Dani Ruiz: Special Feature Interview
The talented young rider from Navarra talks with Vroom Magazine at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo during the final round of the 2011 MotoGP season…
It’s a surprisingly chipper Dani Ruiz who joins us in the Media Centre late on Sunday for a quick chat about what he’s been up to over the past couple of years and what his plans are for 2012. Although he finished in a very creditable 19th as a wildcard in pretty grimy conditions last Sunday, it had been a troublesome weekend – including a nasty highside in the Sunday Warm-Up – so to see him so cheerful and relaxed is great.
Dani’s probably been off the international radar in 2011. Given the lack of coverage of the CEV Spanish Championships outside of Spain, probably most of us MotoGP and motorbike racing fans remember him for his performances in the highly competitive Red Bull Rookies Cup, where he was 8th in 2008, 8th in 2009 (with an excellent 2nd at Donington) and 4th in 2010 (with victories in Jerez and Assen).
He also raced in the CEV Buckler Championship in 2010 – and again in 2011.
2011 has not been without its difficulties however, but Dani treats it all in a mature and balanced way, focusing on the progress that’s been made as much as the work they’ve had to do to get there.
“With the CEV, this season has not really been great,” he says in his impeccable English, “…the results haven’t been what we expected. We’re progressing though, and heading in the right direction step by step: so although we didn’t really start the season well, I think we’re now where we want to be. We did have problems with the bike, but now it’s more or less fixed.”
The 19 year-old raced as a wildcard at this season’s final 125cc race in the MotoGP World Championships at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Valencia – a track he’s very familiar with and very fond of:
“I like the Valencia track a lot. I like the curves and lines, and it’s a circuit where I’ve had good results – I’ve raced here a lot in CEV and the Red Bull Rookies.”
It was a difficult weekend at Cheste though, even for the greatest and most experienced riders in the top class; never settling into a single wet or dry state but constantly changing – not only remaining slippery and challenging on track – but with accompanying buffetting winds to add to the complications.
“The weather and conditions have been difficult for us this weekend,” says Dani. “It hasn’t been properly wet or dry, but very mixed and that makes it hard for us because we don’t know exactly what settings to run with – and also with tyres, knowing exactly what to select – Do we use wet? Do we use dry? What do we do? Dealing with those kinds of conditions can be quite difficult…”
The weekend started relatively well for Dani, placing him very decently in the Free Practices, but it was in the Qualifying itself that pace seemed to slip away. And then a dramatic highside resulting in a face-down landing didn’t help matters either.
“The Free Practice sessions were pretty much okay, with me running between 20th and 25th, but in the Qualifying I’m not really sure what happened. We started pretty well in about 18th but as the track started to dry, and the other riders started to go fast for some reason we found it really hard, and we couldn’t find the pace.
“In the Warm-Up I had a highside, and I came down on my face which was not good, but I was cleared to race (by the Medical Centre)”.
However, despite the Warm-Up crash, Dani still managed to come home in 19th from his 31st grid spot… quite a recovery, and a laudable end to a tricky event.
It’s a region that hasn’t had a motorcycling star before, and which may well have found a fantastic sporting ambassador in Dani. MotoGP stars shining a bright light on their homes seems to have become a major theme recently – with the likes of Nico Terol and the Aspar squad maintaining a high profile for Valencia, Alvaro Bautista backed by Talavera Se Mueve and flying the flag for La Mancha, and also the high visibility of the Andalucia squad and Alberto Moncayo for example – and it may be that Navarra itself, or Navarran sponsors, will come to see Dani Ruiz as a great opportunity with his impressive abilities and ongoing progress in the sport to represent Navarra and to ensure it is firmly on the map with viewers and fans.
Being a ‘First’ can sometimes be something of a weight and burden as much as anything else, but Dani is taking the growing Navarran interest in his career in his stride, and is relaxed and positive about it all.
“Being the first rider from Navarra is good,” he says. “It’s not pressure at all actually, but it’s a good opportunity, I can be the one who opens it up for the rest – that would be good.”
And as his profile is raised it looks like the profile of the sport – particularly in the feeder categories such as Moto3 – can be developed too.
“In Navarra there is now a track (Circuito de Navarra) but many people still do not know a lot about all of MotoGP. If I say I’m going to MotoGP, they will say ‘Oh, with Pedrosa and Rossi?’ and I will say ‘No, in 125’. But now they know that, they support me more, and hopefully we can get more support and get into MotoGP…
“Hopefully we will be in (Moto3) GP next season, but we will need more support – and more backing – from Navarra. It will help if we can get sponsorship from businesses and institutions in Navarra – you know, the way Moncayo has with Andalucia – that can help us take part. If we can get that then we will be here for sure.”
As to the future – well, hopefully that support and backing can help put Dani on the Moto3 grid – he himself sounds ready and up for it, explaining how hard he’s been working to be fit and prepared for that opportunity, should it come along.
We certainly hope that Dani’s on the grid next year – he was a joy to watch in Red Bull Rookies, and it would be great to see another of Spain’s regions represented by a top talent and really nice guy.
We’ll be making sure we carry all of Dani’s 2012 news here – and will be championing him to English-language MotoGP fans, so do stay tuned.
For now though, let’s just wish Dani a sunnier, faster and happier weekend’s running at Cheste!
Interview by Gareth Bouch
With thanks to Dani Ruiz, Jose Manuel Gonzalez Tamajon and David Clares (main photo credit)