MotoGP is made up of details, sensors, numbers and data, but without the human element, it is nothing. This time, however, we are not talking about the rider, but about the person at the rider’s side. Luca Cadalora is Valentino’s third eye, his “coach”, as it says on his cap. A new role in the motorcycling world, but actions speak louder than words and Rossi has been proven right in wanting Luca at his side.
From your couch at home to all the circuits in the Championship, was it an expected step?
“I was the first to be surprised at having accepted Valentino’s offer and perhaps if it had not come straight from him, I would not have said yes.”
What is a coach needed for in motorcycle racing?
“When I was a rider, I had a dream: I would have liked to watch myself as I raced. I mean, to see myself externally, as if I could be in two places at once.”
Is that what you do with Rossi?
“An ex-rider trackside sees many more things than a normal spectator: lines, the way the bike behaves, engine response, things like that. You can make comparisons with the other riders and the other bikes.”
Can anyone give tips to a nine-time world champion?
“He listens and takes the information I collect on board. Then he decides whether or not to use it. When I am trackside, I identify with the rider. It feels like I am riding the Yamaha and I am emotionally moved.”
But it is not like riding…
“I was also moved when I tried his M1, the 800 cc. When I got off and I told the engineers that it was fantastic, they replied: the 1000 is completely different.”
With Valentino you have also had the chance to ride at Misano. You have a super-tuned R1…
“Suspension, a Superbike radiator, a few measures to make it lighter, I haven’t even touched the engine. It is already too fast the way it is. I noticed during the running-in period on the road.”
Getting back to MotoGP, what is the atmosphere in the garage?
“At the beginning I had some doubts, but Galbusera, Flamigni and all the other guys made me feel at home straight away. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in with the group.”
Mission accomplished, but isn’t telemetry enough to give the rider all the information he needs?
“There are things that the numbers cannot tell, for example, the metre just inside or outside a trajectory. Those are the things that I talk about.”
Is the way things are said also important?
“You cannot tell a rider what he must do. I know this from personal experience.”
Many things have changed from “your” 500 to the current MotoGP…
“We did not have electronics; our controls were ‘manual’. For example, to keep the bike from doing wheelies, I used the rear brake a lot. It was something instinctive that the Brembo engineers pointed out to me because I would literally melt the pads.”
The bikes have changed. Has the way they are ridden changed as well?
“Now they are heavier and more powerful. The riders lean out with their bodies in the turns to counter the weight. We are at around 160 Kg, which is a lot. The 500s weighed 115 at the beginning, then 130. You have to lift the bike as soon as you can coming out of the turn in order to take advantage of the acceleration. The two-strokes had sharper power output with less torque than the MotoGP bikes, but the gaps between us were always wider. Today the difference at the end is two tenths per lap."
Training has also changed…
“Before racing, I was a pole vaulter and, as a rider, I lived well. I was mad about mental training and I played billiards. Recently that came in handy when we had a match with Valentino and his group (he laughs).”
Times have changed, but does Rossi remind you of any rider in particular?
“Each rider has his own characteristics. There are those who want a bike to suit their riding style perfectly and those who use their strength to force it to do what they want it to do. Valentino surprised me, because he is able to do both of those things. I was very lucky never to have had him as an adversary when I was racing.”
Maybe you could cross trajectories with him on the M1…
“If, at the end of the year at Valencia, Yamaha were to let me test, I certainly would not say no!”