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MotoGP Q&A - Karel Abraham

“I liked the idea of the fear of a highside to make you respect the bike more. I want it to be more about the rider” - Karel Abraham.
Karel Abraham finished as the top Open class Honda rider with a season-best twelfth place at the recent Italian MotoGP.

Here Abraham looks back on Mugello and his MotoGP career so far, which has seen the Czech also race with satellite Ducati and Aprilia CRT machinery.

Having recently achieved a degree in law, Abraham also reveals plans to study 'weapons and munitions'!

Crash.net:
That was a pretty good ride at Mugello, top Honda RCV1000R and only second to Aleix in the open class…

Karel Abraham:
Oh, thank you. I also thought it was a good one and I was really happy with the result. It's a shame I could only be second in the open class but it's so difficult to get the top spot because what Aleix [Espargaro] is doing at the moment is so amazing. He's on a really fast bike.

It was a really hard race because I was in the middle of a bunch of Ducatis. I think our bike is in fact capable of going faster than them but their engines are so good and they disappear on the straights. So that's why we were all stuck behind the Duke's. Then on the last lap I was just a little bit lucky because I was right behind Scott Redding and in the last turn I was a bit faster on the exit and managed to get him on the straight.

It wasn't an easy race because in the middle of it I was alone and then came across Pirro and it was the old Ducati thing where I just couldn't get him on the straights and that made me a little angry so the race was also mentally quite hard. The Ducati is about 30kph faster on the straights and at Mugello where you've got a long straight that makes it even more difficult.

For sure it was good to end up ahead of rated riders like Scott Redding. I knew that it wasn't going to be easy to get him because I was pretty mentally tired at the end of the race anyway, but on the last lap I let him go a bit and then made a better exit and managed to get him there with the slipstream. It was just a shame that Nicky [Hayden] couldn't also have been there because I think we could have had a good fight with him too.

Crash.net:
Coming back to the bike, what do you think of the RCV1000R?

Karel Abraham:
I actually think the Honda's a great bike, the chassis is almost perfect and I'm really, really happy with that, it's just that the engine hasn't got enough power. If we had more power I think we could fight with, or even be better than, the Ducati. Unfortunately we're also losing quite a lot of power in comparison with the other Open class bikes and that's where Aleix is gaining so much time on us.

That's the aspect that really needs improving but we've already spoken to Honda and it looks as if they're going to put that right. We've always been in contact with them and they know how much we're losing on the straights and they don't like having their bike look slow either.

I know they're working really hard on that but it's not that easy to change eight engines straight away so it's possible that will be for next year. We know they're working on it.

The chassis is really good though and that is a really good start. I can't say how it compares to the Factory Honda, but I've ridden the Ducati and the Aprilia and this chassis is easily the best I've ridden so far.

Crash.net:
What were the reasons for choosing the RCV1000R?

Karel Abraham:
We'll, the first year in MotoGP we went for the Ducati because they were very open and friendly to us. We weren't sure if we were going into MotoGP and we needed to test the bike first and Ducati were happy for us to do that. No other manufacturer would let us do that so it was mainly the way Ducati behaved with its customers that meant that we chose their bike.

In the end we had some problems with them and went for the Aprilia. Last year was a hard year because of all the injuries but also because the Aprilia didn't turn out as good as we thought it would be so we knew we would have to change the bike again.

We really didn't have too many options, we could have gone to Aprilia again, try to get another Ducati or maybe a Yamaha, but at the time they only wanted to sell the engine without the chassis, and the other choice was the Honda. We'd tried the Ducati, were disappointed by the Aprilia and the Yamaha was only an engine so in a way the Honda was the only possibility we had. In the end though the bike has turned out well.

Crash.net:
Was there any difference in cost?

Karel Abraham:
Well, for sure there is but I don't know how much, you'd have to ask my dad [Cardion AB team manager]. I know it's expensive though because all MotoGP bikes are.

Crash.net:
Do you feel that you get enough credit for your results?

Karel Abraham:
I know that a lot of the people who count in racing do take notice. The high people at Honda certainly keep an eye on what we're doing and Mr Nakamoto for example will always take the trouble to wish us good luck before every race. I know that Honda not only want to win the main race but are also keen to see their RCV1000Rs beating the Ducatis and they can see that we're helping to do that. I'm happy with the bike, I know that Honda know that and I'm hoping that'll help me in the future.

Maybe you could say that when it comes to credit that I'm being noticed by the right people.

Crash.net:
Does having a father who owns a race track make practice and testing easier?

Karel Abraham:
Actually I don't do any testing at all at Brno during the season. I do ride at the circuit quite a lot because we have a race school there but when doing that we're riding really slow so it doesn't help me for MotoGP.

To do any useful testing you need a MotoGP bike, a test engine, the crew and everything and that is really expensive. Just going around Brno on a slow bike wouldn't do me any good.

I do know about one rider who doing something like that though and that's Tito Rabat. He is basically riding his Moto2 bike day after day but in his case he can actually ride his race bike or something close to it.

Crash.net:
How is your team organised, is it built around you?

Karel Abraham:
It's something which really grew around me because most of the people there have been working with me for a long, long time. In fact there's one guy there who's been with me for 10 or 11 years, since the beginning. My crew chief started with me in 125s at 21 and always chose to stay with us as we moved on. The team is like a family and you could say that we all match each other and that's important.

We are really open to other riders though if the circumstances are right, for example we had Jacob Smrz in the team for one year. But the usual problem is money, if you ask a rider for the money needed to pay the bills then often they don't want to come.

In the past we've had sponsors come to us saying that they would fund an extra rider but when we tell them that the budget to sponsor a rider runs into millions of Euros they often say they thought it was just 100,000 Euros or something like that. We'd love another rider if they could fund themselves.

Crash.net:
Is the main funding of the team supplied by your father?

Karel Abraham:
Yes, but a lot is also supplied by our sponsors. For example Cardion isn't my father's company, it's a sponsor. Everyone seems to think it is owned by my father but they are simply a company that we've always had a good relationship with even before we started to race.

Crash.net:
Most riders come out of motorcycling families but I don't think you did?

Karel Abraham:
That's right, I think I'm the only one in our family who rides a bike. I had one grandfather who was into those kind of things so maybe the mechanical passion skipped a generation.

My first bike was a Malaguti Grizzly 12, it was a slow automatic but it got me into biking. After that I got a mini bike so that I could start to race. Needless to say, my mother was dead against it but in the end she came round. I think she would still be happy if I quit now though.

What my father thought about it is shown by the fact that he helped me to race so I think he's OK with it. Of course he is worried about my safety and scared when I crash but he helps me anyway.

Crash.net:
Was there no pressure for a more 'respectable' career?

Karel Abraham:
I've actually just finished University a couple of weeks ago and now have a degree in law and I'm hoping to continue my law studies in another school. I'm really interested in military hardware and weapons and we have a defence university here which is normally only for soldiers but they also take just a few civilians and I'm hoping to study weapons and munitions there now if I can get in. Maybe the degree could be useful in the future.

Crash.net:
Do the criticisms you sometimes get of being a 'pay rider' irritate you?

Karel Abraham:
For me this is very difficult. Some people complained about me going into MotoGP but there are also plenty of other riders who have got good backing. Alex de Angelis for example isn't exactly a poor kid and he doesn't seem to get any criticism.

It's just a hard fact that in bike racing you need a lot of money and one of the main things is that we've got the contacts to get good sponsorship. If someone told you that you had the chance to race in MotoGP next year wouldn't you take it? I think you'd probably take it right?

For me I don't regret going into MotoGP and I don't think we made a mistake. Perhaps the only thing I regret a little is that we couldn't stay one more year in Moto2 because I think we could have been front runners there. At the time we thought that due to regulations if we left it another year we might not be able to enter as a new racer so in a way we were forced to go early. In the event everything changed with the introduction of the CRT class and we would have been able to enter anyway but by that time it was too late.

But for me I get criticism for whatever I do, people say I pay to go into racing and even say that I in some way paid to get my degree. I have to say that it pisses me off a little because I worked pretty hard to get that degree. In fact I work hard for what I get both in racing and life so I try not to take that kind of criticism hard. In the end I'm doing it for myself and I know how I've done it.

Crash.net:
Your rides do show that you have genuine speed though and you're beating fast riders. What is your commitment to racing?

Karel Abraham:
Well of course I love being on and riding a race bike and that's the real commitment for me. My commitment is also to the competition in that the best races for me are always those where I'm with a group of other riders where we're fighting and overtaking. That's really the most fun you can have.

But there are a couple of things that I really think need changing in bike racing.

Crash.net:
Such as?

Karel Abraham:
I think that in all racing, including F1, that the car or bike is becoming more important than the driver or rider. So what I think is that there should be much less electronics to put the race back in your wrist and not in the computer built into your bike.

The best bike I've ridden is a MotoGP bike, it's so precise and beautiful but the most enjoyable one was the 250. You could work on the engine, you could understand the machine and when you rode it, it was always in your wrist. You had to be precise and it took so much skill.

In those days it almost never happened that a rider would come straight into the class and win it because it was such a hard bike to learn and you had to get used to it. The MotoGP bike is crazy fast but I don't like the fact that you can't get a highside, the electronics handle it all.

Crash.net:
Do you want highsides?!

Karel Abraham:
No, of course I don't enjoy them because they're the most painful crash you can get. But what I liked was that there was the possibility and it was a measure of your skill to avoid them. It made it more difficult to reach the limit. I enjoy the fact that you, your mind and your wrist have to be connected so perfectly. Perhaps you could say that I liked the idea of the fear of a highside to make you respect the bike more. I want it to be more about the rider.

Even the Open class electronics are quite complicated and I think the factories will resist any change, but I think there should be a lot less electronics than there are now even when you consider that you need them to a certain degree for safety.

Crash.net:
Which bikes do you ride at home?

Karel Abraham:
I've got a Ducati Diablo and Honda Hornet but now I'm riding a Honda I've also got a CBR600 and I'm hoping to get a Fireblade

Crash.net:
Don't you think the Diablo is a little ugly?

Karel Abraham:
Well at first I didn't like it but it's starting to grow on me. Whether it's ugly or not, it's certainly powerful.

Crash.net:
Thanks Karel.

Karel Abraham:
My pleasure.
by Christian Tiburtius


Tagged as: Honda , abraham

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shuggiemac

June 11, 2014 2:00 PM

He's a classy guy, a pleasure to talk to, smart and talented. The kind of guy I guess we should all hate as most of us don't have that BUT I, for one, don't. I think Abaja is exactly the kind of person I hope my son can grow up to be. On the money side of things none of those guys come from poverty as if you are poor then you can't get your young kid into bikes unless in exceptional circumstances. The biggest hypocrite was Casey on this, for making the snide remarks at Karel and his Dad yet he seemed to forget that his parents sold up EVERYTHING they had to take their son to Europe to go racing.



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