Loris Capirossi is no slouch on a MotoGP bike, but the Italian showed his prowess on four wheels this week when he tested a Suzuki Swift Sport Cup rally car this week.
The Italian completed a shakedown test session at the Turweston Aerodrome in Northamptonshire ahead of an appearance in the Tempest Rally, which will be run on an 80km course through the forests and military training grounds of Aldershot in Hampshire.
The factory Suzuki rider, who will compete against Rizla team boss Paul Denning, also gave MCN MotoGP reporter Matthew Birt a blast in the 123bhp car. For more on the terrifying experience, read Matthew Birt's blog
MCN MotoGP reporter Matthew Birt's blog
I remember having the shocking misfortune a few years ago of catching an episode of the Jerry Springer Show which featured grown men and their liking for wearing nappies.
I couldn’t relate to that type of behaviour at all, yet the thought did cross my mind earlier this week when I jumped in the co-driver seat of a rally car driven by MotoGP star Loris Capirossi.
Now it might have only been a 123bhp proddie Suzuki Swift with a few mods on it, but it felt like a fully-fledged WRC car when I was sat aside Capirossi, who looked like a kid on Christmas morning he was loving the experience so much.
Having spent 13 years covering the MotoGP world championship, one thing I’ve learned is that riders generally don’t exhibit any signs of fear. Crashing is an inevitable part of the job, as is the likelihood of getting hurt at some stage. I’ve also learned that Capirossi is one of the most fearless guys on the grid, and also one of the hardest.
So as I get strapped in beside him, part of me is already thinking ‘I know how much of a headbanger this guy is on two wheels’ And the other part of me is thinking ‘How the hell do I know if he is any good behind the wheel of a car?
What I struggled with more than anything is the fact that the boundaries of Capirossi’s built-in defence mechanism moved considerably when cocooned inside a rally car.
If I were his pillion on a MotoGP bike or a road bike, he’d ride well within his comfort zone to make sure I didn’t exit stage left. Yet in this small yellow shell as we nudge 80mph on a dirt track, he’s pushing at the absolute maximum.
It’s amazing how confidence inspiring four wheels, a roll cage and a fire extinguisher can be as the 1.6 litre engine squeals and Loris nearly yanks the handbrake out of its mounting.
And as we are driving around a short gravel course somewhere in the Northamptonshire countryside, it strikes me that a MotoGP rider just has a natural feel for anything that has an engine bolted inside of it.
I would never accuse Loris of being a liar, but he assures me as we clip another set of tyres that he’d never driven a rally car off tarmac before.
Yet to me he’s driving like Sebastien Loeb in disguise with the expertise and precision of someone who is a rally veteran.
At the end of the day these guys are adrenaline junkies, paid to go faster and faster each time they take to the track. Their life is based around a need for speed, whereas a mere mortal like me is used to life at a much more sedate pace.
What felt lightning quick to me probably felt like a casual Sunday morning stroll around Monte Carlo for Loris. Controlling a MotoGP bike at over 200mph requires surgeon like powers of concentration and razor sharp reflexes and reactions.
Anticipation is a crucial asset, and that’s what struck me about being passenger to Loris. He was almost ahead of the car, ready for every slide and bump, his brain working at much faster rate than mine ever could to absorb the speed of events unfolding in front of us.
His arms and feet were like a blur as he throws the Suzuki Swift around, yet not once did I feel any sense of worry or regret that I’d eaten breakfast that morning.
It was an amazing experience and I loved every minute of, but if he ever offers me a lift at a GP, I might take a taxi instead.
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