Jordi Torres Exclusive Interview: Changes, challenges and a new life in WorldSBK
We’ve been so used to Jordi Torres being a fundamental and successful part of the Moto2’s Apsar squad that it seems almost strange for a moment to be encountering him in the Red Devils Aprilia team in the FIM World Superbike championships – but he’s looking completely at home.
When Jorge Martinez Aspar wound up his Moto2 operations at the end of last season we wondered where Jordi – we’re not ashamed to admit, one of our absolute favourite Spaniards – was going to end up. But the move to a different squad in a different championship is looking to have turned out extremely well so far.
Since arriving in WorldSBK in testing his pace, performance and form have been noted from the outset – and he’s been the leading rookie in the top class this season too, demonstrating a formidable skill at adapting to a new category, new competition formats, and some new tracks as well.
A cheeky and affable character – most obviously seen in his creation of the hugely popular “kneeground” hashtag on Twitter – he’s particularly relaxed as we catch up on his WorldSBK transition in the Aprilia Hospitality on the Saturday afternoon at Donington after the day’s Superpole sessions.
So overall how has he found the transition away from the secondary category in MotoGP into the top category in WorldSBK?
“It’s been a big change really – in many ways. Not only the bike, but also the tyres, the tracks – many things…
I suppose the biggest difference for me is the tyres – they are very different. They are definitely the biggest difference and biggest challenge. Of course I’m not saying the tyres are bad – the Pirellis are great – but they are very different to ride with and they work in a very different way and you have to be comfortable with them.
And you have to learn to adapt your riding style to work with the tyres. With each track you need to approach it again so you can ride it best with the Pirellis – thinking how you take lines through corners, where you’re on the power, how late you break – so you can make sure you can take them to the limit and get the most out of them.
And with each new race I have more experience of doing that – of learning how to reach the limits with the tyres and how to adapt to them more on each race weekend.”
How different is the riding experience itself? How different is he finding the bike itself and how far has he needed to adapt his riding style to make the most of it?
“Although I spent two years in Moto2, I don’t think I have really brought anything with me directly to Superbikes – not any particular specific skills or learning that I use in this category.
That’s not just about the tyres either – of course Dunlops are completely different to Pirellis – two very different kind of tyre, and different brands – but as well as that the whole riding style is very different. Because you have a completely different level of power in Superbikes, the way I handled using power in my riding style in Moto2, the way I took corners and so-on, that’s totally different.
The power these bikes have is incredible – even though it’s less than last year – it’s still so much more than Moto2 for example. And the other thing that comes with all this is the devices – the electronics. In Moto2 you had nothing, whereas here you have traction control, anti-wheelie, so many things that you can control. And you can change them where you want too, and this is another new thing to me.
So not only am I riding and learning a new approach overall, but also when I ride I’m thinking about how we can use the electronics – what can we change or adjust that will help me ride.
With this championship I can ride more in my own style. You know with Moto2 there was only so much you could do to try and ride a faster lap, to take the laptime down. There were only a number of things you could really change, but here there is a lot more I can do, a lot more I can work with to make the best ride.
In Moto2 after the sessions I would spend maybe an hour and a half in the box working with my mechanic and telemetry expert, whereas now I spend perhaps three and a half hours every day with my crew so we’re not only looking at the suspension or the frames, but also all the electronic devices. And then of course it may be that what you do with the devices has an effect on the suspension or the frames so you then have to take that into account too. There is much more to do in this way.”
Not only has there been a new bike to learn, but a new team to work with – how has he settled in?
“I’m really happy with how I am settling in with the new crew – we spend a lot of time working together so it is important. And it was really nice for the first race in Australia as we all stayed together in the same house. And that was so good for helping set up a good relationship at the start of the season.
Aprilia is great – it really does feel like a small, close family. And it’s great to see how everybody pushes together in the same direction. We don’t work for self-interest, but for the whole Team success.
There isn’t an attitude of ‘I’ll do my bit but if we don’t improve Aprilia overall then it’s not my problem’ – no, everybody works very much for Aprilia and they work all to the same ends for improving the whole performance, and making a better bike and getting better results.
And that’s an attitude that you see very much across the whole Superbike paddock.”
And whilst some of the circuits Jordi is already very familiar with from Moto2, there are some on the WorldSBK that are new to him – Thailand for example, and of course our own Donington Park. Is he enjoying the experience of learning these new tracks? And how does he go about learning them and getting the most out of them?
“When you arrive at a new track it can be difficult. I would usually get to know them in advance by playing on a Playstation or Xbox, or watching videos – but when you actually get there and go out and look at the track it really is completely new, completely different. Okay, so you know that this is the line through the corner or that you are going to brake here, but you only really learn it once you are on the bike. But what you can learn beforehand does help.
Imola for example, though it’s a difficult track in some ways, and very fast, it’s quite easy to learn the right lines. Here at Donington though, learning the lines is harder because you can’t always see your way through the corners because of all its ups and downs – you have to learn where the apex is going to be, and you have to have balls to head in and only see so much – to not see the corner but need to know how you are going into it.
But that’s good experience for me. It’s all good experience, even when things don’t go well – we still learn.
So sometimes arriving at a new circuit can be a good thing. As I don’t know it, we can just start afresh. I don’t need to forget how I used to ride it – it’s all new. We can just start using, say, the basic setup they used last year and take it from there. Or just carry on with the settings from the last race. Then we get to work and day one of the weekend we see how it goes.
And having the flexibility of what we can do with the electronics is a great help too. If some things work well on a certain part of the track then we can change something, or I can change things for only that part of the track.
Even the tracks that I know, I approach in a completely new way – you have to, as the lines are different, the braking points are different, and also you may have to ride in a way to change some electronics before the next corner – so it can be a very different style altogether.”
Nonetheless it must be a big change – the move from the MotoGP circus and its tight-knit paddock, and now a whole new set of teams and riders – a whole new circus to get to know. How is he finding it?
“I really like the Superbike paddock. I think it’s a lot more friendly and open than the MotoGP paddock. I can speak with many people and fans a lot more easily. I think it’s open more to fans than MotoGP – you have things like the Paddock Show, and it’s good that it helps fans get more close to the riders.
At the moment I don’t really miss the MotoGP paddock. Of course I am meeting new people and friends and working with many new people – with new mechanics and the electronics guys. It’s very different and it’s exciting – it’s kind of a new life for me.”
Jordi is clearly adapting well to WorldSBK, and at this rate his shift from being hot rookie to top contender shouldn’t be long in coming. To the average viewer he has perhaps made things look easy at times in the new championship. Was it at all easy?
“No! No, it’s been hard work – it really has… And not just on track. Off-track too I have had to work hard on personal fitness. Whereas in Moto2 it was more about being skinny – about weighing less – here it is very much about strength: the bike is big and powerful and so I really need a lot of strength to control it properly.
And of course there’s been a lot of hard work with the crew, the team, too – with them helping me learn what we can achieve with the electronics and how they can help my riding style.
Above all I think the hardest work for me has been getting to know and work with the tyres.
But we have had a good start to the year. Phillip Island was a good start as I did not have to work so hard in a stop-go style which can be harder – but the track flows more, so it was a good track to start on.
And then Thailand was certainly more of a stop-go track but it was new to all of us.
Aragon was the point in the season where I know the track well and we could say if I can ride well there, then we can say that things can be basically good for the season. There is still a big gap between us and the top guys though – eleven or twelve seconds is a lot, even if my position is good. But it is all progress – and now I am also learning how to explain issues I have with the bike or the handling at new tracks so we can work with the electronics to help, so we keep improving bit by bit.”
And what is he aiming to have achieved by the end of the 2015 season? Any specific goals?
“My objective for the year really is to completely change my riding style. Okay I am still learning and my style is changing and I am learning to ride with the Pirellis. I’d love to say maybe – having already managed a podium at Imola, we could maybe even get a first position – but to be honest that’s just dreaming for now – the main thing is to be riding differently in a style that feels natural for Superbikes. So I am riding more with feeling, not having to think how to ride. I think that would be a very good place to be for my racing.”
Big thanks: Jordi, Aprilia, Pere Gurt
Interview & photos: Gareth Bouch for VROOM