me.
So we can thank your enlightened teachers for you career...

Thomas Luthi:
Yes, in a way but my parents too.
I'm just trying to clarify if racing is actually illegal in Switzerland.

Thomas Luthi:
Yes, that's true. Racing on circuits is forbidden. There was a big car accident in Le Mans and after that circuit racing was made illegal. You can still have races in the mountains on the public roads but circuit racing is illegal. I don't think they still do mountain races on bikes but for sure they still do them with cars and those seem a lot more dangerous than racing on tracks to me.
So from the Swiss point of view, the Isle of Man TT is legal but the GP at Silverstone is illegal?

Thomas Luthi:
Exactly, that's the way it works here!
You won the Swiss personality of the year in 2005, you must be very well known?

Thomas Luthi:
That was after I won the 125 championship. I actually beat Roger Federer to the prize and I really thought wow! This is a really great moment. Roger was actually second to me, it felt very strange.

There are many racing fans here even though we don't have a race. All the races are shown on Swiss television and particularly after I won the 125 championship there was a lot of hype so I am quite known. Some people recognise me but I can go out or have dinner with no problems, I still have to pay the bill, but I may get a free coffee!

Also I think that Swiss people are perhaps a little more reserved and shy so they stay calm and don't bother me. I like living in Switzerland.
When you were in 125s your results seemed to improve after working with Andy Ibbott?

Thomas Luthi:
I worked with him for a long time and he was like a riding coach. My opinion was that despite the fact that you're in the world championship, everything isn't perfect and you always need to improve. The biggest thing that you can work on is your riding style and to try to be better every corner, every race, every lap. I worked with him for a long time and for sure I learned a lot from him.

You need many stones to build a house and Andy was definitely one of the important ones.

I always try to work on my style, sometimes I don't bother trying to change the bike, I just work on my style. The rider is a big part of the bike package and a lot of weight that can be moved around so working with your body on the bike can help a lot. You've got to be careful though because working too much with your body can make the bike nervous. I just play around to try and find the perfect way.

At the beginning everybody looked towards Valentino Rossi and thought 'as long as I do what he's doing everything will be OK' but all riders are different and you have to work on your own style. You couldn't take, for example, Marc Marquez's set-up, that's only for him.
When you mentioned Valentino Rossi, one of his most characteristic style elements is the 'leg dangle'...

Thomas Luthi:
He was the first to do this and many riders thought that if he does it, I'll do it. I don't do it though. I had a look at Lorenzo and he's world champion so I think it's still possible to go fast without dangling your leg into a corner. I tried it sometimes when I'd braked too late and used my leg to right the bike. Maybe it helps to balance the bike a little but it's not a key point to go much faster.
You seem a very calm rider and personality...

Thomas Luthi:
For sure I'm nervous on the grid and I feel that's important because you need to be like that. Most of the time though I can stay quite calm. I try to stay calm so that I can focus on the job.

When you're on the grid though it's probably another level of nerves to for example going on stage, starting a Moto2 race is one of the biggest things in bike racing, it's very competitive.
When riders talk about 'finding a rhythm', what do they mean?

Thomas Luthi:
It's a very important thing, I often talk about finding the right flow. It's not thinking about the next corner, it's a feeling thing. At a certain point everything goes automatically and well and you feel you are in the flow, everything comes easier. At that point you don't have to work so hard on the bike anymore that's how you know you've found the rhythm.

In the race weekend I take the first exit in the first free practice and I use five or six laps to just try to find the rhythm, to try to get consistent lap times and braking points. I'm not looking for speed, I'm looking for the flow.

When you find that point, you feel more relaxed and you're not so tired after the race because the rhythm was there.
The big influence on your 2013 season has been your injury, how bad was it and how are you now?

Thomas Luthi:
My right elbow was quite destroyed. When I say quite destroyed, it was actually completely destroyed. I had many broken bones in the elbow. It's really gratifying that I'm already back; the doctors did a really great job in completely rebuilding the elbow.

We missed tests and the first two races and all the bike set-up experience that would have come with it. Coming back was difficult in two ways, the fact that I was injured and also the lack of experience of working with the bike.

The arm really is much better now and on the bike for the last three races I've been able to ride without pain. The movement is almost 100%. I can't straighten it properly but on the bike that isn't a problem. On the bike I'm almost there. The injury was actually in a quite small area and there is a lot of metal work in there and I may have to have another operation in the winter to have it removed.

Straight after the accident it was a difficult time and I was thinking many things. Directly afterwards I was even asking myself if I was doing the right thing here. I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and I was in hospital for a week and really wasn't in good shape. After that my feelings changed quite quickly though but it was hard work.

In the end I saw the other riders racing and testing and I just felt that I could still do it, more importantly though, I just wanted to go out and beat them! It's the basic impulse when I ride in a race, I don't go there just to be with the other riders and ride with them, I want to beat them. I still think that I'm good enough to beat them all. If I go out and just start racing for a bit of fun, that'll probably be the beginning of the end.

The support of the people around me also helped, it was made clear to me that it would be my decision whether I came back or not.
What would you say are your strengths in racing?

Thomas Luthi:
It's difficult to say, but perhaps one strength I have is my sheer experience in the Moto2 class. Another is that if the bike is set-up well then I can be very strong on the brakes, good set-up is very important for late braking.

Also depending on the situation, I'm quite a strategic rider.

Weaknesses, there are many points, as I mentioned at the beginning you have to continually work on so many aspects but I don't want to say which ones because the other riders may read the interview and try to beat me with my weaknesses! Perhaps I'd better keep those to myself.
What about your crew?

Thomas Luthi:
It's a very stable crew and it was actually my goal to stay with the same crew for next year and that was a big wish from my side. It looks quite good now so I'll be in the same team with the same crew. That's a very important point because you have to trust the people who are around you.

It's great to have stability and that's an important element of going fast, stability of the crew chief is particularly important. He knows me very well, he knows what I need on the bike and I know him. I can talk about the bike in terms of feelings and he immediately knows what I mean, everything can be done quicker.

You can see that Rossi has always kept his whole crew when he moved. When you come in you pretty much only speak to your crew chief and that relationship is key. He manages everything that goes on in the box.
How are the decisions made between you and your crew chief?

Thomas Luthi:
It's always a question of discussion but in the end it's my decision. We talk about it, when I have a better idea, he goes along with it and when he does I go along with it. The tyre choice is also ultimately the rider's but you listen to your crew chief first.
Last year the Suter was dominant but this season Kalex seem to be doing better, has the Suter become less competitive?

Thomas Luthi:
No, you can't really say that. The Suter is still a race winning bike, they've won two races this season, it's just that there are more fast riders on the Kalex. Maybe that's why they're dominating at the moment. As I said, we missed two races at the beginning and still need to work on the bike and we're also working on the bike for next season. It's important to not get complacent with development so we are very much looking to next season.
Are you the number one rider for Suter bike development?

Thomas Luthi:
Yeah, for sure. I was going into the season as the number one rider for development but after the accident Suter have been working with other riders too. We missed a lot at the beginning of the year so it's important to think of next season when we have the chance to go for the title again.

Me and the team have quite a strong influence on how the chassis is developed and we work closely with Suter.
How would you compare the Suter and the Kalex?

Thomas Luthi:
Unfortunately, I can't give you any idea about the comparison because I've never ridden a Kalex. I think both bikes are at a high level and are race winning bikes. It would be interesting to ride a Kalex though but that's not possible because of finances.
Do you have a strategy for the rest of the season?
I just have to take it race by race. After the bad start to the season, the championship is gone anyway but I was quite strong over the past three races, I had two podiums and a fourth place, so the target is to get a podium in the rest of the races. We're looking for consistency.
You have always been a front runner in Moto2, but you don't hear about any plans to move to MotoGP...

Thomas Luthi:
It's definitely a goal but only on the right bike, at the moment it's not an option for me to go on a CRT. If I get the chance to go on a prototype bike I might go for it. I've already had the chance to move there on a CRT, it's not an option for me at the moment though. It doesn't make any sense to move up if you don't get a prototype bike and if not I'll stay in the Moto2 class.

Next year the MotoGP scene will change quite a lot anyway so it might not be a good year to move up and there could be better opportunities at the end of next year.

My plans for next year are clear; it's same team, same crew, same championship.
Would you consider a Superbike ride?

Thomas Luthi:
I've had talks about a Superbike ride but the goal is still MotoGP. I still think that with a good season in Moto2, fighting for the championship I can move up to MotoGP on a competitive bike. MotoGP is where my ambitions lie.
While convalescing I guess you watched a lot of bike racing on television, which racing did you most enjoy watching?

Thomas Luthi:
I would say the Moto2 class.
Is Moto2 a good place to be for pay?

Thomas Luthi:
It's really not about the money, and Moto2 is for sure not the kind of place you go to get rich. I think the riders have to take Moto2 as a stepping stone to another class, namely MotoGP. To get good money you need to be fast and up front in MotoGP. I'm paid by my team and also get some input from private sponsors.
Talking of that, are you wearing a watch at the moment?

Thomas Luthi:
Yes, a Tissot
Is it the T-Race Thomas Luthi?

Thomas Luthi:
(Hesitates) yes, I had to check! It's an important thing for me though because I'm Swiss and love to be punctual.
Thanks for that Thomas and I'm impressed by your excellent English, did you have classes?

Thomas Luthi:
No, that's paddock English.

Thanks Tom.

Thomas Luthi:
No problems, have a good one.