An exclusive interview with Pata Yamha's Sylvain Guintoli on battling back from injury, the development tests with the new Yamaha R1 and how World Superbikes and British Superbikes compare.
What's your take on your home race weekend at Magny-Cours?

Sylvain Guintoli:
Obviously, I'm disappointed with the outright result. It's my home race at a track I like and know well where I've been on the podium 7 times so given that consistency the results aren't what I wanted. Considering the potential of our package though I think that is perhaps where we had to be.

As far as the riding went I felt that I rode well and don't feel I could have done much better. I feel that I'm back to the level I was where I left off due to the accident so it was encouraging from that point of view.
How is the recovery from the accident progressing?

Sylvain Guintoli:
I had quite an injury on the ankle but that's been sorted out now physically so I now feel the same as before the crash and the couple of races I did before France also returned me to bike fitness. I feel good so I just want to finish the season well doing my job with what I've got and then move on.

I feel as if I'm able to do my job in a good way in that I've worked hard to get back to full fitness.

I'm a racer so very quickly after an injury I stop looking backwards or wishing that things had happened differently and start making a plan for recovery. I always look forward to new challenges to motivate me.

You've got to understand that I was away from racing for 5 months which I think was the longest time I've ever been away from the bike and I've now managed to pick it up where I left off which is qualifying well and often being the fastest of the Yamaha guys.
So did you enjoy watching the races on television when you were away?

Sylvain Guintoli:
I hated it, I hated it, I hated it! Those were difficult times because the crash was very big and I had more injuries than just the ankle so the initial convalescence was horrible.

Luckily I have a very full and happy family life but what drives me is racing so it's difficult to watch the boys race and know that some things can't be hurried and you just got to wait. It is also difficult to have so much time to think about things so I can safely say that I hated it, every minute of it.
Do you feel the Yamaha has good potential?

Sylvain Guintoli:
Yeah, yeah, and I've said that since the first time I tried the bike. It's got some very strong points and it has to be said that the standard bike is brilliant but that's not enough to make it competitive in WSBK, it needs to be made into a racing bike. We knew that from the start but we are still developing and not able to fight with the front runners.
Where is the bike losing out?

Sylvain Guintoli:
The first thing I would say is that we definitely need more power but there are also quite a few other aspects that we're working on. I think I can sum it up by saying power and electronics.

In WSBK, the level of performance at the front is very strong and close and if you combine that with the ability of the top riders even a small deficit puts you way back. It's not enough to have a great base model, the level of development has to be high too.
...and how is the development going?

Sylvain Guintoli:
Well, the way I see it in our sport is that you measure your progression by your results and we started in the first race by getting our best results of the year which was a 5th place 2 1/2 seconds from the winner in full dry conditions.

Since then I haven't been able to match that and neither has anybody else so from that perspective there hasn't been a lot of progression. I've had a couple of front row starts and fast laps so there were clearly some early signs of potential but since then the results haven't improved.
Do you feel that the development is going in the right direction?

Sylvain Guintoli:
Well, I'm the rider, I just ride whatever I'm contracted to ride to the best of my abilities. I've obviously got quite a lot of experience on a wide range of bikes including front running bikes so feel I've got an idea of what needs to be done but then the rest isn't something I can control.
It almost feels as if you are being slightly diplomatic?

Sylvain Guintoli:
You have to be diplomatic right? That's just another part of my job.

Though clearly this year has been disappointing and not only for myself. I think that we were all expecting a lot more. It's not only the time and sweat we've put into the project, it's also the emotions.

You always start a new project with a lot of excitement and tend to get quite emotionally involved. Myself, the team and Yamaha all feel the same in this, we want to be winning.
Was this situation a surprise to you?

Sylvain Guintoli:
Well, like I say, I ride the bike. Perhaps the worst thing was that from the first tests in November we had evaluated the strong and weak points and we could see that there was real potential there. But for now it's not happening, that doesn't mean it's not going to change though, we're still early in the project.
What was your original contract with Yamaha?

Sylvain Guintoli:
It was a one-year agreement.
Isn't it strange to have a one-year contract for a new bike that needs development?

Sylvain Guintoli:
For me no, I think it's important for a manufacturer but also the rider to be able to look at different options depending on circumstances. It means that people are not locked in if things are not going as they think it should or they're not happy.

For me it's important to be able to improvise. It's not anything unusual and I didn't want to feel stuck anywhere. A rider needs to feel that things are moving forwards and if they're not what's the point of being contracted?
From the outside it was confusing that Yamaha didn't continue with you given that you results were better - was it your decision to leave?

Sylvain Guintoli:
I don't choose the manufacturers policies and politics so from that respect I don't have any control over what happens.

Also, when you're away from the track you are not there to take part in things. It was a big crash so you can understand there can be doubts as to whether you're going to come back fit or not and whether that's going to be a problem.

I'm at a stage in my career where I really don't want to waste time and need to be somewhere I can win races and have a go.
So have you got anything sorted for next season yet?

Sylvain Guintoli:
I'm working on it at the moment and am considering various options but haven't signed anything yet. It's now become a very interesting part of the season for me!

I think I can say though that I'm still riding really well and as well as I did two years ago and still feel that I've got a lot to give bike racing.
Do you think you are given due respect for being a world champion in a year with strong competition?

Sylvain Guintoli:
No, no I don't feel that way. But it's fair to say that I won that thing fair and square only two years ago and I'm not riding any worse now than I did back then so that confirms to me that I have a lot more to give the sport and can perform at the top. My passion and motivation to race hard hasn't changed since then.

When I feel the continuation from then it makes me feel very positive that I have managed to come back from the accident to perform the way that I am at the moment.

I understand that there aren't a huge number of competitive rides in WSBK but there are also other possibilities.
I think BSB fans would love to have you back...

Sylvain Guintoli:
Yes, absolutely BSB is definitely a possibility. I just want to go somewhere where I can express myself and enjoy myself on the bike. I'm definitely looking there.

I was at Cadwell Park because I hadn't been in a while. The atmosphere was fantastic and the crowds were great, it gave a good impression

I'm sorry that I can't be more specific at the moment but I just honestly don't know yet. I'm not panicking yet though. I know it's on the late side particularly for the WSBK paddock but that's the situation.

Sometimes you sign early and it works out badly or sometimes you sign late and it's a great deal - it's a bit like when you're young at the disco, you panic and go for the first girl that you meet but the clever guy waits and walks away with the best girl at the end!
How would you assess the relative states of WSBK and BSB?

Sylvain Guintoli:
I've seen a lot of discussion about how WSBK is doing, particularly about the crowds but for me at Magny-Cours the stands looked pretty full and I could really feel the atmosphere. There are always comments about popularity but if you went to Magny-Cours you would have seen a series working well.

WSBK success has always been related to the success or otherwise of MotoGP. I think you can say that MotoGP is booming at the moment so perhaps that has sucked the attention from us so they are saying that WSBK is going down in comparison.

When MotoGP was in crisis not so long ago people were more complimentary about WSBK. I think these things are like a cycle. For me it's just great that all championships; MotoGP, WSBK and BSB are being really well followed and that we have good times for bike racing in general.

It's difficult to know how to compare series when their ethos and technical levels are so different
So here's a choice; should you run both races on Sunday or have one on Saturday?

Sylvain Guintoli:
For me from the rider's point of view, the schedule we've got at the moment is better than the one we had last year.

Last year we had warm up sometimes at 8 in the morning when the sun was hardly out and the track was cold and damp with race 1 at 10.30 and race 2 at 1 and it was a very intense schedule. With the way we've got it now it's more manageable. With the spacing of practice sessions and races you can manage the races better with time for bike changes and tyre choice.

From the spectators point of view though - I don't know, there are many opinions. You've got to understand that any change will be controversial just look at the changes made in BSB. It's not as if you're short of races on the Sunday, you've got Supersport, Superstock in addition to the Superbikes so it's racing all day anyway.

The Superbike race on Saturday makes that day more enjoyable so if you're doing something on the Sunday you can still come along on the Saturday and see a race along with the qualifying. As I said though with changes you'll always get controversy especially if it's been a certain way for a long time.

In general though, unless a change is completely daft I like them because they create uncertainties and new situations and make racing more interesting.
Lastly on a different tack, I've been watching your racing over the years and I've got an opinion as to what I think your best race was and would like to see if you agree, so what would you say the best race of your career was?

Sylvain Guintoli:
For me, 100% the races in Qatar in 2014 by a million miles.
Same for me.

Sylvain Guintoli:
It doesn't get better than that really. The pressure was massive, I had to win both races and we had a month break before the races to think about them and get worried.

It was weird really because even though the pressure was so high and it was the culmination of two years work, on the night I didn't feel so nervous. Before the race I actually felt a feeling of confidence and it ended up being a great weekend. My family was there, there was that great feeling of confidence and those were the best moments of my racing life. Riding well followed naturally from that.

During the race I felt so in control and unusually for such a crucial race I was enjoying myself, even in the second race where we knew that whoever finished first between me and Tom would win the title.

In that race I managed to get to the front with a gap in a title winning position and most people would want the race to finish as quickly as possible to get it over with but I felt so good I didn't want it to stop because the feeling was so brilliant.

Racing with that beautiful bike in the night at the front of the race feeling so confident was something I'll never forget, it was a really, really special moment.
I remember that too Sylvain and thanks for talking to us.

Sylvain Guintoli:



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