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PAX Rally: Interview with Emilio Alzamora from Repsol KTM.

Emilio Alzamora was born in Lerida in May 1973 and he went on to become one of the great brake artists in the 125cc category in the middle of and at the end of the 90s. He was good enough to become the World 125cc Champion in the 1999 season thanks to help from Repsol. He did not win a race that year but his performances won him respect and he is still remebered fondly for what he did.

After retiring in 2003 he began to work with young promising riders and took over at the helm of the Monlau Competició School, now he is back in the World Championship helping Marc Márquez out. Alzamora is enjoying his new leash of life in the paddock, a life with a place in the Repsol KTM Team pits for him, and this is where he advises and accompanies the latest promising young rider to be produced in Spain.

You know all about this world of motorcycling as you have had a very varied life with experience in all the different rider stages: learner, promising young rider, promise fulfilled, World 125cc Champion, 250cc rider, retirement and now manager of another learner who is now in turn a young promise. Has the cycle been completed for Emilio Alzamora?

"I have been a motorcycling professional, as a rider, and now I am lucky enough to be able to follow my profession from another perspective. The truth is that working in something you like is simply great. Moreover, being able to take advantage of all your experience and to offer it to young riders, is something I like. There is a new generation of young riders that really need guidance, because back in my day you started the World Championship at the age of 20-21 and you were the youngest. Now the riders are 15 when they start out and that is because there are many national championships and ways to move up to a higher level, which if you have a good structure backing you and with good advice, allow a young rider to get through the learning stages more quickly. My work has become an attempt to try and stop them making mistakes and for the riders with real potential enable them to develop rapidly."

What is your new life in the paddock like?

"I like it, because since I retired in 2003 I had not followed a complete World Championship and it is great to arrive at circuits you had been to before and to relive some things. I experience it by concentrating on my new job with Marc [Márquez], always being on hand to help him and give him advice about the sport; That is my role within the team. Moreover, I am pleased to be working alongside Repsol, as I think it is very important for his future."

Let`s speak about your protegé. Where did you find Marc Márquez and what do you remember about that first meeting with him? How many years have you been working together with Marc?

"We have been working together for four years, and I noticed him when I entered the Monlau Competición structure. He was a rider that came from the cups promoted by the RACC and I saw that he had a lot of talent even from an early age, he was very good at choosing the right line. He began with Grand Prix motorbikes from a very young age, but he needed to do a lot of kilometres to refine his riding skills. That is what we were working on until we came across support from KTM last year in the Spanish Speed Championship, which also opened the doors to the World Championship with a motorbike and a project for the future."

How would you define Marc Márquez as a rider?

"Marc is a young 15 year old lad; he is a very pleasant person, very sincere, happy and spontaneous. He is a very positive person and that is very important in life, but in this sport too. As a rider he has an inborn skill to ride a bike and some great virtues, such as his way of choosing the lines for a circuit. This means he can go faster much more easily. And more importantly to go far in this sport, he has a really good feel for setting a bike up. At the age of 15 he can transmit and explain very well how the bike handles at any moment. Nowadays you can go fast, but to go far, you also have to know how to set the bike up, and all that implies."

What aspects does he have to improve?

"In every aspect. He still has to grow as a person, physically. Because of his small build, he has to grow and that I think will also let him improve. His body has changed a lot in just one year, he will continue to change and that will help him ride bikes. You have to remember that he has to carry ballast, at the moment it is 9kg. That is a handicap which will decrease as he grows, but then his riding style will also change and he will still have to train and learn."

Is the knowledge you gained when you raced still valid for a young rider starting out in the World Championship?

"I believe so, as it is practically the same. What has changed is the age that the riders start at, that is why during these stages and at his age it is a good idea to have someone advising you. There have always been people who competed and then afterwards were involved with different teams, and with the evolution of the ages I think they have become important figures."

How do you tackle arriving at circuits that Marc does not know? Do video consoles help?

"All the lads search for the circuits in video games and play so that they get to know the corners. Afterwards we always look at a race from one or two years earlier, and we take note of the lines taken by the riders. Once we are at the circuit, we do a few laps on foot and on a scooter so as to complete the memorising process for the circuit in question and to take references."

At the technical level, How do you see Marc? Is he getting faster at setting up the bike?

"This year he is growing a lot. Last year in the CEV (Spanish Championship) he was at a different level. Now he is really developing in a way that I think is very good. I did not expect him to get a podium finish so soon, I did not even think that he would classify on the second row of the grid in practice so soon. But that is what he has to go after, try to develop as fast as he can. He is showing off his talent, and he has to continue doing the same because in this job you always have to show what you can do. Pedrosa, Rossi and all of the rest."

What is worse, when you rode a bike trying to set good times or now, from the pit lane?

"The truth is that you get very nervous not riding a bike as well, because it is not you riding the bike, and at the same time you want your rider to have the best, whatever it is, material, advice, and technicians. And sometimes, in spite of your efforts it is not possible, and you are nervous in every possible way, both in the race as well as before and after the races."

What do you think about the young riders, just turned 15, starting in the World Championship?

"I think that this is something that the federations have to decide. If they say that at the age of 15 you can race in the World Championship, the structures and teams must work to train them so they are in the best conditions to do so. In fact, those that reach the World Championship are already well-prepared, because at least in Spain some great work is being done. Both the Federación Española de Motociclismo, together with Dorna, are doing a great job with the cups they promote, they are organising good championships in Spain. In all sports, and motorcycling is no exception, the age has been falling, but this is not something I think is bad since the level of safety nowadays means that it is possible. It is safer for a young lad to ride here than on the streets with a bike that has not been prepared."

Do you think the future of Spanish motorcycling is guaranteed, at this moment in time, in the three categories?

"There are a lot of good riders at this moment in time, important riders like Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Toni Elías, who are in MotoGP and doing things well, and then there is Bautista and Barberá, in 250cc. But the future in store for us is represented by riders like Marc, Pol Espargaró, and "Tito" Rabat, who I have a lot of belief in. These are young riders who are growing in the Campeonato de España, and we have to try to continue producing them in the different team structures so there are always good riders around. It is difficult to make World Champions, and to have one you have to produce many more."

How do you see the level in the category?

"The level is always high. In 125cc there was a change, before riders concentrated all their racing in one category and there were riders with many years of experience in each competition. However, now there are riders that arrive at the age of 15, and they are well-prepared. The level is very high for the ages that they have, although it is true that perhaps it has become more of a training ground sort of category and not what it was before. But that does not mean that with the ages they have the level has got worse, because I think it is very high."

What do you think that Marc Márquez has that the rider Emilio Alzamora had?

"Nothing. I think that each rider has his own character, his own riding style, his own talent; and the only thing I do is help him to get a good motorbike, guide him and point him in the right direction so that he can demonstrate his potential. This is my work. I think that Marc is much better than me, this will be seen over time."

What will he need to be World Champion?

"I always say that a rider needs several ingredients. First, some sponsors to create the project, as is the case with Marc and Repsol. It is also important to have a good motorbike and factory backing you up. And you have to have a great technical team, one that knows how to solve the problems with the set up. After all that, it is important that the team has a good atmosphere, that they go to races to enjoy themselves. It is then when things can turn out really well. All these components are what allow you to emphasise the rider himself, because in spite of having talent if he does not have all this, things will be very difficult for him."

What goes through your mind after a race like the one at Donington Park, where Marc got his first podium in the World Championship?
"I was delighted for him, for his family, and for all those who had helped him. Not only Monlau Competició, but all those that believed in him, and those that believe in him today, because the bottom line is that the star here is the rider. The rest of us are here to help him, and at moments like that you think that what he achieved was very important. We have a three-year project in 125cc and at this very moment a podium finish was not on the cards, but it was more than welcome. The sooner the results arrive the better. Now you think that all you will do until the end of the year is to work so that Marc can finish among the first ten and continue to gain experience for next season."

How would you sum up the season?

"At this very moment, very positive. I think that the work we are doing is what we expected. Marc is learning, getting to know circuits, little by little he is getting close to the times that are just one second slower than the leaders, and in fact he is setting good times. What we have to try and do is to finish this first stage well, from here to the end of the year. For the time being he is doing things very well."

2008/09/11 | 22:23 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Repsol

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