But the team I definitely felt most comfortable with was Suzuki MotoGP and one of the main reasons for that was that the language in the team was English and that the people in the team were English or Irish. That year I also had a great and close relationship with my crew and that helped too. I still stay in touch with a lot of the people from there.
Even on the Japanese side I really felt part of the family and you felt that they appreciated you being there as much as you appreciated them. It was a great feeling and when I won the race at Le Mans I actually felt more happy for the team than I did for myself because of the effort they had put in and the support they'd given me.
No one had had any wet track time at that race and the bike wasn't working the best but luckily it was working better than the others. Bringing the bike home to the team certainly felt great and that result is in the record books even now so that's a real achievement. That along with winning the WSS title have to be the standouts of my career.
Which riders did you respect and enjoy racing against?
At world level the riders are all good and I guess I had respect for them all. It wasn't as if you could say 'so and so's not quick this weekend', they were all quick always.
The first guy that I rode with and thought, 'Wow, look what that guy can do on a bike!' though has to be Nori Haga. I was competing against him in WSBK and a lot of people when you see them ride you can understand what they're doing, but sometimes what Nori did was pretty special and I'd sometimes wonder how he did it. I definitely had great respect for him.
I experienced Nori's classic trick of following right on the back wheel many times and I could hear his bike louder than mine. I felt as if I was closer to his engine than mine! You often thought he might clip someone but he never did.
Going into MotoGP and from a pure talent point of view I've never seen anyone ride a bike like Casey Stoner. What he could do on a bike was perhaps one step up again from Nori. It didn't matter if the bike was good, bad or indifferent, he just got on and did it. It was special just to see how he rode.
How about riders you had difficulties with?
I didn't really have difficulties with anyone but when I first came into WSS at the back of the field there were too many guys trying to make a name for themselves and they could ride a bit too hard. Once you get at the pointy end though that was left behind. Most guys know that if they're hard on you then you're going to be hard straight back so it's not usually a problem.
I think the rider who rode the hardest against me and stayed fair most of the time was James Toseland. When he went past he didn't leave you an inch. Other riders might have left a bit more room but James rode that way and you could be exactly the same back to him because he expected it. He could give it and take it and I really enjoyed our battles, I think you could say he was hard but fair.
All riders have their different styles and to beat the rider you always had to take their style into account.
Coming back to your injury problems, do you think there's pressure to come back to racing too early?
From my point of view I didn't have any pressure from my team and Kawasaki were very good and certainly weren't forcing me back. The motivation for coming back was all mine. I wanted to come back straight after the injury because I didn't really have enough knowledge about it. I knew I had a lot of pain but didn't really understand the extent of the injury.