Andrea Iannone was running in as high as fourth place when he fell in the early stages of the Qatar Grand Prix. Now in his second MotoGP season, the Italian is aiming high – and hopes to fight again with an old rival who goes by the name of Marquez.
Before stepping up to the premier class of Grand Prix racing in 2013, Vasto-born Iannone finished third overall over three consecutive years of the Moto2 category. Twelve times a race winner in the lower categories, the sheer confidence that characterized the now 24-year-old over previous years remains prominent in his psyche.
After returning home from Doha, he shared a few minutes with motogp.com.
Andrea, you came out of the blocks far stronger in Qatar this year than last; what are the main differences with the bike you are riding in 2014?
You can push harder with it. It’s not so easy to reach the limit. But once you do find that limit, I have found it is possible to move it even further ahead and to keep establishing a new limit. You can ride this bike with more ease, but at the same time maintain greater speed and more consistency, so it is a great leap forward for us.
Had you not crashed out of fourth place on the second lap in Qatar, where do you think you could have finished that race?
[Laughs] That was a real shame! I was genuinely sorry for that fall. On the other hand, it was a great weekend; I was always fast and always up there among the first few. Regarding that incident on the second lap, I was running with the top five and keeping up with their pace – and I’m sure I would have finished in that group.
You suffered a few injuries last year – are you now feeling 100 percent on the bike?
Physically, I’m okay; I am going well on the bike and I’m in a good place mentally. I am certainly pleased with the step we have made and now hope to continue improving further over the course of this season. I want to be fighting again with Marc Marquez. In Moto2 we experienced some really great battles and I do miss them.
Now we go to Austin. What will happen there? With two long straights, surely you can be optimistic about the straight-line speed of the Ducati?
It’s a very nice track, but actually not that easy. But it is true that we should be able to take advantage of those couple of long straights. However, having a fast bike is not enough on its own; you have to be able to ride well and string it all together for the whole lap – in the corners, not just the straights.
In Qatar and Malaysia (for testing/racing so far this year) we haven’t got badly at all, but we do have to understand that we will suffer on some circuits. I don’t know exactly what to expect from Austin, to be honest, but we look forward to it. The team and I just wants to get as close to the front as possible, that is for sure.
On another note, you are always very active on social networks and seem to enjoy interacting with the fans…
Yes, indeed. At one point everybody was using Messenger. Nowadays we are all going crazy with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When people ask me questions, I like to get back to them directly and interact. It’s nice to communicate with the people who follow you.
In fact, during the pre-season you included the logos of all of these social networks on your crash helmet
That’s right. Over the winter I had a bit of a change and asked Aldo Drudi to design the helmet for me. We were running a bit late and the first thing that came to mind was to focus on the social media; once the helmet had those logos on it, it actually looked really nice.
You have almost always raced under No. 29; what is the story behind that?
Actually, when I started out in racing my number was 53 because I loved the film Herbie – ‘the love bug’! Then I started racing minibikes with number 9, which is the number of my birthday (Aug. 9, 1989). In the meantime, my brother Angelo competed with number 2; he raced alongside the likes of Corsi, Simoncelli and Dovizioso. When he stopped racing, I decided to combine his number with mine. As he is the eldest of the two of us, I put his number in front of mine and that is how I ended up with number 29!Andrea Iannone, MotoGP