If you want to know about damper settings, look away now. We sit five of the world’s best racers down and ask about money, puking and testicle size...
op flight racers are, on the whole, clever and outspoken. You don’t get to the peaks of MotoGP, WSB or the TT without being bright, and a by-product of putting your life on the line every weekend is you don’t tend to give a shit who you offend. It seems like the perfect recipe for fascinating interviews. Yet most aren’t. The racers come out with the same old guff: the team worked hard; we struggled on the brakes (it’s always ‘we’); we’re looking forward to the next race. Yada, yada, yawn, yawn.
So MCN Sport tried a different tack. We asked five top racers stupid questions about how big their balls are, whether they’d prefer to be a hot moron or an ugly genius, and which racer would win in a bare-knuckle fight. Then, when they were rolling, we slipped in some more sensible questions too. The results, we hope you’ll agree, veer between fascinating and hilarious.
26 year-old Frenchman and Moto2 world champion, taking eight wins on the way - amazingly, he only finished off the podium four times and never outside the top eight. He’s staying in Moto2 for 2016.
25, riding alongside Sylvain Guintoli in the factory Yamaha WSB squad. Alex won the BSB championship in 2013 for Honda and got a podium last year in WSB on the troublesome Suzuki GSX-R1000.
35 year-old Frenchman, winner of the 2014 WSB championship on an Aprilia (the first Frenchman to do it since Raymond Roche in 1990). Now team-mate to Alex Lowes on the Yamaha.
Michael Van der Mark
23 year-old Dutchman, riding alongside Nicky Hayden in Honda’s WSB team. World Supersport champion, two times Suzuka 8-hour winner, three podiums in his first year in WSB in 2015.
37, has won eleven TTs – five in one year and three after spending five years recovering from a horrendously broken leg. His determination is, if anything, even more impressive than his blinding speed.
How big are your balls?
Zarco: I don’t know how big compared to other people. But when they are empty, I think more clearly. Maybe you shouldn’t empty them on the morning of the race though. You might lose your power.
Van der Mark: Troy Corser gave me some advice on this. He said he had sex with his wife one morning before a WSB race and he won, then he decided he had to do it again before the second race of the day and he won again. So then he had to have sex before every race. He recommends it.
Zarco: That is why it is so difficult for girls to be competitive. They have nothing to empty.
Van der Mark: I don’t think that is quite true. I will lend you a video.
Lowes: My testicles are tiny and I’m quite brave so I don’t think the connection is right.
Hutchy: How the fuck are we supposed to know how big everyone else’s testicles are anyway? I’ve only seen his [points at Alex] and mine are massive by comparison. As a bike racer it’s not ideal having huge balls. You just bash them on the tank.
Lowes: Yes, and small balls are good because they make your dick look bigger.
How rich are you? Could you buy a jet?
Zarco: I am living well but I live in France, so when I get a big bonus most of it goes to the tax people.
Van der Mark: I can’t complain but I don’t earn massive amounts. No jet.
Guintoli: I could buy a jet ski.
Lowes: I could buy a jet wash.
Guintoli: For most of my career I was floating, just trying to hold it together. Then the last years have been quite good – but I’ve got four kids, so it goes quick.
Would you race the TT for £1m?
Zarco: No, because it takes so long to learn the track. But Macau, that’s a different matter.
Van der Mark: I’m the same as Johan. The TT is too difficult to learn.
Guintoli: No. I’d like to do some more laps for fun, but not to race. These boys [nods at Ian] are too fast.
Lowes: I wouldn’t. I can’t even stay on a short circuit. I’d crash before I got down Bray Hill.
When did you last puke?
Van der Mark: About three weeks ago at a party for my sponsor. I drank too much whisky and the world stopped turning. Then I was very ill.
Hutchy: About four weeks ago, because I drank Peroni all night. I didn’t know it was that strong. All my mates go out every Thursday night in Bingley after work, starting at four. I was absolutely battered and I yacked. I cuddled the toilet for hours.
Lowes: I’ve never been sick from drink.
Guintoli: I can’t remember the last time I was sick from drink. With four kids you try and take it easy with the hangovers.
When were you last scared?
Zarco: After I won at Malaysia I decided to do a back flip from the wall on the back straight. But when I got up there it was really fucking high. I was scared then [he still did the backflip though].
Lowes: Three days ago when I was flying through the air at 100mph [Alex had just damaged his shoulder in a testing crash].
Guintoli: On the third day at Jerez [the same test in which Alex crashed]. I lost the front late in Turn 12 [125mph right-hander with a wall not too far from the exit] and lost it all the way to the kerb, then bounced off that back onto the track. It broke the wheel.
Lowes: It’s funny when you have a moment like that and you come back to the garage and the mechanics don’t say anything. They’re carrying on as normal and you’re sitting there reflecting how fast you were going and how bad it could have been. But they don’t understand.
Hutchy: You don’t nearly highside at the TT, or hold it up on your knee. For us it’s normally a massive tank-slapper that’s frightening.
Guintoli: When I did a parade lap of the TT last year there were two moments. The first was at the end of Sulby Straight when I got confused and thought it was fast. I got in and it was all fucking tight! I honestly thought, ‘I’m dead’. Then later I was trying to hang on to Milky [Quayle, who leads the parade laps] and Rea, Sykes and I locked everything up at Signpost and had to go down the slip road. That was scary.
Hutchy: I went down there in the Senior. The discs were warped and it was going tatt-at-at-at [does jackhammer impression] and I thought ‘I’m not turning in when it’s doing that’.
Would you rather be an ugly genius or a hot moron?
Van der Mark: Hot moron.
Hutchy: If you’re an ugly genius you’ll be loaded so you’ll still get a bird.
Guintoli: Definitely. I’d rather be an ugly genius. You’d be wealthy so you could buy a new face...
Lowes: ...Or a new bird.
Who would you not want to fight?
Van der Mark: I think Chaz Davies would be hard to beat because he’s tall and aggressive. The small ones you could blow over.
Lowes: Hutchy after three Peronis.
Guintoli: Leon Camier is pretty big. But Tom Sykes would be trouble. Even if you smashed him, he wouldn’t give up and he’d be quite nasty.
Lowes: He’s got a big chin though. You could swing one in and you’d never miss that.
Schwantz or Rainey?
Van der Mark: Schwantz. I raced against him in Suzuka. When it was his first time and we were testing I closed up on him and I couldn’t get past him. He was slow but his style was so different - braking deep into the corner - that I almost couldn’t get by. He was riding it like an old 500 and it was so cool to watch. I stayed behind for a long time, but eventually passed him, and I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve overtaken Kevin Schwantz!’ It was very cool. I shared a podium with him too [Michael won, Schwantz was third] and the next day at breakfast he asked for a picture with me at breakfast. He wanted a picture with me! I couldn’t believe it.
Hutchy: Schwantz. He followed me on Twitter.
Lowes: I really like Rainey. He took five minutes to talk to me at Laguna Seca in 2014 and he was really cool. And obviously he was a mega rider.
Guintoli: I’m a Rainey fan too. He was such a smooth rider.
Lowes: Is that because you’re a smooth rider too? Whenever I follow you it looks like you’re hardly trying.
Hutchy: He [Sylvain] couldn’t help being smooth on that Honda last year because it was so slow.
Do you ever disagree with data guys?
Lowes: Sometimes. You can tell them the throttle stayed open when you shut it, and they say it was only for 0.5sec and you have to explain that’s a fucking long time at 200mph.
Hutchy: It’s completely different at the TT because you never get that good at set-up. The biggest problem now is that a lot of the big teams come from BSB so they know what a BSB bike should look like on the data. For the TT you should just close that laptop and listen to the rider. Everything is outside their parameters, so you’ll need a massive heavy spring and hardly any damping.
Guintoli: For us now it’s more and more science, but at the TT I bet it’s far more about feel.
Hutchy: On short circuits a massive part of your lap is heavy braking and having the feel and control to tip in hard on the brakes. On the Isle of Man it would never handle anywhere else if you set it up like that. So you just have to put up with it hitting the bottom [of the fork travel] - you don’t even tell them because they’ll start panicking. If you could press a button and turn your bike into a full-blown WSB at the start of the Mountain that would be perfect. But it wouldn’t work anywhere else, so we have to go over the Mountain on a shitty wobbly thing. Everyone can do the Mountain. It’s the bumpy bits where you make up time.
What swear word do you use most?
Zarco: Putain in French [equivalent to fuck]. But this year my bike was good so I didn’t use it so much. My language last year was much worse. But you cannot stay angry with your team; you are with them all year.
Van der Mark: I speak Italian to my team so it’s always ‘fanculo’ [fuck again]. I agree with Johan though - you can’t stay angry with your team because they are working hard for you. On track, whenever I’m fighting with Italian riders I swear in Italian - it’s the only way they understand.
Lowes: I never swear at a rider when I’m racing, cos if I get angry I feel like I’m going to crash.
Guintoli: Me neither. I never get angry with riders. It feels like I’m losing control of the situation.
Hutchy: I get angry when someone holds me up. There are certain sections of the TT where you’ve got a couple of miles before you can get past them and I’m like, ‘Oh for fuck’s sake’.
Lowes: You [pointing at Ian] always say ‘you know’ too much in interviews.
Hutchy: Fuck off, I do not. Don’t start. You know.
What was the last book you read?
Hutchy: Thomas the Tank Engine.
Lowes: Casey Stoner’s autobiography. It’s a good read.
Guintoli: I haven’t read a book for years. It’s difficult when you’ve got four kids.
Lowes: That’s your excuse for everything. It’s a good one. No-one can argue with you.
Hutchy: Actually the last book I read was Bradley Wiggins’ autobiography. The best thing about it is he had a year of being an alcoholic and came back to win the Tour de France, so it helps stop you feeling guilty about having a night out. When you get old the hangovers last two days and you feel like you’ve lost a month’s training.
Lowes: I’ve never had a hangover. [Cue looks of incredulity] Really!
Words John Westlake Photos Gold & Goose, Pacemaker