An exclusive interview with Reale Avintia's Loris Baz, covering his start to the 2017 season, Ducati riding techniques and data sharing, what size is best for a MotoGP rider - but first, that save in Austin qualifying...

Crash.net:
Hi Loris, firstly my heart rate has only just returned to normal after that wild save in America, how's your heart doing?

Loris Baz:
[laughs] Oh mine's just fine, all you do is try to stay on the bike. It's not a thinking thing, you're not scared at the time.

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Even afterwards I wasn't too worried because it wouldn't have been a big crash. Sometimes you have a big moment when you lose the rear and after that you look back and feel relieved that you didn't lose it totally.

Even if I'd lost it on Saturday it wouldn't have been a bad one it's just that it looked spectacular. Honestly we have a lot of moments like that during a season when we lose or play with the front.

Crash.net:
Have you watched it on Youtube?

Loris Baz:
Sure, at the moment even if I hadn't wanted to watch it I still would have seen it because the video is everywhere on social media. I like it, it's a good watch.

Also because of that we got so much more coverage for the bike than if I'd got it onto the second row or something and got some good pictures on the TV so the boss was pretty happy!

Crash.net:
It looked a pretty quick lap, what position were you shooting for?

Loris Baz:
To do a good lap to get into Q2 wasn't easy because Jack had come straight back with a great lap and we hadn't ridden with the soft tyre a lot that weekend so I wasn't 100% sure how it was going to behave.

I was maybe looking to find a tow for the lap but couldn't find one so just decided to go for it alone. I could see from the dash that the lap was fast but I also knew that Jorge was coming from behind and with that lap I would have been just in front of or behind him. Honestly, I don't think it would have changed things for the race but I was happy with the lap.

Crash.net:
With moments like that does anything happen consciously or is it all instinctive?

Loris Baz:
It's a balance, I knew I was coming out of the corner before really quickly and tried to brake even later and I knew that it was going to be touch and go with the front so I was ready. I may have been ready but in the end with situations like that it's luck more than anything else.

Crash.net:
There are currently 2 factory Hondas, Yamahas, Ducatis and Suzukis on the grid, with that kind of bike opposition, which position can you realistically shoot for?

Loris Baz:
For me it depends on the track.

In Argentina our target was top six and if everything had gone according to plan I think we could have done it so it isn't as if I'm satisfied with ninth. It was the incident in the first lap which put us down the order so I still think we could have been competitive so I didn't feel happy with that result.

In Qatar though where I finished twelfth just behind Jorge I was happy enough because we'd been struggling all weekend and it was kind of damage limitation. In some tracks the bike is really difficult to ride and in others it works well. It's not as if we say OK the top 8 places are for the established factory bikes.

Crash.net:
I imagine that Jorge Lorenzo is a good target given that he's also on a Ducati?

Loris Baz:
Yeah sure in a way but Qatar was only his first race on that bike and we know that he's going to improve. It's the same as when I was on last years bike which is just to take it race by race and get the most with the package we've got.

You see we know that we'll have the same package for the whole season whereas they be getting ongoing support and get new parts as they come out. He may be a good target now but he'll be moving forwards.

We will always have the same bike so our aim is to always refine and become familiar with what we've got but fighting with a triple MotoGP world champion all race in Qatar still felt pretty good.

Crash.net:
I know that Hector is on a GP16, are you using the same bike?

Loris Baz:
No, mine's a GP15 but I was using the same GP14.2 as him last season

Crash.net:
Have you noticed a difference in the bikes?

Loris Baz:
Yeah sure, the 14.2 was a previous version modified but the 15 was the first one made under the supervision of Gigi Dall'Igna.

I would say that the 15 is just in general a little better, it's more powerful and certainly turns better but we still have more or less the same problem as we had and also that the factory team is having.

The bike is great for one lap but if you push like that for the whole race you'll destroy the tyre. The fact that the tyre changes every year doesn't make it any easier because we can't take any established knowledge but always have to check all parameters every year.

Crash.net:
Does the GP15 still have problems pushing the front at the apex?

Loris Baz:
Honestly I have a good feeling with the front and that means that you can brake really hard. The fact that you're braking so hard can mean that you've got more chance of losing it but that's only because it brakes so well.

The good thing about this bike is definitely the braking zone because comparatively the turning isn't the best and also getting out of the corners can give problems. Ducati riders have to use the stability in the braking zone to their advantage and that's why you see them braking later than other bikes.

Crash.net:
Doesn't the bike have a speed advantage?

Loris Baz:
Sure, the bike is very powerful and sure it's fast on a long straight but I can sometimes see the Yamaha riders opening the throttle maybe 5 or 6 meters before us because their cornering has put them into the right position and their power delivery is smoother.

The power doesn't help when you can't open the throttle and we're losing time out of the corner.

On long straights like in Argentina we're faster than before and even in small corners but even there I have problems because of my weight.

On the long straights we have the best bike and engine and it's a good advantage but when you come to the whole track maybe what we need is a bit less concentrating on power and a bit more making the bike easier to ride.

Crash.net:
How does your bike compare with Hector's?

Loris Baz:
It's not like in car racing where what you see on the computer will be true on the track so it's hard to make an exact comparison.

So sure he has a better bike than me on paper but I feel that he has less confidence on the 16 than on the 14.2 because he has to change his riding style like I had to do onto the 14.2 and then on the 15 so it's all about a package of bike, riding style and confidence. He has to find the good feeling with new settings.

He was not doing so bad in Austin but he was struggling a lot in Argentina so you can see at the moment that he is working hard to find those new settings with the new riding style

Crash.net:
So why have you got different bikes?

Loris Baz:
At Ducati I don't think they have the manpower and resources to build 8 GP17's for example, there are only a certain number of motorbikes to go around. You can see that at Pramac where 1 rider got the 16 and one 17.

It's the same in our team where 1 rider was going to get the 15 and the other the 16 and because last season Hector had a really strong season and I didn't he got the 16. That seems normal to me.

For next season I think the team might have two similar bikes, maybe the 17, but I'm not sure. Having two different bikes makes it more work for the team because of the spare parts and data situation.

Crash.net:
Do you have a contract for next year?

Loris Baz:
At the moment no.

Crash.net:
...and your current contract is purely with Avintia rather than with Ducati

Loris Baz:
That's correct.

Crash.net:
Looking at the few results so far, this has been your strongest start in MotoGP...

Loris Baz:
Yes, it's only two races but I feel that the work we are doing with my new crew chief is helping. That work is really helping both in Qatar and Argentina. After the disaster in the first lap I managed to get back to eleventh.

It's actually my crew chief's first season in MotoGP so we are learning together but I notice that we are really thinking more in the same way so I'm looking forward to how our relationship will progress. That similar way of thinking is helping to build my confidence.

It will be interesting to see how we do in Europe with that same positive feel.

Crash.net:
You've had two fourths and a fifth so it has to be a podium next, right?

Loris Baz:
I'd love that and maybe we'd need a bit of luck in the dry but for sure if there's a bit of rain I'll be pushing as hard as I can to make that happen. 1 more step is all I need.

Crash.net:
How much data sharing is there between the various Ducati teams with their various versions?

Loris Baz:
At the moment I think that the only other rider using a GP15 is Karel, but there certainly is data sharing between the teams.

The data comes from different versions but you can use it as a general reference if you're doing something wrong. It works both ways but I don't necessarily think that Jorge or Andrea need to use our data but I know that they found some of Alvaro's data helpful this season.

I think data sharing is really needed when you are in Ducati's position at the moment and are working hard to make the bike truly competitive. More minds working together is always better. That's one thing I first noticed when I first joined Avintia that Gigi was coming over after every session to ask about our feeling on the bike even when we were quite far away from the factory bike. I think they are working in the right way.

Crash.net:
So Ducati do take an active interest in all their teams.

Loris Baz:
Oh for sure, and it's a good way of working. They build a new bike every year but last year at the beginning the 14.2 was the fastest one on the Michelin and this year we can see that Alvaro is really quick. You need to see what all your bikes are doing and how they're solving problems.

It's a lot of work to coordinate so many riders but it can be helpful.

Crash.net:
Is Casey Stoner's test data ever used?

Loris Baz:
You can try it but the thing I noticed after Austin is that Casey seems to push a bike 100% for the whole of a race. At Austin I was able to ride like that for one lap to be really aggressive in the corners and then smooth on the gas but I found it impossible to ride like that for the whole race. If I was doing that for more laps we just ended up destroying the tyre and the rider.

Casey is special I think and he was able to keep that pace up by doing something on the bike that I couldn't see.

Crash.net:
If Casey is such an exceptional rider do you think that it is useful to have him as a test rider because his data only applies to him?

Loris Baz:
I think different riders can take different parts of the data depending on their style. Jorge may find something different.

Crash.net:
If I compared the sheer manpower in your garage with that in the factory team, how would it compare?

Loris Baz:
I've never looked in detail but for sure there are a lot more guys available to Andrea [Dovizioso] in the factory team. But if you have so many people it is also more possible to get lost in different opinions. So sometimes having a smaller team can make things more focused.

At the end of the day though they will often finish ahead of us because of having more guys, more expertise and more money. For us it is a motivating challenge to beat them

It's funny you know because when you spend your whole race fighting with Jorge on the factory machine and you come back into the pits all the guys are so proud and that makes you feel good. I think you can only get that feeling in a smaller team.

Crash.net:
But you're expecting the factory team to gradually pull ahead...

Loris Baz:
Oh, I don't think we have seen the potential of the new bike yet this season. They were still strong in Qatar with Andrea, I don't know why they were so uncompetitive in Argentina and America but there's more to come.

Last year they were stronger in the first three races and then had greater difficulties in the European races so maybe this season will be the reverse. I'm sure that Jorge is going to improve.

Crash.net:
How is your feeling with the 2017 Michelin tyres?

Loris Baz:
I like them and have a good feeling with them and for me I would say I've got a better feeling with them than those from last season. The only thing is that they seem really critical about temperatures and sometimes we don't have the tyre to properly take that into account.

Crash.net:
Coming back to what you were saying about losing time in small corners because of your weight, who on the grid would you say is the perfect size to be a MotoGP rider?

Loris Baz:
Again it's not like in cars where you can say that 2kg costs a certain amount of time. When you are tall and heavy you can move on the bike and this helps when the bike isn't perfectly set up.

More than the size I think it can be the weight which can be a problem when it comes to fuel consumption.

When I was in Superbikes I wasn't losing anything on the straights compared to Tom because the Kawasaki was so well tuned for me. If you look at Valentino and Marc they both go quick but because of his size Valentino can really use his size to balance the bike.

I have to say though that I don't think Dani [Pedrosa's] size makes it easy for him and I think that extreme can be a disadvantage.

We've seen riders from 160kg to 186kg like Marco Simoncelli winning races so I can't be sure. If I had to chose a rider at the moment I would say Maverick, I've raced with him for so long and he has always been good.

He didn't have an easy pathway into MotoGP and I always enjoy watching him ride and following him on track, so that I can learn from his style and how he does things.

I'm not necessarily saying that my build is an advantage, I'm just saying that it is not always the disadvantage that people say. Put it this way, even if my build is a problem I can't really remove it so I have to work with it.

Crash.net:
With the possible exception of Zarco you are probably the most high-profile French racer at the moment, do you get recognised a lot in France?

Loris Baz:
Yeah, yeah, sometimes but more in Italy and Spain than in France. It's always nice when I'm able to make a child or fan happy by taking a photo or signing something and I'm comfortable at that level.

But I wouldn't like to be famous like Valentino because you just can't do anything anymore.

Crash.net:
Do you ever get a free drink?

Loris Baz:
No, no, I'm not a football player!

Crash.net:
But in these days of formal media relations you always seem to make time for the media and make yourself available - is it important to you to keep a good relationship with the press and fans?

Loris Baz:
Oh yes, I remember as a child always waiting for hours to see Capirossi and I always remember the enjoyment I got from being able to meet him. I enjoy sharing my life of doing the thing I love with people because I can remember what it felt like.

Crash.net:
It's interesting that you mention Loris Capirossi, were you a fan because of having the same name?

Loris Baz:
No, no, I have the same name because my father was such fan of Capirossi's - I was named after him. It's a long story with Loris, I have known his family since I was 10 and enjoyed riding in Italy with his brother. I know everyone in his family and have always been a great fan.

Crash.net:
Me too Loris, thanks a lot

Loris Baz:
Thanks a lot, goodbye.

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