An exclusive interview with Forward Yamaha's MotoGP rookie Loris Baz, conducted after Friday practice in Catalunya.

The 22-year-old Frenchman joined MotoGP as a double WSBK race winner and finished as the top Open class rider for the first time at Mugello.

Baz would go to claim 13th place at Catalunya, one position off his best result of the season, and has now closed to within three points of Open leader Hector Barbera (Ducati)...
Things are going well for you at the moment Loris, top Open rider at Mugello and behind only Hector Barbera today in practice...

Loris Baz:
Yeah we are in a positive moment. We did a good race in Argentina [first points] but Le Mans was a big step [12th place]. We found something that was wrong on the bike, let's say, together with all the team and also my coach Adrien [Morillas] watching me on track. We found something and then everything started going in a good direction. Mugello was perfect and I'm just trying to do the same here. It's a little bit harder here because I prefer tracks like Mugello.
What was it that you found on the bike?

Loris Baz:
We were missing a lot of grip from the beginning of the season and we'd gone in the normal way to set-up a bike when you lose rear grip, going low on the rear. But it was always worse, so in the end we went completely opposite, going all in the front. I managed to turn a little bit shorter and pick up the bike, a bit like Rossi or Lorenzo are doing, and then you have the grip. So we found this and a lot of things with the electronics which were a good step also.
How do the Open electronics compare to WSBK electronics?

Loris Baz:
It's more-or-less like Superbike, the level of the electronics I would say, but it's really far from the Factory class. That is the main difference. But I was used to how we set-up these kind of electronics, just we have to do a big step to close the gap to the factories.
Where do the factories have the most advantage from their electronics?

Loris Baz:
The worst for us is the stop-and-go. The hairpins and slow corners.
On the way in, the way out, or both?

Loris Baz:
Especially way out. Way in a little bit, with the engine brake and set-up of the bike. But with electronics it is more on the exit. Especially in the race, the electronics they have can nearly set-up itself lap-by-lap in the race. It corrects depending on the slide they have, lap-by-lap. All we can do is select a different map from the switches on the handlebar. That is the main difference. Going out of the slow corners they also have less wheelie because of their wheelie control. The cut of their electronics is a little bit better. It is not just about power.
Would you say the Open bikes are quite evenly matched this year?

Loris Baz:
More-or-less, yes. Just I think the Ducatis have a big benefit in the straight, Hector and Mike, but maybe their bike is turning a little bit less because it is last year's Ducati [not the GP15]. I would say all of the Open bikes have improved this year. In the slow corners I think the Honda turns a little bit better than us. The main advantage of our bike is that the package we have has no weak points. We don't have anything we are really struggling with. That's always been one of the best things about the Yamaha.
Do you get much support from Yamaha?

Loris Baz:
Yeah we have support, but we are in the Open class and they have their Factory team and also Tech 3. If we have a problem on the chassis we cannot ask to change the chassis, you know! But they are interested and come in the pit box. It's always nice to see the Yamaha bosses come in and say 'good luck for the race'. It's cool.
What would you say has been the toughest thing? Was MotoGP how you imagined?

Loris Baz:
Mostly yes. I knew it was going to be hard and also I knew I just needed time. In Sepang 2 we were continuing to change the bike for my size, longer seat and things like this, while everyone else was working on set-up. If you don't have a good position on the bike it's hard to think about the set-up because you are not feeling comfortable.

Even at Le Mans we had another new, higher seat and I felt better again. My seat is now ten centimetres longer than Bradl's and six centimetres higher, and I weigh 20kg more than him. When you are 20kg heavier and a bike ten centimetres longer, it changes everything in the middle of the corner. Especially on this bike, you just change 1mm and it changes nearly everything!

So to change 20kg and ten centimetres you have to go to some settings that Ohlins, the crew chief and everybody have never used before because there are only small riders. So you have to fight and also Adrien, who has followed me for twelve years now, helped me. He can talk with the team because he knows me and he knows that we can go really far in the settings for me.
So you've gone with your own settings?

Loris Baz:
Yeah. Really hard in the rear for example, but that's normal. Because I'm not fat, but I'm heavy!
Has your size been much of a disadvantage? Where do you gain and where do you lose?

Loris Baz:
I lose in the straight and that's always been the case. But I was one of the guys that always braked hardest in Superbike and I think that's the same here. I think that's coming from my size. I have more wind resistance [when sitting up] that can help you to stop. Also my size can help in change of direction.

I've never seen my size as a disadvantage. You just have to work to adapt the bike. Marco Simoncelli was 1m 83-85. Honda believed in him, gave him the bike, did things like wind tunnel work with him. And he was fast. If you have a team that believes in you and supports you, you can be fast.
You thanked the Forward team for believing in you after the top Open result at Mugello. You must have been worried last year when the Aspar deal fell through?

Loris Baz:
I was worried but also confident with my manager. Everything changed in one week but then I went to Aragon to meet Giovanni [Cuzari, Forward boss]. I had a good feeling with him and I was just hoping he would give me my chance and that's what he did. It was great to pay him back with the top Open result at the team's home race.
How are you getting on with Stefan as your team-mate?

Loris Baz:
Perfect. He's been really cool from the beginning. He helped me a lot this winter and I followed him on the track. We talked a lot and tried to solve all the problems with the electronics together. Our set-up is different but when we have new things to try we work together. He is a great guy. I don't think he has shown his potential because he is really fast. I don't think I'm as fast as him yet but I'm in front in the standings. He's been unlucky this season, taken out twice when he was going for the points. He's really fast and a good guy so I hope we can make a one-two in the Open class soon.
Have you watched any World Superbike races this year?

Loris Baz:
Yeah, nearly every race. It's going perfect for my old team. The only thing to complain is that the fifth guy in World Superbike is 40-seconds from the win. So I think maybe they have to find something with the rules to have more bikes able to fight for the podium like there was two years ago. Because now you have only two Kawasakis, two Ducatis and sometimes two Aprilias that can win.

But I'm happy for my old team. Last year when I told them I was going to come here and they said it would be Jonny [Rea] riding the bike, I said 'ok, he is going to give you the title this year!' I was sure because he has always been one of the fastest riders but he needed a good bike. I'm happy for them. I'm going to have dinner with some of my ex-mechanics on Sunday because they live here in Barcelona.
What would you say to any World Superbike riders that are thinking of moving to MotoGP?

Loris Baz:
If you believe in yourself and are ready to forget what you have learned in the past and start from zero again, you are able to make the move wherever you are coming from. Cal came from Superbike, many riders come from Moto2, Ben Spies came from AMA and World Superbike and was doing well. Everyone forgets that, but he won a race. It doesn't matter where you come from, you can do well here.
It's about clearing your mind and starting from scratch?

Loris Baz:
Yeah you have to, because maybe in the past the tyres [WSBK and MotoGP] were more similar and you could ride with a little bit similar style, but now you can see even from the TV that the style is completely different. You have to change your riding style because the tyres are incredible here.
Next year everyone will have the same electronics and there will be the change from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres. What will that mean for you?

Loris Baz:
It's good. That's why I wanted to come to MotoGP by 2016, because a lot of things are changing. The first plan was to come next year, not this year. I made the move this year because I had no chance to stay only one more year in World Superbike. I had only two or three years contract choice in Superbike with Kawasaki because of the new bike coming. So I decided to move here early, to learn this year. For sure the front guys will be the same next year, but maybe we have the chance to be closer and near the podium sometimes. It was the right time to come.
Do you have an agreement in place for next year?

Loris Baz:
No, just an option with the team and we will see. I'm not so much thinking of this, just doing my best race-by-race and I'm sure if I do that I will have a good bike next year. I know Giovanni will do his best to get the best bike possible. So I hope we can be here again next year with the best bike possible.
What do you think of the competition at the front of MotoGP this year?

Loris Baz:
It's cool for the series because Marc has been winning a lot and people don't like a guy winning all season. They like to see some battles. I was expecting this kind of season because if you look at the end of last season Rossi and Lorenzo came back. It's just a shame that Dani had to sit out a few races because he would be there also. Jorge is on fire this year.
Which of the remaining tracks are you really looking forward to?

Loris Baz:
Of all the races in the first half of the season, Assen is the track that should really suit me. Then after the summer break I'm looking forward to Silverstone and Phillip Island. Silverstone is like my second home!
Is there anything you'd like to change about MotoGP?

Loris Baz:
Not really. I'm still new here and I expected the ambience and everything to be worse. I'm really surprised by this. Maybe in the past it was different, but now I can see that every rider is talking together more-or-less like in Superbike. I'm really enjoying it.


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