Some were betting against it but Andrea Iannone arrived at Sepang on Tuesday. A couple of hours at the pool, in the hotel, and then to bed. He work late in the morning with no desire to hit the gym.
You wanted to race at Misano and were angry when you could not. What has changed?
“In the heat of the moment I hadn't grasped how serious the problem was. And I only wanted to try to ride. I wasn't allowed to, and was forced to go to Aragon two weeks later to try to ride and understand”.
But you didn't race.
“I didn't race because I realised I wouldn't be able to do so. And then I had my back that seized up for a week. Look, I'll show you something (he opens his iPhone messages)...look, this is what Davide Giugliano wrote to me, after having a similar accident with the Ducati in Superbike in 2015, he had to stop for almost a year (he reads)... dear Andrea, take all the time your need, at first it seems like nothing big, but the back is an incredible ###”.
So why have you come?
“Ducati put pressure on, others too. So I got on the place but it was a real effort and the humidity here doesn't help”.
You can always do the first session and then pull out.
“And come here for nothing? No, I'll try, also because I want to race. This is one of my last chances to ride my Ducati”.
Are you ready to leave your Ducati in Lorenzo's hands?
“I don't know if he is ready: his strength is his speed through the turns, but with the Desmosedici you can forget about that. If you try, you crash, particularly with these Michelins”.
But it has a great engine.
“Yes, but you can't do everything with the engine. Our advantage is that the Desmosedici has little torque at low speed so when you lift it up and twist the throttle it doesn't wheelie and the rear tyre doesn't slide, unlike the Yamaha. The problem is that you need someone in front towing the bike to make it turn. Have you seen the Honda? It's really quick in the changes of direction. Ducati has been battling this problem for years but it's not yet resolved. I have a few ideas but I'm no engineers, the engineers need to trust and listen to a rider”.
You seem disappointed.
“You have to have faith”.
The Suzuki seems to be working well. Does this help your state of mind?
“Definitely, though it would be better if we didn't have the test limitation of just 5 days per year. The Suzuki is working well and they're getting some positive results, this is important for me. I made this decision because I believe in the project and in what they've done over the last two years. They had a brand new bike and have continuously grown, which means they have clear ideas and have been able to come up with a bike that is competitive with both riders”.
When will you climb on the GSX-RR?
“We'll test at Valencia and Jerez, though I don't know how many days we'll have, maybe only two, as it could be useful to keep three for next year”.
As for this GP, how do you feel?
“Not bad, but not in ideal shape either. It's been a difficult situation to accept, also because the injury came just as I was enjoying a positive period. Unfortunately I had no experience of this type of injury and you don't realise how long recovery times are... a month has passed and that's like a lifetime to me”.
Have you taken enough time off?
“It's been a month and feels like forever, though the fracture is not actually so serious. At first, the doctors said I'd be back on the bike quickly, I believed them, but then each time I tried I realised how difficult it was”.
What was the problem?
“Not so much the pain while riding, but the pain I felt afterwards. After trying to ride at Aragon I ended up with a stiff neck for a week and a lot of back pain. I couldn't sleep at night”.
How are you now?
“Better, not fully recovered though... The trip here was dramatic”.
What do the doctors say now?
“The vertebra is still broken, the doctors all say the same thing - that it takes between 2.5 and three months to recover, so we're not there yet”.
You're here now though…
“I find it very difficult to stay at home and watch the races on TV, even though I know I'm not fully fit”.
What do you expect when you get on the bike?
“No-one can know what will happen, I'll have to see after day one. I don't expect any surprises, just a positive weekend. It won't be easy to be competitive after a month away. I'll be patient and take my time, without looking at what the others are doing. Then, if I'm quick, even better but for sure I'll be dealing with some pain”.
You've been criticised for taking a month away…
“It's normal for people to react, even though they don't know anything about my injury or what it takes to ride a MotoGP, physically and mentally. It's easy to write in front of the computer, only the person experiencing it can know what's going on. Everyone is free to express their opinion but sometimes it's not how it appears ”.
Did you struggle to watch the race on TV?
“I missed everything, I knew that our bike could go well in Japan and I wished I'd been able to do my bit, but I was on the sofa instead... I accepted it anyway”.
How has the Ducati seemed to you in recent races?
“It's gone well. It struggled at Aragon but then did really well in Japan and the Australian race was quite positive. I think it's continued to grow and I hope they can be competitive at every track next year”.