HRC's communication and marketing director Livio Suppo has offered an interesting personal take on rider/bike perceptions in MotoGP.

Suppo, who was team manager at Ducati from 2003-2009 before moving to the management role at Honda, admits that having more than one 'outstanding' rider in a team can be tough to manage.

But he believes the human element involved in MotoGP makes it is essential for the overall brand.

The Italian argues that two (or more) of the very best riders not only creates a greater chance of success as they spur each other on, but the perception of the motorcycle also changes.

"Unfortunately, since 2007, the only riders to win MotoGP races in normal circumstances have been Valentino, Casey, Jorge and Dani," said Suppo, speaking outside the Repsol Honda garage during last week's Sepang MotoGP test.

"The other three wins - Chris Vermeulen, Loris Capirossi and Andrea Dovizioso - were influenced by the weather.

"Of those four riders, two of them have been on Yamaha. For the other brands this has been a problem because once you have the reputation of having the best bike everything is much easier. The riders feel it is up to them and the young riders all want to ride for you.

"It has happened before. When Max Biaggi was at Yamaha he won, but not so much, and so when I was talking to him [about a factory Ducati ride for 2003] in his mind it was 'without a Honda in this championship you cannot win'.

"This is why I told [Claudio] Domenicali and Filippo [Preziosi] 'I know on paper Max is stronger, but Loris [Capirossi] has been in a satellite team for three years and he is dreaming of a factory ride. The other has been four years in a factory team and he is dreaming of a satellite Honda!'"

Capirossi went on to claim Ducati's first MotoGP race win in only their sixth race.

"Another example: After Aragon last year, Jorge [Lorenzo] was really down," Suppo continued. "He was off the podium for the first time that year and hadn't won for a few races.

"Crucially, Valentino was not back to his best and had not been pushing him. So Jorge started to talk more and more about the bike having problems and how the Honda with Dani had improved so much.

"In his mind the bike was not good enough and there was probably two or three tenths in the garage due to motivation. This is human. We think they are robots, but we are talking tenths of a second.

"Then look at what happened after Valentino won at Sepang.

"Jorge's aggression was back and he won two of the last three races. Valentino had shown the bike worked by winning and now Jorge had to show he was the real world champion."

It is worth remembering that Lorenzo had secured the title in Sepang, and the Spaniard may well have pushed harder simply because the world championship was secure.

Suppo, however, believes it was motivation.

"If he didn't win in the last few races, people would have said Jorge was a lucky champion, because people only remember the end of a championship, as they do with Nicky [Hayden] in 2006," he said. "They never remember the start."

Rossi had been the only Yamaha rider to win MotoGP races from 2004 to 2007 and Suppo believes it is no coincidence that the perceived rise of the M1 coincides with the arrival of Lorenzo.

"When Valentino won with Yamaha in 2004 I think Honda was not so good with communication, because they should have said: 'Okay, we admit, Valentino is unbelievable - but our bike is clearly still the best'.

"At Yamaha in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 it was Valentino winning. Remember in 2007 all the problems with the bike?

"Then suddenly Jorge Lorenzo arrives.

"Another rider who can win on the bike and in 2008, 2009 and 2010 the bike is 'unbelievable' and 'Valentino has been so good at developing the machine'.

"Without Jorge around, nobody said Yamaha had the best bike. For the first four years Valentino had been working on it nobody had that perception.

"So if it's true, this legend that Valentino and Jeremy [Burgess] can build a 'super-bike', it should have been shown before then. The Yamaha was the 'best bike' only when there was another outstanding rider able to beat Valentino."

Suppo's theory will be tested closer to home in 2011, with Repsol Honda expanding to three riders after signing 2007 world champion Stoner to join Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.

Honda made an impressive start to the new year, by filling five of the top seven places at the Sepang test.

"It looks like Honda is in a good position... I really hope that some time this year we can have all three riders on the podium," he said.

But what about the danger that three strong Honda riders will take points off each other?

"It depends, if they take points from each other, but they are ahead of the Yamahas and Ducatis then it is okay," replied Suppo. "But it's true, if Jorge is alone at the front, let's say, and he is able to dominate at the start of the year, we could have a problem.

"But let's look at the first three races. Qatar, Jerez and Motegi.

"Casey, if he doesn't crash, is almost unbeatable at Qatar. Dani was almost unbeatable at Jerez last year with a bike that was difficult in the first race. So I think he has a huge chance to win.

"Then we have Motegi where all three of our riders are super fast. Casey won last year with Dovizioso pushing, and Dani was injured, but he is usually very strong as well. The Yamahas were not close.

"Also, if Jorge doesn't win in the first four races, the media will start to say to him 'Yamaha without Valentino, no more evolution?' and you know Jorge will bite."

Rossi meanwhile has made a high-profile switch to Suppo's former Ducati team and, while he doesn't doubt that the seven time MotoGP champion can be successful, Suppo warned there is a greater element of chance involved.

"With the resources of Ducati you also need some luck," he said. "The 2007 championship is a perfect example: Choosing Casey and the 'crazy' idea to move from Michelin to Bridgestone [in 2005]. Without those two things it would probably have been impossible to win.

"So, for Ducati to dominate you need something special. You need to be very smart or lucky. The bigger the company the more possibilities you have that sooner or later you will do it. You have more money to pay the rider, you can develop the machine etc.

"I think if you analyse anything you have to look in the long term. It is a big mistake just to look at the last race, or last week of your life. In the long term, Honda usually has the highest and longest positive cycles. Yamaha is a little below and Ducati is more up and down."

2011 will be Honda's final chance to win an 800cc MotoGP title, having won three of the five 990cc titles with Rossi ('02 and '03), then Hayden ('06).



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