An exclusive interview with Jordi Arquer, team boss of the Estrella Galicia Moto3 team, conducted on the Saturday in Argentina, in which he reflects on the promise of Aron Canet and current struggles of new rider Enea Bastianini...
In the Moto3 race in Qatar we saw five Hondas occupy the first five places. It appears this year's bike is a big improvement on what you were using in 2016.

Jordi Arquer:
Yes. Honda has improved; not one big improvement, but some tiny improvements that make the whole package a better bike than last year. Last year we were lacking, especially in acceleration, and we've improved this. We were struggling last year to overtake KTMs on the main straight, even with slipstream. For Aron it was the first time to compare the bike on the straights in Qatar. OK, he already knew that the bike was a little bit better because in Jerez he felt it. But in Qatar he just made sure his bike accelerated and it had enough power to overtake the other guys.

I think now both factories (Honda and KTM) have a very competitive package. I mean, winning a championship, I think it's more depending on a rider than a bike because KTM is probably equal. Mahindra is also doing big steps and has a good bike. Of course we have good support from Honda. We work a lot with them. We worked a lot last year to make this bike happen this year. Also I think Honda has the fastest riders on the grid. It's a combination of two things: they have improved their bike and also we have the best riders. Of course, KTM has very good riders but you have [Joan] Mir, you have Canet, you have [Enea] Bastianini, you have [Romano] Fenati. You have many fast riders that can challenge each race for the victory.
In the past, Honda's NSF250R always had the reputation as being easy to ride. Has the '17 bike also retained this?

Jordi Arquer:
The bike's best characteristic was the chassis. But because we were lacking a bit in acceleration, the lines that the rider does with the Honda has to be different to the KTM. Last year, for example, the KTM had more acceleration. Their riders could brake later, go tighter into the corner and exit with power. If you did that with a Honda bike in acceleration you were losing a lot. Then you had to take profit of the chassis. The chassis is very good. The riders can take very good profit from it but now we have a good chassis and a good engine. It's the best combination.
In his rookie season Aron was really impressive in certain moments - the race at Le Mans and qualifying at Valencia come to mind. In your opinion, what was the biggest thing he needed to improve over the winter months?

Jordi Arquer:
I think with Aron, from 2015 to 2016, when he was finishing the Spanish championship with us, he ended the year with an injury in his foot. When he recovered in January he was training with a dirtbike and broke his tibia. So that pre-season was very tough. He could not do anything. But the main difference is this year he started training himself physically from the first moment, and he made a complete preseason. He did a lot of laps, all of them quality. Mentally, he has forgotten about the injuries, so this made him focus a lot on the preseason. He said this year is a big difference. He can focus straight away only on riding and not recovering from injuries.

The thing is, last year Aron learnt a lot. It was his first year, a tough year and everything he learnt he is putting into practice now. Aron, last year, was a very talented rider but sometimes in some situations he lost a little bit of control and he made errors that are normal for a rookie. Anyway, I think he has made a bigger improvement from November to February than all 2016. I mean, this preseason and the training that he's done at home and with the team has made him mature and helped him a lot mentally. We have to remember that he's still a kid. He's 17 years old and he's dealing with adults every day. Little-by-little, he's starting to act and think as an adult. Aron is in a good moment in this sense. He's learning a lot. He's listening to what the team recommends him to do. Aron is really positive with everything. He's always looking to learn and give his best.
As you said, Aron has been with the team since his days in the Spanish championship. What is he like to work with?

Jordi Arquer:
There is a big difference from last year. He was getting annoyed when he was on the top in qualifying session. But he is learning to be patient, to be calm. Yesterday [Friday] we were working so he wasn't looking for slipstreams. We said, 'Aron you need to push hard by yourself, focus on your lines, your set-up and try to give the best without any help.' Yesterday we finished eighth but in some moments he was 20th. He knew he could be faster but we were working in a line. He had to be calm to wait for the correct moment. Sometimes the final result is not a reflection of how you work. Today [in FP3] he already went out with a group and was second, really close to Mir. Today with the big group he had the extra help. Now he understands these things. Last year he did not understand. Mentally he's processing all this information, and especially being relaxed and calm. When you lose control, that's when mistakes happen.
Aron is still very young when compared to some of the riders we expect to be challenging for the title this year. Mir and Bastianini for example, are 19, while John McPhee is 22. Is it too early for Aron to be aiming for a championship challenge?

Jordi Arquer:
I think Aron is able to do many things but, I mean, our project with him is not being world champion in his second year. Not because he is not able to do it but we think it puts pressure on him without that being a necessity. The target with Aron is to improve our lap times from last year and try to be all races with the leading group, because last year was not like that. Even he was not the best rookie last year. He had riders at the end of the season with more points than him but this year I think is the important year. It's what you learn in the [first] year and what you put into practice in the second. Aron needs to get race experience and try to battle for the podium at as many races as possible. If he does this every race, of course we can consider Aron as a guy that will fight for a championship.
This year you have the continuity with Aron. Enea Bastianini is the new face in the garage and he has struggled. What's the main reason behind this?

Jordi Arquer:
With Enea it's been harder than expected. Especially in our situation, we have a pyramid of riders from eleven years old. They gather some knowledge in the team. We know each other. We work and know how they are. We get experience with them. Then it's easier when we have a rider like Aron, who, when he comes to the GP team, is already in the family and knows how we work. When you have a rider that's coming from another place, already with experience, always it's more difficult to make these things work, you know?

We knew it would not be something that would work from one day to another. His situation has been longer than what we expected. I mean, there is not just one reason. Right now there are many reasons that are not making Enea feel confident with the bike. Some riders have been adapting better to the 2017 chassis, some riders less. For example, Aron immediately felt the new chassis was feeling better for him. Enea has not been like this. He's lacking confidence, especially on the front part of the bike. Enea is a rider that has the potential to always brake very late. It's what he's used in races and qualifying to make his lap time. This feeling, this year he's not happy with this.

Of course we also have a method. We work as a team. We've had many riders in the team. We think we are not the best team but we are one of the teams that knows how to work on a good line and try to take from the rider the best potential. Of course Enea has come from another team, another method, with other people. For some riders it's more difficult to get adapted, others less. Right now we're in a situation where there's no need to point at one place [and say] this is the problem. Our package is like a wheel. It needs to keep turning but we need some inertia. When we have it we are sure that everything will be in place and Enea can be fighting for podiums and we have again the Enea we know from last year.

It's not an easy situation. It's not easy to explain or understand. But these things happened before the second race. I think it's too early to start losing nerves because the second race isn't even finished. I think we need to have this as a challenge. We need to get this rider being fast again. Enea needs also to trust his technical team, which he doing, but it also is not easy when you know you can be there and you have many riders in front of you that were not there last year it's easy to get a little bit nervous.

He's working a lot with his technicians, with Honda, with the data guy. We need to keep pushing. Yesterday we had a good feeling. We felt we made positive steps - not big ones but I think yesterday Enea was seventh and tenth. Close to the front guys. But OK, again this morning we had some problems, [like] the feeling on the front of the bike. This category is very equal. If you're not feeling 100 percent you drop ten of 15 places. We need to see. It's our process.
You spoke a little about Enea needing to adapt to the team's methods. Can you tell us a little more about this? Is it how he communicates with the team, or how he analyses data for example?

Jordi Arquer:
It's a general method. [Like] When you are at home, the training you do, how you organise the training. What communication he has with the staff of the team that help you to organise this training at home. What discipline to do in one period and what discipline to do in another. Also, it's how we work at the track outside the box. For example, at every race we give the riders a timed schedule of the whole weekend. Maybe in Moto3 this is something that is not very usual. But it's something the MotoGP guys do. So we try to give a system that is as professional as possible, as close to MotoGP as possible, so the riders get used to working in the way they need for when they arrive at that level. We also do it with out technicians: the way they work; the plans they make every morning; how we will structure a session, like how many laps we will use this [set-up] - everything is organised. Not all teams work like this.

We don't think it's the best way. It's simply our way. It's something that we also give to the riders of our junior team. We try to give the same method to a twelve year old kid as a 16 or 18 year old kid. The pyramid, when they start in all categories using the same method and they arrive to the world championship, they already feel like they are ready to win the world championship. When you have someone coming for another place - even though we are very flexible and we adapt as much as possible - sometimes it's a little bit difficult to get working. Also someone said we are too strict but it's totally the other way. We have to understand the needs of the rider but also try to explain to him what is the best for him at this moment, and what will be the best for him to learn now that will be applied in the future.
I know the Italian and Spanish languages are very similar, but are any of Enea's struggles related to a difficulty communicating?

Jordi Arquer:
Language, no. His technician speaks perfect Italian. I mean, also he has a data guy called Marco, who is Italian. He even lives very close to Enea. They travel always together. So language is not an issue at all.
It's still extremely early in the season, but has the team set a deadline when it expects Enea's performances to have improved considerably?

Jordi Arquer:
Of course, if we want Enea to be fighting for the championship these results must arrive on Sunday, or as early as possible. We know this is a process. We know the where to arrive and we know there is a way to go. We are finding that the road isn't totally straight. There are some corners to deal with. We're working to get to this target as soon as possible. It's difficult to know. When the steps are not being made in the positive way... Maybe [knowing that] on Sunday Enea gets confidence.

Enea is also a rider that really likes racing on Sunday. We're also trying to teach him as much as we can to understand the necessity to really push hard, 100 percent from the beginning, in a free practice to get the bike ready for qualifying, to push in the qualifying to have the bike ready for a race. There are many issues but we are trying to transmit ideas to help with this. We know that when the championship arrives to Europe everything gets into place. Sometimes the first races outside Europe are a bit strange. But we have not to think about this, like everything will be solved when we get to Jerez, because we need to work from the beginning to solve the problems we have right now.
I read an interview with Moto3 team manager Aki Ajo over the winter in which he said he had picked Nico Antonelli for 2017 as he likes to challenge himself with riders that have had issues in the past. Are you the same? Do you enjoy these kinds of challenges?

Jordi Arquer:
Yeah, of course. It's something the team generally expects to do. I mean, Enea and Jorge [Navarro] are riders totally different. Jorge Navarro was a rider that came to race with us. He had his own method, his own routines, his own thoughts. Working with him was very positive for both sides - for Jorge and for the team. Jorge learned a lot with us. We learned a lot with Jorge because this is a relation that makes the team and rider grow. Jorge was not coming from the pyramid. He was a little bit like Enea. It was two years of quite hard work but I think we learnt quite a lot. Aron is coming from the pyramid. He is learning quite a lot from one year to another. He knows the method and he really believes in this. For example, the session that a technician does with Aron is completely different to what he has to do with Enea. You have to explain everything from zero, how we work. With Aron he has this energy.

The thing is, getting new talents to the championship with kids that have been built up in our championships in Spain with our bikes, with our team. There are young kids coming very fast. We have actually in our junior team three Spanish riders. The first one is English - Charlie Nesbitt. And the Spanish guys are Sergio Garcia, Jeremy Alcoba and Alonso Lopez. These three Spanish riders came from our base. They were already in the school team with the junior team. We'll see. One of them hopefully will be with us next year. We have the young kids from the school kids coming, [who are] eleven or twelve years old. Next year they'll be in the junior team and it's a big wheel. We work alongside Marc VDS. Alex Marquez was part of the team and now he's with Marc VDS. Of course, the advice with Emilio [Alzamora - also Marc Marquez's manager] that he gives to us. He works with Marc and also with Alex. We try to maintain this line in this team. He's our mentor!

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