As day one of the 2013 Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin wound to a close, Cycle World spent some time in the paddock interviewing Stefan Bradl, the talented young German who was Moto2 World Champion in 2011 (beating out Marc Marquez) and MotoGP Rookie of the Year in 2012. Bradl, on the Rizoma-sponsored LCR Honda, posted the third-quickest time on Friday, just behind the Repsol Hondas of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.
Are you satisfied with your performance today?
Not 100 percent. The position is good; we are really happy with that. But we struggled this morning because the temperature was low and the grip was poor. Finally, this afternoon, we improved the lap time in a really positive way. We were seconds better in the afternoon. When you look at the sheets from this morning, it looked like it was raining. We look forward to tomorrow, because it looks like the grip will be better and we can start to enjoy the track more.
Did your test at CoTA help?
Everybody started from zero this morning because it was so cold. In the afternoon, though, the top five riders ended up being ones who were here for the test, so I think it was an advantage.
Is your motorcycle essentially the same bike as the Repsol Hondas?
Not 100 percent the same, but very, very similar. The factory team always is number one, because their riders are the top. But the difference in bikes is really small. I cannot even think of a complaint in this area. The support we get from HRC is more than good.
At Qatar, you struggled with front edge grip. How does your bike feel today?
There was a similar problem. But I am more confident because the race is on Sunday and the weather is forecast to be warmer. I struggled because of cold temperatures this morning, and in Qatar, because it was a night race. It will be better when the tire has more temperature and everything is hotter.
Do you like the Austin track?
Yes. It’s the most difficult track to learn. The character of the track is so different. It has hard-braking areas, but also flowing corners. I like it. It’s difficult. But soon as you have a good line on it, and you get confidence, you can really enjoy it.
What section is the most difficult?
The most difficult parts are Turn 2, Turn 3, and up to Turn 9. You can win or lose so much time. If you enter the first part well, you’ll have a good lap time. If you make a little mistake on entry, the whole section is slow. It’s almost impossible to make a perfect lap on this track.
How would you describe your riding style?
Sometimes, a bit too aggressive. But in general, I am quite happy with my riding style. I am quite fast into the corner. Of course I need confidence in the front, but normally I am quite fast over the front. Then I pick up the bike and accelerate. This is a strong point of mine. The Honda needs to be ridden like this, because corner speed is not its strongest point. You have to brake, you have to lean, then you have to accelerate as soon as possible. I learned this from the engineers at Honda. They told me I had to ride like this to make a good lap time. Corner speed with the Honda is not the most important thing. You have to concentrate on the exit, take the speed out of the corner, and accelerate.
Does your father, former 250cc racer Helmut Bradl, offer you advice?
He gave me advice when I was starting my career, until I reached MotoGP. He knows that I am older now and that I have enough experience. But he was definitely a big help at the beginning of my career. He comes to most of my MotoGP races.
How do you feel about being the only German MotoGP rider?
It doesn’t change anything for me. It’s important that a German rider is in MotoGP. There are lots of Spanish riders because in Spain this sport is so popular. Also in Italy. In Germany, we have to support the sport and make it more popular.
Is the “seamless” gearbox on your LCR Honda a huge advantage?
Honestly, I don’t know the previous gearbox; I’ve only ridden MotoGP with a “seamless” gearbox. For me, it’s like standard. When I jumped on the bike for the first time and selected the next gear, it was fabulous. You don’t feel the shift moment; you sense that the engine revs are changing, but there is no movement in the bike. It’s really smooth and fast. Shifting down is easy. It’s a great technology. You can shift in a corner without upsetting the bike. In the exit of Turn 9, you shift quite fast from second gear up to fourth with lean.
How is your team’s relationship with Honda?
Good. HRC supports us. We are more than happy. We get good material. We get good manpower. We get good support, in all ways. When we are in trouble, they come help us. It is definitely a big help for us.
Prediction for Sunday?
My target is a top-five finish.