“I’m feeling great, I’m happy with the pre-season work I’ve done so far. I’m trying to ride bikes as much as I can, but there’s been a mix of motocross, gym and skimo; I haven’t really stopped since the championship ended!
“I’ve always been training, I only had a week off for a holiday with my girlfriend. Maybe it seems a bit boring to just be training all the time, but that’s how it is and I enjoy it.
“Since winning the title last November, my day-to-day life hasn’t changed. But one thing is different: I’m getting recognised a lot more! It feels strange because I’ve never experienced it before on this scale. I haven’t actually managed to go over to Mallorca yet, but I think there it could be another level!
“As you have probably seen, I have chosen to ride with my number #36 again this year instead of the number #1. It has great significance to me and it represents hard work as so far I’ve won two World Championship titles with my #36, and my aim is to have the chance to get another crown in the future!
“I’m really looking forward to racing again. It’s going to be another strange season in terms of dealing with the virus (COVID-19), but the way I prepare for a season is always the same, so in that way it’s ‘business as usual.’ Regardless of how many races we’ll have, I’ll be prepared. Now we know how to deal with these short calendars and protocols and it’s the same for everyone. I hope this year things can get back to normal, but it will all be dictated by Covid.
“Let’s see what type of season we can have and give our best! You might have heard me saying that I consider myself ‘the man to beat’ but not ‘the favourite’? It’s true that when you win, you come into the next season as the favourite, but I have to show much more to be the real favourite. Last year I became champion because of a clever approach and consistency, not out-and-out speed. Every season we need to improve and I still don’t have as much experience as many of the others. I would say that the Team and I have all the necessary tools to defend the title, and for sure we will try, but my main goal is simply to be a better rider.
“This season there will be a lot of quick riders, and if Marc comes back he could be the favourite. But the level is so high and lots of people will be competitive, I think it will be really close.
“In Japan everyone has been working really hard, and although our GSX-RR isn’t the fastest, it’s a great bike and really balanced in every area. So, although we have room to improve, I don’t think the development freeze will be a problem for us. With this strong bike we have a great chance to achieve good things. I also have a super strong team-mate in Alex Rins, so being able to compare data will help us both. Our work ethic and mentality keeps us very strong and means that Suzuki will be aiming to have both myself and Alex at the top.
“Of course, Davide has left the team and although we’ll miss him, and it was a big shock, I know that we can still be very successful and we have an amazing group of people in our team who can manage everything. We work really well as a unit so I think it won’t make much difference in the end.
“It’s true that the pressure will be on me, but it doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t cause any problems for me; I’m just really looking forward to starting the season and racing again. And my view is that pressure means you’re doing really well, so I almost want it!
“I hope everyone around the world is staying safe. We’re going through a difficult moment, so we need to continue following all the protocol and being very careful. This is important for us riders, but also for the wider world.”
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