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Q&A: Alberto Puig (Repsol Honda).

Having had his own grand prix career cut short by a serious leg injury, Alberto Puig returned to 'active duty' within the premier-class pit lane last season - when 125 and double 250cc world champion Dani Pedrosa, whose career Puig has nurtured from the very beginning, made his MotoGP debut.

Here, the 40-year-old - who took one 500GP win and four further premier-class podiums between 1994-1997 - talks about his current talent-spotting and managerial role within Repsol, the development of young riders, Honda's difficult start to the 2007 MotoGP season, what makes Pedrosa so special, his own interests away from racing and much more...


Q:
What are your main responsibilities as sporting director at Repsol?

Alberto Puig:
In the 125cc and 250cc classes I try to find riders, organise structures, coordinate people and look for competent mechanics. As regards the relationship between Honda and the teams, I try to organise and establish the working lines to be followed, as well as future strategies, suggesting what can and what cannot be done.

Q:
Having been a rider yourself, how do you think motorcycle racing has evolved? You were 20 or 22-years-old when you were racing, and now there are 14 or 15-year-old 'kids' on motorbikes reaching 200 km/h or more...

Alberto Puig:
Well, I think this is evolving as everything else. This has become highly professional, there are sponsors, more competitions, the kids start earlier... In short, everything is much more serious than before, different. Motorcycle racing is evolving as all other sports and the age of the people starting to practice them has moved. It happens in tennis, gymnastics, skiing, bicycle riding... There are younger people coming.

I think that anyone that has the chance to do something well as a child tries to focus on it. Nowadays, your own family leads you to test yourself. This makes everything start earlier and you become professional earlier. The result is this brutal competition we have now. Any type of sport is like a real war. Let's not fool ourselves, this is a highly competitive world in which everyone defends his/her own plot and tries to benefit.

Q:
Do you think that these very young riders should give up school at such a young age to go racing?

Alberto Puig:
Every rider is a different case and each one of them has his own story. What is good for one is useless for the other. The first year we entered the world championship with the three young riders in 2001 I insisted in them going to school while they were racing. But to be honest, if the sportsman starts having interesting results, school begins to have less and less significance to them. It is very difficult to combine, because it is a complicated world, with a lot of travelling, although you obviously try to make them continue.

I studied four years at university, but there comes a time when it becomes really difficult. But I think that there is always space for new things to be learned and it's always good. That's theory but the truth is that when you are entirely dedicated to this, if you really have chances, the world of professional sports is a full-time job. But I think that it's good that young guys try to continue with school, according to their age.

Q:
What did you study?

Alberto Puig:
Economics.

Q:
Which are the main values you and your team try to instil in the young riders you work with?

Alberto Puig:
It's very simple: seriousness, never look for excuses - the bike is working, is not working - excitement with what you're doing and hard work. That's it.

Q:
Can a hard working, excited, brave, young rider get far even if he does not have a huge amount of talent?

Alberto Puig:


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