Lucio Cecchinello has become much more than a successful manager because he tends to reflect on things, he elaborates them and draws depth from them. He has recently signed (again) an agreement with Honda and his LCR team is linked with them for the next two years. “I usually do one year contracts. But we have already reached an agreement for the next two and so in 2021 and 2022 we will compete again with Honda in MotoGP ”.
Out with Cal Crutchlow, Takaaki Nakagami confirmed, and in with Alex Marquez. Cecchinello’s meticulous attention to detail lies behind everything. Curious, a fine analyst, attentive to numbers, details, the new that advances. And obviously to what surrounds it. "What we experienced was a different world, a bit spooky - he says - A sort of championship in winter test format aggravated by the fact that we had to use all our attention to contain the contagion, from tests to masks, plexiglass on desks, a cloistered life. Let's hope it has ended. But I don't rule out that the first few races of next year we will continue in that way ”.
And what do you expect?
“I expect a season of twenty races. The first part with limitations, the second less. Everything will be simpler. I expect a world championship in which Marc Marquez will return. Maybe from the first race. It is difficult, but I wish it for him. He will miss the tests, but I hope to see him at the start. And I expect a very close world championship. A lot of teams have become competitive, the gap between the first and the last is less and less evident ".
"For Alex Marquez, as for Luca Marini, having a big brother is an extra stimulus"
You now have an extra Marquez, Alex…
“We still know little about each other. He is kind, polite, very oriented towards the things he has to do. Sacrifice. The application he uses to race and earn a place with a factory bike is considerable. But what I expect is to see him on the podium. He has already been able to do it this year. If he weren’t to succeed it would be a clearly negative result for us, undesirable. We will do everything in our power".
In what areas must he still improve?
"He is young, he has to grow and only gain experience. That's all. The only thing Alex is missing now is being consistently competitive. He was, yes, but only in the second half of last season. He had a few moments of crisis, he crashed. But if he finds the right pace, he can do great things ”.
Is being Marc's brother a problem or an advantage?
"It depends on his mentality, on his approach, depending on the personality it could be a problem. But in the case of Alex, or even for Luca Marini with Valentino, it is not. For Alex as for Luca it has become an extra incentive to do well, to give everything, to leave nothing behind. And this can take them a long way ”.
The other Marquez, Marc, what is he risking? Speeding up recovery time might be harmful.
"He has said on more than one occasion that he will come back stronger and more mature. And that as a rider means that he has realized that he will probably always have to be strong, but slightly more tactical in key moments. An accident, a crash, a physical problem can always happen to everyone. Then you have to understand the approach".
"Kato's death was a shock, I began to reflect on the risk, but a rider cannot be afraid"
Have you ever felt restrained?
"When Kato died in 2003, it was a shock that began to make me reflect on the approach to risk, it opened my eyes to the fact that drama can actually always happen. Already at the end of 2002 I had a big crash, an accident, I felt severe pain in my back. In a split second I thought: here we go, I’ve broken my back. For an instant I was spooked, I feared losing all mobility in my legs. It was a powerful moment of reflection. My competitiveness didn't change, I was still fighting for the podium. But my approach to risk changed, yes ”.
Is it better to be afraid on a motorcycle?
“No, no fear. A rider must have respect for what he does, but he must not be afraid. If a rider is afraid of getting hurt or dying, he is not a rider who can aim to win world titles ”.
"Until I see my riders on their two feet after a crash, my heart is in my mouth"
Are you now afraid for your riders?
“Yes, until I see them on their two feet after a crash I always have my heart in my mouth. But fortunately MotoGP, thanks to the great work that has been done on the implementation of safety in the circuits, on the riders, and thanks to the improvement of the quality of the asphalt, the rules and many other things, can manage everything. Serious things are few and far between, and therefore I am optimistic ”.
Optimism will also help you to think big about the next championship.
“In the last one we had big ambitions. Not everything went according to plan, what we had planned and expected. But I am confident for the future. We have a trained team that works hard, and this helps us day after day ”.
"Crutchlow gave us less satisfaction than our goals, Nakagami more"
What happened to Crutchlow?
“He gave us less satisfaction than our goals, he got hurt right away, and this conditioned his pathway. Cal had set fourth fastest time in Valencia, second in the tests in Malaysia, fifth on the starting grid in Jerez. He was a competitive rider, then he hurt his wrist, the surgery, the screw, the complications ... ".
"The other way round. With him we picked up much more than we hoped to see in terms of competitiveness. He finished tenth in the standings, but keep in mind that with twenty points more he could have finished fourth. Let's say the last one was a great season for Taka and a less brilliant season for Crutchlow. I think Nakagami is able to get on the podium on occasions ”.
"If you take VR46 out of the equation, there is a lack of adequate structures to help young riders grow"
What is the new generation of riders like?
"There has been an evolution in sport, once when I was racing things were different. Those like me, Capirossi, Biaggi, we all approached racing with sport production. Now the new youngsters come from pocket bikes, mini-bikes, pre-GP. There is such a big nursery that especially in Italy and Spain trains with these low cost formulas. Apart from VR46 which beats everything else hands-down, unfortunately there is a lack of adequate structures to make riders grow in the right environment, preparing them in the correct way, from training to diet, English, correct communication. Many young guys are passionate but are not adequately supported ".
Why is there such a rush to move on up?
"There is a constant increase in costs, today's young riders have to be supported by their family, by their father, once you were successful with a modified bike, you did the championship and if you were good you would win races. Biaggi started like this. Today the riders of the professional teams are different. Everything is more expensive. Today's young guys are more sedentary, we need to make sure that everything is ready, they are less available. When I didn't have the money I was a mechanic on my bike. Now if they sort out their helmet visor that’s already a lot ”.
What matters most in managing a team today compared to 20 years ago?
"We experienced important years of growth between the ‘80s and ‘90s until the beginning of 2000. Years of growth in the mediatization of the championship, which has become more visible, more transversal. The arrival of Valentino meant that many transversal spectators approached, but also small girls, housewives, grandmothers, mothers. And then? All of a sudden the tobacco sponsors left, we had the financial crisis of 2009. We held out. Now Covid is a big blow to our finances. So feeling counts, relationships are important ”.
"After Valentino, MotoGP will survive, as Formula 1 did after the death of Senna"
What is there after Valentino?
"Rossi's departure may take away from the screens an audience of a certain type, the housewife, the grandmother, but I don't think the core fan will leave. Valentino is in a waning phase and the public is getting used to following new faces. His is not a violent, dramatic exit. We will lose some fans, but they are not the typical consumers. His gradual exit helps the public to fall in love with Miller, Bagnaia or Morbidelli for example. Look at Formula 1 ”.
"Everyone was in love with Senna, when he tragically died many said that Formula 1 would lose its interest. The media machine has managed to recreate a character. Always. Schumacher, Hamilton. Maybe we will have fewer Italians than in the past, maybe we will have more Spaniards. But ours is a global sport. And anyway I don't think the Italians are giving up on MotoGP. We saw it this year. There has been an important increase in ratings, an increase in pay-TV subscribers ".