The second half of the year was difficult. How big an impact did Pol and Mika’s respective injuries have on your fortunes?

Mike Leitner:
I mean we had a bad middle of the year. We had to carry the injuries longer than expected. So first at the Sachsenring we lost Mika. This completely stopped our development plan. We had to find a rider and of course they are not waiting on each corners, riders who can help you in this project. With Randy we were happy with some base testing. But of course when he’s not in this category and understanding the tyre situation and everything it takes time to build a rider up. This cost us a lot.

In Brno we lost Pol. You have a two-rider team in MotoGP. You lose one rider and 50 percent of the power is gone. I remember just last year when Suzuki was in this situation. Rins was unfit and Iannone had some not so good races. It’s easy, you don’t deliver the result, but this doesn’t always mean you’re doing something wrong. Here we had to suffer and Pol, to be fair, his crash in Brno was hard. The decisions everyone made for this collarbone, we thought it was OK. But then a small slide and a small crash and he broke the collarbone in two parts again. He had another surgery, was unfit again and actually he did his first race after Assen at Motegi. This last result was Assen and his next was Motegi. Of course you see this on the results list. But we see his confidence coming back.

In the middle Bradley did a good job for us. He was in this position between eleventh and 15th. We knew that when Pol is fit he can be slightly better, like he was last year from the middle of the season, but he was missing so we couldn’t show any performance.
At Misano Bradley began racing the ‘new’ bike with a ‘new’ engine that Kallio debuted at Jerez. How would you assess the performance and development of that bike?

Mike Leitner:
The thing is to develop the bike during the season is not so easy, especially when you lose two riders. But even from the rules it’s very difficult. You have to fix some issues before round one, where you announce what you are using in terms of engine specification and all those things. Even if you are a team with concessions you are in this rule. You cannot change some parametres and this makes life very hard. You have an advantage of two more engines out of this rule but you don’t have a clear advantage, like in the old days when this rule was there because the factory bikes had five engines while Ducati had twelve. Plus with two litres more fuel and softer tyres! This is gone.

We are at a beginning. Many times I say to guys who don’t understand, ‘The advantage you have now as a beginner is very small.’ This also stops us in development and what we can bring to a race. We take this challenge. It is like it is, but it’s tough. The competition is five factories, and four of them have experience of 15 to 20 years of constant racing in this category. We have Aprilia who have been here for five or six years. We are in our second year. So from my point of looking there could be many more dramas. We could be blowing up engines at every second event. We had a very good incoming season. I think we had a very good half of ’18 until we had some issues with our riders. You can’t control this. We are here. Four times in a row we missed going through to Q2 by 0.1s. Four times in a row we missed this now! When you are not in this group of people that can achieve that [qualifying for Q2] the weekend turns.

I think the team, the factory, the riders, do a really great job. I respect a lot the job of the others and know how hard they work for it. We are that close. It’s acceptable. And to be honest, I’m happy with the progress.
For this winter will the development be evolutionary? Or are there big things to come?

Mike Leitner:
Big things? I mean big, big things in this class are difficult to come by. I think we have some good points on our bike and we have to fix the weak points. This will only work with hard work in our test team, some hard work on the track, and with some good ideas to bring it together.

This is how it will be. From now on we have to think of each step because it’s also easy to go in the wrong direction. We will do like we did until now.


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