An exclusive interview with Thomas Luthi, who finished runner-up in last year's Moto2 World Championship.

While four of his main rivals move up to MotoGP, the Swiss star will remain with the CarXpert Interwetten Kalex team for 2017 and begin pre-season testing in the next few days...
I think that was probably your best season ever, happy?

Thomas Luthi:
Yeah, for sure, I think it would be possible to call that my best season ever. Sure I was [125cc] champion in 2005 but yes, why not.

At the end of the season I felt that I had actively won my second place rather than missing out on the title. Especially the second half of the season was just great and we had many successes.
Do you feel that you are riding better now than in your championship year?

Thomas Luthi:
I think so, I think so. It's that I understand what I'm doing more.

It was a long time ago and I was only 19 but sometimes I would win a race and not properly know why and also crashes and mistakes just came unexpectedly.

Now that I'm older I understand more what I'm doing on track and when I win a race I know the reasons why I did well and likewise with mistakes and crashes.

I get less worried about crashes because I've got the experience to analyse them better and therefore I can avoid them next time.
Does the experience help emotionally in that it keeps you more level when handling disappointment?

Thomas Luthi:
Yes, up to a certain point but emotions are also quite important for a good performance on track.

It does help with mistakes though because you will obviously be quite emotional at first. But then after the first minutes the emotions need to take a step back and you have to switch on your analytical brain and analyse what happened and experience helps with that. That's the best way to work and the only way to improve.
So in general you try to keep emotions in the background while you ride

Thomas Luthi:
I try but sometimes it's difficult to do that when for example you get hit by another rider or you think something isn't fair. It's at times like that that you get really aggressive and of course start making mistakes because you are riding like that. So I do try to keep the emotions under control but it's the kind of sport where it can be very difficult.
I was pleased to see that you didn't control them too much at Philip Island.

Thomas Luthi:
Yeah, yeah. I think that was probably my favourite race of the season and not just because of my riding and the result. It was the first time I won two races back-to-back and that was a big moment for me.
Honestly I almost had a heart attack watching it...

Thomas Luthi:
[laughs] Thank you, I'll take that as a compliment!
Do you prefer winning in that dramatic style or do you enjoy the races more where you manage the win in a predictable fashion?

Thomas Luthi:
I don't know about enjoyment, but it is always easier if you can just get everything under control and manage a gap of some seconds. That means you can ride more relaxed and enjoy it more but keeping the focus and concentration can be difficult in those circumstances. It's easy to get too relaxed and make mistakes.

In the other races where you dice and have to push you're often not quite sure if you can handle it and you really need belief in yourself. In Philip island I had 2 chances to retake Franco and just instinctively overtook him in the last corner.

I can't say which type of race I enjoy more or which win is better. In the end it's just about getting the win and how you do it doesn't matter.
It seemed as if you made a step up this season, were there any factors that you are aware of that helped with that or was it simply luck?

Thomas Luthi:
For sure you always need a bit of luck and we got that and the more you work on things the more luck you get.

But one of the main things was change in the team and particularly my crew chief who is now Gilles Bigot. Last year was the first season we worked together and I have to say that it was very interesting for me.

You can't necessarily say that he was better than other crew chiefs I've had but he had a different way of preparing the bike. It took a while for us to get used to each other but when I started to fully trust him mid season I could then focus more on the riding.

I could put my whole mind to the actual riding. When you get to the level that I'm at it becomes quite difficult to find new ways of making a step up and doing better and it was a kind of new idea that we had together and because we were working in that new way it gave me the impulse to start thinking of other things in a different way too.

Before, when I was on the bike I was sometimes thinking in an over technical way, maybe even like a crew chief where I was thinking maybe about which spring to use in the suspension and that kind of thing. Now though I don't think that those kinds of things are what a rider should have in their brain.

When out on track they should be thinking about the riding, where to brake, how to corner or position on the bike, not the technical details of how to solve problems. Working with Gilles Bigot has put me in the position of being a rider rather than being a mechanic as well.
When it became clear that the championship was possible, did you start to ride more tactically?

Thomas Luthi:
No, honestly I didn't ride tactically at all, I was simply pushing every visit to the track.

It wasn't even race weekend by race weekend, it was practice by practice, qualifying by qualifying and race by race. Rather than looking at the championship I was only ever focusing on the next event, be that a practice or a race, and I think that was the right way to go.

In the end I was there though, I was close, but Zarco did a great job and I think he deserved it too, there's no question about that. The way he finished it in Malaysia, well, you've got to say that it was high class.
It interested me that when you moved to the Kalex chassis, if anything your results got worse. Do you think sticking with the Suter and having it developed around you might have been a better move?

Thomas Luthi:
Honestly, when I moved to the Kalex, if anything I think it might have been slightly worse but we found more consistency and it was that consistency that I was looking for.

Both the Kalex and Suter are race winning bikes so the ultimate difference isn't huge. On the Kalex though it's a little bit easier to find a rideable set up than on the Suter.

If you find a perfect or near perfect setting on the Suter then that bike is really great. If you have a bad day with settings on the Kalex you can still make the podium but if you have a bad set up day on the Suter then you'd be fighting to be in the top 10.

Suter will be returning this year and also KTM and I think they will both be good.
How does Kalex work with teams for chassis development?

Thomas Luthi:
With Suter we were a main development input for the chassis but now it's not only us, there are several riders who have an input.

For the 2017 chassis I was testing a prototype after the Aragon race of last year, but I also know that several other riders were testing it and giving their feedback to Kalex
How does Kalex work with riders at races?

Thomas Luthi:
It's very close. There is always a guy from Kalex in our pit box who works with us. They're there to help us and also send information to the factory.

They always stay polite, fair and discrete and don't give information to other teams where there might also be someone from Kalex, that wouldn't be good.

I think that when you buy the Kalex chassis the factory involvement is probably part of the package and contract but you would have to ask Fred Corminboeuf [team owner] about the details of that.
It interests me that the Kalex representatives from the various teams don't share information between the teams, do you know how similar the various Kalexes really are?

Thomas Luthi:
I believe they are all the same, everybody can buy the same bike. You can make small specifications but it is only set up that makes the difference.
And what exactly does 'setup' mean on a Moto2 bike?

Thomas Luthi:
The main thing that we work on is geometry, adjusting the various points of the bike to suit the track. Then we work on suspension, we are using White Power. In Moto2 the tyre isn't such a huge consideration because we only have a choice of two. So setup basically means geometry and suspension. There isn't really an electronics component.
Would you say that Moto2 is a fair racing environment?

Thomas Luthi:
I think that back in the beginning of Moto2, and I've been there right from the start, there were sometimes quite big differences in the engines which were supposed to be equal. Sometimes you'd get a motor and feel that you'd got a bad one but now the engines all feel pretty much the same.

The big weakness in the motor at the moment is the gearbox and a lot of riders mention that, but everyone has that problem so it doesn't make things unfair.

In a track like the Sachsenring where you have a full throttle corner, which then goes down hill when you don't have any pressure on the gears, the box can jump out of gear but it is the same for all riders.
Do you feel that the 250cc two-strokes were perhaps a better racing machine?

Thomas Luthi:
I couldn't really say that, I'm happy that I could try them and really liked them but genuinely I like the four-strokes just as much.

I miss the smell though. In some tracks we are again seeing some more two-strokes and I have to admit that when I see one of them I always go over for a quick smell.
I think that if you could make Castrol R into a perfume you would sell a lot to motorcycle racers...

Thomas Luthi:
[laughs] Maybe yeah!
When does your testing for next season start?

Thomas Luthi:
On the 18th and 19th of this month and we will be starting by testing and getting familiar with the new Kalex chassis. It'll be the first roll out of the chassis there and we'll have to work on finding a useful set up for it.
For next year, Alex, Johann, Jonas and Sam have all gone to MotoGP, surely there is huge pressure on you now to win the championship?

Thomas Luthi:
Yeah, everybody's talking like that but my job is to put those kind of thoughts away. Every year since Moto2 started people have always said 'Oh the 1st and 2nd placed riders have moved on and now it's your turn', implying that you are automatically two steps forward.

That's just not how it is, Moto2 is always a competitive class and there will be incredibly strong riders next year like there were this year.

I know that it's a chance, but I have to put those thoughts away, get my head down and focus on my bike, my team and doing my job. I'm old enough to handle the pressure.
...and you're main threats?

Thomas Luthi:
Every year it's the same, journalists ask me who my main threats are, I say some names and then they come nowhere! But if I have to, I'd say Morbidelli and Nakagami and Baldassarri could be strong as well if he finds some consistency.

You've also got to remember that there will be some fast newcomers like Binder and I think Oliveira will be fast too.

I'm also interested to see what the Suter will do.

I think the only way to approach this though is not to think about other riders but to focus on doing my own job.
How is a rider of you performance not in MotoGP given that all your competitors have made the move?

Thomas Luthi:
Yeah, yeah, what's wrong? What's going on? I sometimes ask myself what's wrong with me, why not?

I don't know, maybe it's because I'm Swiss and the market here is very small, maybe that is part of the reason. I think that being Swiss isn't necessarily an advantage for getting into MotoGP but it might be an advantage for getting into the world championship.

If you are Spanish there are so many fast guys racing there so you can disappear into the crowd but because there are so few people racing in Switzerland you always stand out so you can get into the world championships, but then maybe it's a bit more difficult.

In the past I did have a chance to move up to MotoGP but on a bike that didn't make any sense for me. So I prefer to stay in Moto2 where I can be competitive on a good bike and know that I can win rather than being in MotoGP knowing that I'll be lucky to get a top 10.

I've never been given the offer of a good prototype bike but I still have this dream, this goal and I know that the only way of getting there is results. I've got to fight for the championship here. The only thing I can do is get results.

I've got to concentrate on what I'm doing here and not think about who might be watching or who I have to talk to to get into MotoGP.
Did you have any approaches for the 2017 season?

Thomas Luthi:
Honestly I didn't get any options for this year. Though it was really interesting last year for me to do some testing on the KTM MotoGP bike to understand what a MotoGP bike feels like.

Last year was also a bit strange with the MotoGP contracts, everybody seemed to be in such a hurry. Many contracts were being signed so early and that was bad for me because my first part of the season was not so good and my second part was much better, but OK we can't blame everything else, we have to keep working.

But I can still make a good living from my sport, my passion and that's really cool
and you're Swiss number one again now that Dominique is having problems...

Thomas Luthi:
I hope I was always the Swiss number one.

There were some problem between Dominique and the team last year but I don't know the exact details. No, I have good contact with him and we are good friends but I'm still the number one I hope.
Thanks a lot Tom.

Thomas Luthi:
Thanks a lot, have a good one.