The time is no longer nigh, the time is now. The FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup begins this weekend at the Sachsenring and on Thursday, there were two events ahead of track action. First, a briefing for media saw Cup Executive Director Nicolas Goubert go through some key information, joined by Graham Webber, IRTA Representative in Race Direction, and Peter Goddard, FIM Representative in MotoE™ Race Direction. Then, on Thursday evening, five of the riders who’ve set the timesheets alight in testing were joined by Cup Executive Director Nicolas Goubert for the first ever talk show in the E-Paddock.
Bradley Smith (One Energy Racing), Niki Tuuli (Ajo MotoE), Eric Granado (Avintia Esponsorama Racing), Hector Garzo (Tech 3 E-Racing) and Nicolas Terol (Openbank Angel Nieto Team) were the riders on stage, with Smith the first to talk. The Brit missed two days of the Valencia test – and the race simulation – and despite that he’s had some top pace so far. So how is the adaptation from MotoGP™?
“One thing that goes in my favour is the tyres, they’re very similar so the general feeling jumping across from MotoGP, you have a clear weight difference and riding style difference between the two bikes but the general feeling of the tyres and the info you get back to the handlebars and the seat is quite similar, so that makes my transition a bit easier. In general, I’m actually quite pleased because when you take on two jobs in one championship it can get tricky, but the transition has been seamless so far, and also the team allowing me to just ride one day in the test…I have to say thanks to them for understanding! I’m looking forward to getting the Championship underway.”
And what of his rivals? The Brit has impressed but there is some stiff competition out there.
“As we’ve seen throughout the practice sessions it’s been very close and it seems to be getting closer and closer. In Jerez I seemed to have more than an advantage than at Valencia so the guys are definitely catching up, and leading the way in certain ways. It’s not going to be easy and I think everyone can see that. Some of the guys who have a better CV in this championship have seen that as well, these guys have shown them up! I’m not saying these guys haven’t done anything, but the press and the media were putting a few other big names towards the front but these guys are leading the way and it’s our job to catch up.”
Next to speak was Finnish rider Niki Tuuli, who completed the podium in the race simulation in Valencia, from a front row start to boot. Coming from WorldSSP to Moto2™ and now MotoE™, how is the new challenge?
“I’ve been riding many Championships and last year it was amazing to have the place in Moto2, then this year I ride in the CEV in Moto2 and also MotoE, and for me it’s a really big thing to be here and to be part of Ajo Motorsport is really special for me. I’m looking forward to the season, in the tests it’s been tight and we had a really good race simulation and I think everyone enjoyed riding the bike and that’s the main thing! The races will be really nice I think, fair races but really tight and we’ll see how it goes.
“Of course I have expectations and I need to be as close to the top as I can but this is a new thing and I think everyone will find small things and take a step forward. We need to see how it goes but I think everyone will improve step by step, maybe some people will find something before others but like I said I think it will be really tight. I need to do my best and hopefully we can be near the top.”
Next on the mic was the winner of that race simulation, Granado. And although it’s not worth any points, it’s certainly a spring in the step for those who excelled – although the Brazilian says he’s not yet sure of the secret to his, so far, incredibly impressive speed.
“The secret…I don’t know yet! Every time I go on the track I try to push the limits and try to find something. The bike is very different to everything I’ve ridden in life, it’s a compromise between corner speed and picking up the bike on the exit so yeah I need to improve more! But I’m really happy with the job we’re doing, the team are helping me a lot to improve every time I go out on track.
“I was really happy with the win, you know it was a tough year last year for me and to have this opportunity for me is great and I’m doing my best to be competitive. The win didn’t give me any points and it doesn’t give me the win here so I need to work more here, everyone’s looking to win but I’m excited to start that tomorrow.”
So what about the bike? Granado is another with Moto2™ experience and has won the European Championship, and he says the most impressive difference with the Energica Ego Corsa is the first time ‘on the gas’ – figuratively.
“The power, the first time on the gas…you have to get used to that, it’s very different! The first time I went out I thought wow, I have to be careful in some places! And also the weight is very different, you need to find a compromise in braking because there’s a lot of weight going on the front wheel but the Michelin tyres are very good, we can be very fast in corners and I think it’s a good compromise between tyres, suspension and Energica bike and I’m looking forward to improving more again this weekend.”
The man just behind him in that simulation in Valencia – after getting passed late on at least – was Hector Garzo. He also started from the first ever E-Pole position, so it’s all positive for the Tech 3 E-Racing rider so far.
“I’m really happy about the how the tests went, we were able to work on many things that are going to mean we have a good start to the Championship but I really improved a lot in all the sessions we did and the mistakes I made in the race – if you want to call them mistakes – really made me learn and give me a good working background for the Championship. And the E-Pole is something new and different but I think we can do a good job in this aspect because it’s going to be great stuff for us.”
And the bike? The adaptation has been a big pro for him.
“This bike is quite similar to Moto2, the potential is quite similar and we’re not so far from the times. For sure I think the adaptation has been really fast.”
Finally, 2011 125 World Champion Nico Terol spoke. Competing in the paddock once again, he’s no stranger to the top step and will be aiming for it once again. Finishing just off the podium in the simulation, he says he’s raring to race.
“After three years outside the Championship my feeling was really good in Valencia and it’s a new objective for us. I’m really happy with the team and the bike. The corner speed is incredible! The grip is the same. After Valencia my feeling is good, I’m looking forward to starting the Championship tomorrow. I think here at the Sachsnering is a very good track for MotoE. And there are a lot of left corners which I really like!”
The riders and Nicolas Goubert then answered a few questions from the media – with some particular highlights such as, ‘With less noise from the bike, how do you know a rider is close behind you?’ The answer? It was split between hearing their knee sliders and just pure instinct, something that will be fascinating to watch on race day.
Tune in for the E-Pole session on Saturday on 16:00 (GMT +2), before history is made as the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup rolls out of pitlane to race for the first time on Sunday at 10:00.