Few riders have performed above expectations in 2017 than 32-year old Mattia Pasini, once the forgotten man of grand prix racing. The Italian sat down with Crash.net during the Austrian Grand Prix to talk about his year away from full-time racing in 2015, adapting to a unique front braking system, and what it takes for him to be consistently competitive.

Crash.net:
How would you assess this season so far? Better than expected?

Mattia Pasini:
Not better. Really, I expected this. When we started with this team in 2016 after the stop in 2015 I felt so much potential from the first day because the team is built around me. There are perfect guys around me; the chief mechanics; the owner of the team. You know, when you are in bad conditions, you have the potential, and you know where is the point to improve, it’s different to a bad situation, when you don’t feel the potential, you don’t know where you need to work. So I expected to be strong this year. From the winter tests we were always on the top. The first three races, my mistake because maybe it was too early, and we were not at 100 percent with the set-up of the bike. I wanted to try and fight for the podium, and made three mistakes. After that we did a great race in Jerez and Le Mans. After that we made a very important test in Misano, where we improved the bike a lot. From that moment we are on the top all the time, and we are strong, we are fast. I enjoy a lot the bike. I enjoy riding. We need to keep the concentration high because every day we need to improve the situation. But honestly I feel like we are coming back. This is important.

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Crash.net:
So, for you, it’s more important to have the right people around you, rather than be in a specific team?

Mattia Pasini:
It’s many, many, many things. People believe this is an individual sport. Maybe for some other riders with other characters, this is possible. But for me, this is a team sport because the level is so high. You need to keep the serenity all the time – in the good moment, in the bad moment. You have to believe in the people around you. Your technicians need to know you. This is so important. When I stop into the box, and I speak with my chief mechanic, my mechanics, my guys, [I say] just two words and that’s it. They know me. They know what I need. This is so important to give the 100 percent on track. For me it’s all; it’s the bike; the serious work. You need a solid team. We have everything that we need. In the paddock now, not every team is like this.

Crash.net:
Had you worked with certain people from this team before you joined Italtrans?

Mattia Pasini:
Yeah. I have together with me two technicians [with] whom I won all my races and take all my podiums. They’re my chief mechanic and my telemetry guy. They are [Giovanni] Sandi and Mario Martini. These two guys, when I win in the past, every time I have one or the other [in my garage]. At Italtrans I have both. This is a big advantage because they know me. They know what I need. They know my riding style, my character, what I need on the track and what I need outside the track. This is so important.

Crash.net:
You’ve been in Grand Prix now for more than 13 seasons. I guess you’ve experienced the other side, when you don’t have that great feeling with a team.

Mattia Pasini:
[Laughs] From 2010 to 2014. You can see the results! Then this was not the correct choice for me. Maybe I was unlucky. But today I say, ‘OK, the past is the past and now we need to think to the future. Not of the past.’

Crash.net:
How difficult was 2015 to maintain your belief, when you didn’t have a full-time ride?

Mattia Pasini:
Really, I don’t know. In that moment nobody believed in me. But I know these people from before. We [Mattia and Italtrans team owner] went to dinner and talked, talked just like friends. I explained my thoughts. From that moment, he believed in me and I believed in him. Today is the result. It’s not easy to do this. You need to truly believe in that person. He believed in me exactly.

Crash.net:
In 2015, when you didn’t have a full-time ride, did you have any time away from bikes? Or were you constantly training to come back?

Mattia Pasini:
Constant. I ride many, many, many times with the R6. I make the regional championship of motocross. I make training every day like I’m a rider. I never think about stopping doing this. Today I know this is my way. I never gave up. That’s it.

Crash.net:
In the final years of the 250cc class, you were a regular podium contender. How difficult was it for you to adapt from a two-stroke machine to a four-stroke 600cc bike?

Mattia Pasini:
That is a good question, because, sure, I don’t find from the start of Moto2 the correct way of working with this bike. But, honestly, I also didn’t find the correct person for working. It’s not just one thing. Maybe me, maybe both, maybe the other. But sure, the start was a bit difficult. I didn’t adapt to the bike. I didn’t adapt to the new person working with me. I went down one tunnel, where everyone starts to say, ‘This bike is too heavy for you, it’s different, your arms…’ Every time this fucking excuse! But this is not true because you ride the bike with the balls, not the arms. Then I think honestly if you have the correct person around you, you make the bike and you can be strong. If you have people that don’t believe in you around, they destroy you. Especially, my character, I feel a lot this, the people around me, you know? Maybe this affects other riders, other characters less. But for me, this is so important.

Crash.net:
So it’s all about showing belief in you?

Mattia Pasini:
I need a team. I need a real team, like in football. This is so important for me.

Crash.net:
You mentioned the talk about your right arm. I guess this kind of talk has been a source of frustration?

Mattia Pasini:
I rode in MotoGP. The problem is not whether the bike is heavy or not. The problem is like I say before: the team. If you know how to ride the bike to win, every bike is OK. When you have your people, your guys around you, working for you, there is no problem. It can be Superbike, MotoGP, 250s, Moto2, 125s, Moto3… For me it does not affect. Sure, the movement of the brake on the left side was a good move for me. Not especially for the speed, because left or right, I can be faster the same way. But for the consistency, this was a great move. Like this, I am like a hammer [repeatedly bangs fist against table]. It’s so much more precise for me. This is what I expect.

Crash.net:
When did you make the change with this lever?

Mattia Pasini:
I invented this ten years ago with motocross. After my injury with motocross in 1998 when I broke all my things, I got back on a motocross bike in 2006/7. But, I couldn’t be strong with motocross because of the right brake. My problem is the extension of the fingers. With the street bike I have every time two fingers on the brake and I can use the gas and make less brake. My problem is to make the movement fast to take out [the fingers] then take in. Then I decide to take in, no? And with motocross it’s not possible because you need to keep so strong the handlebar. For me it was a problem to take a fast movement. That was so hard.

Then I didn’t feel good. I started to think about how I could find a solution, [and] where is the solution. OK, we try to put a left brake and see how we can do it. The first day it was so hard, because I crashed many, many times; but not in the riding. But when you need to stop. You have the clutch and you take the lever of the brake like the clutch. Then pow! And you crash like this. But I felt something good. I said, ‘OK. I need to adapt; to adapt my mind; to adapt my automatisme [automatic reflex]. OK, we’ll keep it.’ And day-by-day, we start to feel comfortable.

Also, when I’m back from one bike to the other, I don’t feel a difference. For example, in the same day I can ride the dirt-track bike with the right brake, and the motocross bike with the left brake, and jump from one to the other, and have no problem. It’s something in the mind. You adapt and it becomes automatic. The problem is, in the motocross, you use the clutch not so much. With the dirt bike you can block the rear wheel. In the street bike you use the clutch a lot, because on the Moto2 we don’t have the electronics. We don’t have the auto-blip in the downshift, so I say, ‘OK. It’s difficult to make this on the street bike. And also, I don’t find the correct people or the correct moment to try. When you are talking about this to somebody, they see you like, ‘OK, you’re crazy! Are you talking seriously? Or are you joking?’

In 2015 when I was at home with my R6 – I bought one R6 for my riding and training – I think one night when I was at home, ‘Maybe now is the moment to try the left brake on the street bike.’ Also, what I didn’t think about was, when you don’t have the brake on the right arm, where you have the gas, you can then use the throttle for the downshift. In the first moment, I didn’t think about that. I take my canon [van], went to the Valencia circuit and I started with the R6 with a normal right brake in one practice. Then I stopped and put the left brake on. On the first lap I was 0.2s faster than before – the first time I ride like this. So I say, ‘OK, this is the way to enjoy, to make a step.’ And we adapted and adapted also the bike. We needed to work differently for many things; the setting; the clutch setting; the engine braking; so many things. Now I know this is a good move.

Crash.net:
So 2015 was the first time you used this left brake on a Moto2 machine? You had never tried it before?

Mattia Pasini:
No, never, because I didn’t find the correct person or the correct moment. When you are in one world championship you have not so much time for adapting the mind for this.

Crash.net:
How did you develop the system for a Moto2 machine? Technically, was it fairly simple to change it to the left side?

Mattia Pasini:
In the first moment, we had doubts because the result didn’t come. Then, for example, at Mugello [in 2016], after a disastrous Saturday we decided to make the warm-up with the right brake. We put a normal right brake on the bike and then for the race we went back to the left. The start was difficult. For sure, difficult. But not so difficult because we found a solution. Today it’s OK.

Crash.net:
Do you feel you have turned a possible disadvantage into an advantage?

Mattia Pasini:
I don’t know if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage. Somebody else needs to try to understand this. But I don’t know if they are happy to try it. Honestly, what I think is now I can be strong like this and we can fight for the win. I only think about me, not about the others. I know what the situation is. I’m looking forward. And that’s it.

Crash.net:
At Mugello this year, Valentino Rossi said your final lap is what every Italian rider dreams about at night. How did this win compare to the others in your career after such a long period?

Mattia Pasini:
Yeah, you know this race after ten years and after my situation, one year stopped, with one race like this, one last lap like this; passing two riders in two corners – but two historic corners, the best two corners of the world. To win in Mugello in front of our people, this is, you know, something special. Something special, in front of 200,000 people. Winning before, I enjoyed it a lot - but not like this because this was coming back after seven years, after everything. This was very good revenge and I enjoyed every second of this race.

Crash.net:
Both Alex Marquez and Thomas Luthi passed you at turn one on the final lap. At that moment, did you think your chance was gone?

Mattia Pasini:
No. No, because I knew I was so strong. I knew my strong point. And I knew I could win. The bike was working so well. You know, it’s something you feel. When I make the warm-up lap I say, ‘Today the others have no chance.’ I felt so good, like before. But in the last races we are so constant, so strong, so good.

Crash.net:
Because of what you just said, are you looking at the first three races of this year with regret?

Mattia Pasini:
Ah, the first three races and the race in Barcelona where somebody took away my 20 points – I don’t know why – and the race of Brno. Without these races we are second in the championship. We need to think in the present. The past is the past. Now we need to look forward to the end of the season, to next season and that’s it.

Crash.net:
So the aim for the rest of this season is to continue this consistency?

Mattia Pasini:
My main objective is the top five. My dream is the top three. If something happens – you know, the race varies – and you never know what happens race-by-race. Every race can change all the things. We will see. We are fighting for the top five in the world championship. If we take something more, it’s OK.

Crash.net:
From what you have said today, I’m guessing it’s your intention to stay with Italtrans for 2018? Is anything confirmed?

Mattia Pasini:
It’s 99.9 percent confirmed. We are still talking about something but it’s not 100 percent because we haven’t signed. But it’s 99.9 percent because we are happy. It’s stupid to stop it now. Because now is the moment where you can build on the work of two years. Everybody talks about fighting for the world championship in the second year and in the third year in Moto2. Then we need to continue like this.

Crash.net:
With you and Franco Morbidelli performing well, Italy is well represented in Moto2. Do you see him as a special talent?

Mattia Pasini:
For sure Franco is a very good guy. He’s my friend. He’s so intelligent. He’s so mature for his age. He’s an incredible talent. Today you can see that because in the first part of the championship, not every time is he the fastest rider, but every time he’s the strongest rider. I think he’s a really, really, really big talent. I’m happy to see him on the top. I hope before the end of the season we can really fight for one race like what we do at the Ranch, with motocross, with jet-skis, everything at home. We live in the same place. We make the training together. It’s good fighting also on the track.

Crash.net:
Are you enjoying racing more now than ever before?

Mattia Pasini:
No. Every day I enjoy racing, from when I started to today. Nothing has ever changed. When you are in difficult moments, sure, you enjoy less. But I love the bike. I love riding the bike. I love riding everything. I love staying on the limit and fighting. This is my life. I still enjoy it like the first day.

 

To read Crash.net's look into Mattia Pasini's return from the wilderness, click here

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Super interview! Pasini sure has the right attitude, buona fortuna Mattia!

Thank you for a great interview, Crash!  Really interesting stuff, especially about his brakes, and the whole story behind that.

Pasini is so exciting to watch. It's great to see his recent achievements. He's an inspiration!

Great interveiw, but the blue nose ring is a bit over the top I thought.