Interview - Rui Goncalves

2012-05-25 09:26
Although currently suffering the effects of an injury sustained earlier in the season, Rui Goncalves remains Portugal�s most successful motocrosser. A victory at Agueda in 2009 � the first Portuguese to win on home turf � and finishing as MX2 World Championship runner-up the same season stands as career highpoints for Rui who recently turned 27 years old.

However the intelligent, multi-lingual and technical racer has a prized role with the Honda World Motocross team thanks to his absolute dedication, professionalism and sensitive feel of the motorcycle that is key in the development of the exotic prototype CRF450R. Rui has been a little unlucky with injuries in the last couple of seasons and 2012 will be only his second full term � his third year � in the premier MX1 class.

Being part of this team must be very special but then there is also a lot to try, develop and work on�

Obviously being part of the team is great and I�m proud to be part of the project, as I�ve said many times before, but it is true what you say in that there is a lot of work going on behind it. In the week we have a lot of stuff to try and develop. As you can see this is a new bike and there are suspension tweaks, the forks, tyres � with different compounds � and more to get through. We are in a good way and it is never a waste of time to try something. The team does a great job. It is my second year with them now. Last year we learned about each other a little bit and it was new for me and now I have more experience after one year working with a Japanese manufacturer. We, the Honda Europe team, are getting closer and closer to Japan and it is now a tight group and that has been good to see over the past year. I am really happy. The bike is great and now I just need to do my homework so that I can come to the track 100%.

Everyone knows that the team treat you and Evgeny with the same importance, but from the outside it can also seem that he has more pressure to get GP wins and go for the MX1 title whereas you can fly under the radar a little bit. Is that so?

Yeah, Bobby won the race last year in Teutschenthal and was on the podium more often than me so obviously he has more expectation. We are treated the same and we have the same bike and perhaps he has more pressure than me to win races, but I focus on doing my own preparation and be ready to do my best. I know if I can go 100% then I will be at the front and can win as well. This is what I need to work towards.

There was some talk last year that you were pushing yourself too hard and it was starting to affect you in the motos. Was that the case?

I�m the sort of guy who likes to work for something. Some things come easy, but I still want to put maximum effort into it. From my side I do everything I can to be in the best shape and to improve my riding and last year I learned a lot because it was my first year with the 450 and it was a new experience. It was true that I had a health problem towards the end of the season, but we worked with the doctors to avoid this again. It can be difficult because I like � and I want � to work hard. Anyway, I used what happened last year�and I have approach 2012 in a different way.

It seems you�ve always been popular with team-mates�

I believe very much that you need to have a good group. It is important for me and I�m not the kind of guy who wants to avoid eye contact and get in and out of the team awning. I like the feeling of a positive group going towards the same goal. I�m happy to have people around me that support me.

Team are very complimentary about your testing role and feeling on the bike. Do you think this is one of your strong attributes?

I can feel a lot of things going on with the bike and while I would not say I�m the best test rider I do know after one year with Honda which way to go and which way I want to go with this bike. The team are also beginning to understand me more and more. Every rider has their own style. Bobby and I have the same bikes, but he rides his in a totally different way to me. I feel really comfortable with the Honda and we are still making little changes.

You said your feeling on trying the new CRF in Japan was �wow!� Can you elaborate on what exactly made you feel that way?

It started from the time we arrived and saw the bike and how different it was from the 2012 model we�d been racing last year. When we looked closer it was amazing how it had been built. It was constructed purely for racing at the top level. Japan has made so much effort to get this project on the track. Trying it for the first time the Air fork was pretty special. The bike felt strong and very good on the first run and the important thing was that we believed it had a bigger range for improvement and the team works very hard on this side every week.

How does that Showa SFF Air system feel?

It is difficult to explain because the first time I tried it and compared it back-to-back with a conventional fork it felt very different. It doesn�t work the same. It hits the bumps differently. Now I have been riding a number of months it feels very normal. If I could go back to that time in Japan then I would be able to describe it better!

Will the bike change a lot through the season? By the time we finish sixteen Grands Prix will it be a different machine to that which started the year?

I�m not sure of the percentage, but if the team sees something we might be able to change to improve then we try it. If it is something that involves a major adjustment then it is a risk. We have a good base and that�s what we were working for and there won�t be big changes from that.

What were your weaknesses last year? What stopped you from being up there with Frossard and Cairoli and co.?

Physically I was good until the British Grand Prix where we discovered I had a health problem and it stopped me training. I needed to rest and that was a bummer. My body was empty and I learned a lot from that. Sometimes I perhaps didn�t charge as hard as I should have; I just wanted to be a bit more consistent and others were taking more risks. One aim for this year has been to take that limit higher so I can move my speed up a notch.

Is it nine or ten years now as GP rider?
I think ten�last year was ten and this is my eleventh.

So that�s quite a few already, but only two and a bit so far in MX1. What stage do you feel you are at in your career?

For sure I�m aware of the experience I have and I think I�ve been behind a GP gate more than 150 times or something like that. It feels natural to me now even if the adrenaline rush is still the same as if it was the first. You learn a lot over the years from working with different teams and people. You start to know yourself better and what you want and need to do the job. I have a pretty stable life and things are as good in my personal life as they are in my professional so that�s great. If you don�t feel good at home then you can�t go out and give your best on the track.

You�ve split your time between home in Portugal and a base in Belgium for a number of years now. Has that arrangement changed at all for 2012 or since you became a Honda rider?

It�s all good. I go back to Portugal mainly in the winter to see my mum and dad and family because there is not much of a chance during the season. When the races are on then I�m in Belgium for a while and have also been going to Italy for hard-pack riding and testing. I�m happy with the set-up and once the season is rolling then the weeks go by so quickly. You don�t really have the chance to think so much. It is a process of travelling, coming back to a base, preparing for the next race and leaving again.

In Portugal is motocross being eclipsed by rallying with the success of people like Helder Rodrigues?

Hehe, yeah. The problem in Portugal is that there isn�t so many people doing the sport and it is hard to show the rest of the country what a great thing it is. Even if I�m the only one that has done a lot for motocross in the country I still don�t have the wider profile of someone like Helder for finishing third in Dakar. I�m happy though. It is a two-wheeled sport and I�m pleased that Helder and the other guys can be successful. At the moment I am the only Portuguese racing the world championship and I�ve talked many times with the federation and we are trying to see if there is another kid who can come along because I will not be racing when I�m fifty! It is sad to think the flag might not be at the GPs in the coming years.

Is development of young riders in your country something you�d be interested in?

Absolutely, I would love to pass on my experience and knowledge but the hard part is finding the talent to work with that can really make a �go� of a professional career. The level of Grands Prix is very high now and it needs someone to be able to make a big step-up from national level. You have to come here with a different mentality.

If MX1 is like a cast of characters from a movie�how do you see your role?

I don�t know. What can I say? Perhaps after so many years I�m �Mr Consistent� because I�ve always been there, going for the top positions. For sure there have been seasons that are better than others, but I�ve stuck around.

Source: Honda Pro Image

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