By Christian Tiburtius
An exclusive interview with World Superbike Championship leader Sylvain Guintoli, in which the Aprilia star talks in depth about on his career in WSBK, MotoGP and BSB.
The interview was conducted during the Silverstone WSBK race weekend...
Hi Sylvain, how's it going?
Fine thanks, I just hope I don't swear too much!
What's it like getting into motorcycle racing in France, are there any domestic series like BSB?
I think it's changed a lot since I started. At the time, the way to get to the world scene was to race 125 and 250 two strokes, and there was a domestic series for those bikes. You could then move on to the European and then world GP championships and that's the way I did it. I did the 125s in '99, the 250s in 2000, both in the European and French series, and then moved to GPs in 2001.
Both Olivier Jacque and Regis Laconi went along that route and they were in the same team called 'Equipe de France' in the 250s. They would try to help one young lad every year into GPs and I was that one young lad in 2000. In 2006 I was also in the same Aprilia team as Jules Cluzel, he was fast, but he crashed a lot. I remember him really well; he was like a wild animal!
Now it's more about the Superbike championship and from what I know the bikes they're using in France now are more like a Superstock spec. The championship isn't as big as BSB though. The way BSB is in England is something that doesn't exist anywhere else, for a domestic series it's great.
Did your interest in racing come from riding bikes on the road?
For me, I've actually only started biking on the road this year, even though I've had my license for 10 years. I've always thought it was too dangerous. The problem I have riding on the roads is that you have to have great self-control, you have to be reasonable and that isn't what I was so I was solving the problem before it even started by not having a bike in the garage. This year Aprilia UK have lent me a Tuono V4 though and I f**king love it.
The idea to race really came from my dad and granddad before him; my dad was always a biking enthusiast and enjoyed watching the racing. He was working for a scooter magazine in France and when I was young he used to cover the scooter racing. When I was 12 I tried scooter racing for the first time and won the race so we just carried on. It was like a hobby, some kids play football and I was doing scooter racing, I loved it, I thought it was brilliant!
I think I've got that will to compete permanently. Whatever I do, I always like to compete and from the first time I tried motorbike racing it just felt natural. I've got to say again, I love the competition.
Did you enjoy your 250GP years?
When I look back, maybe there were some happy times. The problem was though that the targets that we could achieve weren't about winning because at the time that would have been impossible. We were riding a privateer bike and our target was to win the privateer championship and you can achieve your target by coming 8th or 10th and that's not as rewarding, interesting or exciting as fighting for the proper win. There were some great times with the people but there is nothing better than going after the wins and knowing you can get them.
How did you make the move to MotoGP with Tech 3?
It started way before 2007. I first met Herve [Poncharal – Tech 3 team principal] in 2000. I used to go to the south of France because we had a mutual friend there and the first time we met was on top of a mountain when we were both mountain biking. I knew the whole team liked to go biking there and I just happened to be there at the same time. I was just 18 and I knew they were winning races with Olivier Jacque and if you were a French rider you needed to get involved with them. I guess you could say that meeting was like a 20% coincidence!