An exclusive interview with Kawasaki WSBK star Loris Baz, conducted during the first day of testing at Jerez...
Hi Loris, how's the testing going?

Loris Baz:
We'll be testing today, tomorrow and Wednesday. It's been going well today and we've been testing many things. The feeling wasn't good at the beginning but at the end we managed to make some long runs and I'm happy to be not so far from Tom at the moment. I'm second fastest today so that's not too bad.

At Aragon we tried a new electronic system which makes the bike much easier to control and therefore much faster and we've been fine tuning that here. It was the electronics which gave us the big step in performance we found in Aragon. It's not a totally new electronics system but it is quite fundamental in that it manages elements such as traction control so there's a lot of work to do. Both bikes are now using that system so we are both working on it.

From the feeling point of view the bike is now much easier to control, the traction and wheelie is far better managed and that's giving us better tyre life. We've found that these electronics have not only improved our one lap time but also helped us over a race distance.
Next season as a race winning rider in a factory team the aim has to be the championship, but to do that you've got to beat Tom. How do you plan to do that?

Loris Baz:
Well, at the moment I'm not sure. I am a totally different rider to Tom and I know where I'm fast and I'm certainly not scared of anybody including my team-mate. I had an injury at Nurburgring but at the end of this season I was going faster than I ever have so I am confident about what I can do next season.

I know where I'm faster than Tom and I know where he's faster so I've got a good idea of the job that needs doing and how to do it. An important difference is that Tom is usually faster in the slow corners and I'm quicker in the fast ones and it's always been like that on this bike, it was also like that for me previously on the 600 and in BSB.

I'm not necessarily trying to change to Tom's style though; we're more trying to adapt the bike with the new electronics to mine. By doing this we're trying to bring the rest of the lap up to my performance in the fast corners.

Also remember that I'm only 20 years old and will hopefully only improve so that is a great point in my favour. When you're 20 years old you can still change and work on your style and that's what we're doing. I'm sure that 2014 will be a good year for me.
Is there good communication between the two sides of the garage?

Loris Baz:
Yeah, absolutely. Everybody in the whole team can share the data and that's good for me because I can go faster, I don't know if Tom is using my data but it is there for him too. I've got to say that I think that an open way is the best way to work in any team to go faster. The atmosphere is totally cooperative.
You've had some incredible - and frightening! - rides in mixed conditions, is that to do with your style or courage?

Loris Baz:
I don't know, I've always ridden well in the wet since I was very young, I like all sorts of conditions and I've got to say that I like it when it's raining. For me it's just normal to ride like that in the wet. I think it's more my style rather than courage and it's because of all the experience I've got in the wet. Once you get to WSBK I don't think there are any riders that lack courage anyway.
In 2013 your final classification was eighth with 180 points, can you be happy with that?

Loris Baz:
For me, I didn't finish eighth this season because my season stopped at the Nurburgring. At the time I was sixth and close to fifth so if I hadn't had the accident I'm sure I would have finished higher. Things are as they are though, I had the accident and there's no way back once the statistics are written.

At the end of the season I was getting really fast in the dry and at Nurburgring I was fast too but we just had this little crash which gave me the injury. The aim at the time was to be in the top five and I was on target to get there but since the accident I've only been thinking of next season.

Overall to me the season doesn't feel as bad as it looks, if I had finished the year I'm sure I could have got to the front in more races particularly because my speed was good. I think in the final analysis we did a good job.
And how is your injury?

Loris Baz:
Well, I broke a vertebra but it was all a bit confusing because at the beginning they said that I had three broken vertebra before saying just one. I then saw a specialist in Barcelona who said that I had broken just one but that I could ride. The problem was that I had a lot of pain and didn't feel OK to push it for a race so finally I saw another specialist in France who recommended that I rest the injury for 45 days and that's what I did.

When I got back on the bike in Jerez I felt I was able to ride really hard and really wanted to, but the doctor at the track didn't want to take any risks and honestly I don't know why because three specialists had told me that I should be OK to ride, but it was his decision.

Now I'm feeling OK, I've still got some pain if I do a lot of laps but we're working on it in training and when I start the season I'll be OK with it for sure. I'm riding at virtually 100% but it's just that I've lost some muscles around the injury and need to build them up, the vertebra is fine I've just got to build the strength up.
Do you see yourself as a Superbike rider or do you have ambitions towards MotoGP?

Loris Baz:
I think that MotoGP is the target for every rider and that's where I want to be and given that I'm quite young, I've still got time. My plan is to make the best result possible in WSBK next season and then I'd really like to be in MotoGP in 2015. It's the target for every rider. Even Troy Bayliss who is seen as a Superbike rider went to MotoGP to try it.

Of course I love the ambience in Superbikes, everyone is very friendly and it's really cool to ride here but the best things are in MotoGP and it's normal to want to go there.

I've always ridden Superbikes because the 125s weren't possible for me because even when I was 17 I was too tall so that's why I went for the 600's. That's why I went the Superbike way. But I'm sure that it's possible to switch from WSBK to MotoGP because Cal [Crutchlow] is doing such a good job there. Ben [Spies] also did a good job even if he didn't have any good luck so it is possible to switch from WSBK to MotoGP with no problem.

Weight and height have disadvantages and advantages. Height is bad along the straights but can help you handle the bike in the corners, also my weight allows me to get more grip on the rear tyre than some riders so this shouldn't mean I can't go there as long as you go on a 1000.
Just to clarify things, what is your situation for next year?

Loris Baz:
I still have one more year's contract with Kawasaki and the conditions are more or less the same as this year. I knew that right from the beginning when I signed for the first year of a three year deal and this is the third year of that contract. That means I've got a relaxing Christmas knowing that I've got a good ride established for next year.

Financially it is also more relaxing because when I was younger I had to make a lot of changes between or during seasons because of sponsor problems and so forth so it's great to work with an established team like Kawasaki.
Do you look forward to the off-season as a holiday or are you frustrated to get racing again?

Loris Baz:
This season I was looking forward to next year before the season had even finished. I've been impatient since Nurburgring. I really, really want to race again and wish that we could start in Philip Island next week. I'm sure me and Tom will be fighting for the lead there.


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