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WorldSBK Phillip Island: Rinaldi’s ‘sacrifice’ pays off

Michael Rinaldi maintained his pre-season strength on Sunday at Philip Island by assisting Aruba.it Ducati to two WorldSBK one-two results.

For a rider who secured two podium finishes at the opening round, after a winter laden with general self-improvement, a spartan new training regime and increased focus to be champion even this year, Rinaldi was still not satisfied with his overall showing in Australia. The wet Race One was an early reversal, so his Sunday runner-up places - behind only the miniature steamroller that was triple winner Bautista - were very pleasing but… it was not quite full mission accomplished in the personal satisfaction stakes.

“Overall no, because after the tests, after the practice, I think on Saturday I could have had a second place, like today,” said Rinaldi, winning the race to be the first rider to the Sunday media scrum. “But when the rain came, I said ‘OK, it’s a different race but usually I’m not that bad under the rain’. I finished on the podium in Catalunya. I made sometimes first in the practice when it was wet but the feeling yesterday in the rain was really, really bad. I tried many things, changed all the settings with electronics, but didn’t help the feeling with the bike. So yesterday, during the race, I tried everything I could, but I said, ‘OK, it’s the first race. I don’t want to injure myself’.


“I was risking a crash ten times. It’s bad that I start the season in this way, but I cannot control the weather.

“We need to understand why I don’t have this feeling with the bike for the next races on the water and the rain, but I can do nothing right now to improve my position. So I bring the bike to the box and try to understand with the team.

“For sure, I was upset. I was really angry because I knew my potential was this - second place here in Phillip Island - which is really good because Alvaro here is so strong. Today is a good day for me. I confirmed the speed of the test and I confirmed the speed that I felt on the bike. Pretty happy about how we worked. For sure it’s more the upset about yesterday than the happy of today, because I felt I lost too many points.”

Thinking like a championship contender, however much Bautista is everyone’s red-hot favourite, is typical of Rinaldi’s new approach. Even the most cynical of Italian media people have seen a change in Rinaldi this pre-season so a 14th in the rain may have been a mini-disaster when you are counting every point, but two podiums, ahead of all other comers in a year that is almost unprecedentedly strong? Not so much best of the rest but pushing on your personal best.

“It’s okay,” concluded Rinaldi. “This is racing. It’s the first race. I never started this strong, so it’s okay, but I think we need to improve also in different conditions because the championship is not always sunny. I need to improve there and understand with the team what wasn’t working.”

Given that there is almost definitely going to be rain at Mandalika in the next round (it’s the season for it), Rinaldi was asked how he and his team will fix his obvious wet weather woes. “For sure, I think we will have some rain practice in Indonesia, I think. But it’s a different track, different surface. I think there is more grip so it will be a different story. What I said to my team manager Serafino Foti, ‘Buy me a supermotard so I can train in the wet conditions!’ So, I will train more under the rain but it’s different because like I said before, I’m not slow in the rain. The thing is understanding why I felt that bad yesterday and try to no more go in that way. Also with the setting of the bike and try to understand. Maybe it was the tyre temperature. Maybe it was the setting. I don’t know. We need to check data. When we understand, we fix it.”

Rinaldi was far enough behind Bautista for his de-facto team leader to not worry about him too much in the two dry Sunday races, but the rest should be worried because now the other red factory bike from Italy had a strong performance at the trickiest circuit of the year for tyre wear.

“I looked at the tyre,” said Rinaldi when asked how it was after 22 laps of Race Two. “It was finished because I pushed a lot the beginning to stay with Alvaro. I tried to don’t use too much the tyre, but when I see on the finish line 30 high I said, we are going too fast. I knew from the test that Alvaro is consuming less tyre than me, so for him, he was saving the tyre. For me, actually not but I see that I’m making a gap from the riders behind so I said, ‘if I can keep this until the last laps, it’s enough for me to get second’. So, this is my strategy. Until lap 15 and 16, I gained. So, I was 4.6 seconds from third. So last four laps, I put the bike more controlled because was moving a lot. I said, OK, I will finish the race like this. I don’t care about if they catch me some tenths. It was good.”

Rinaldi has adopted the harsh, early rising, training methods of Bautista, and not only that Bautista’s own trainer too, so the Italian is physically and mentally tougher and more agile than any previous season. “I spoke with my trainer, and he said to me, we improved a lot, but we improved like this,” the 27-year-old said, indicating a small about, with much more to go.

Enough improvement and he could be World Champion, which was his declared goal at the posh pre-season ski-resort launch in the Italian Dolomites recently.


“This would be the best version of Michael,” he grinned. “So, I think for sure these months, I sacrifice a lot. No more party. No more staying out late. I was in the bed at 10 pm always. Also, during the Christmas and New Year and stuff, I go to sleep, I wake up. This is my life now.

“I sacrifice this to have a result. Yesterday I was upset because after I change a lot of my routine, I finished 14th, 55 seconds. 

“I said, ‘faaack! Why, why?’ But I keep this, so this morning I trained. I follow the plan. Today is a good day for me. I think that I have room for improvements.”

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