Franco Uncini was the first to celebrate Joan Mir’s championship title, beneath the Valencia podium. The Italian knows how it feels to become world champion in the reigning class with Suzuki, because he himself achieved this feat in 1982.
“I was very pleased to celebrate Suzuki’s latest title with Mir”, Franco Uncini tells us during our exclusive interview. “I was kind of prepared for the invitation, with all the superstition that involves. I identified a little with Mir, as I knew what he was feeling. Winning a world championship is unique!”
Suzuki is like a family
How did you feel?
“I was very happy, because Suzuki is like a family, made up of people that make you feel at home and I always felt like part of the family, dressed in my own clothes of course, because I couldn’t celebrate as a member of Race Direction but as Franco Uncini, world championship with the Suzuki family.”
What do you think of Suzuki’s title with Mir?
“I was very pleased also because Suzuki has seen some ups and downs in recent years, although you could see they had a good foundation. And now the team and the great work done by Davide Brivio have resulted in a complete, competitive package.
“Mir did a great job, knowing how to interpret the bike and he also did well in the way he conducted the championship. The same goes for Alex Rins, though he was a little less consistent than Mir. But in the end Rins is ready to finish up in second place, which would be another success for Suzuki. I don’t think Suzuki has ever finished one-two in the world championship, so that would be great, another first that can motivate them moving forward.”
What’s been Suzuki’s strength?
“The real advantage might be that they've found the ‘right’ test rider. During my Suzuki years, the bike was well balanced and there was a great tester who would often come to race in the championship. He was called Kawasaki – really! – and he was very competitive. He would really push when testing the bike to develop its potential.
"But the following year saw Yamaha in difficulty and test rider Kawasaki went from Suzuki to Yamaha. Suzuki got a new tester but he wasn’t as good as the previous guy. My bike was the XR45, the X indicating the cylinders, R for Racing, 45 the project number. It was the test rider who would give the project the final OK and the year after I won the title, in 1983, my bike was nowhere near as competitive as the year before, in fact that was the last year Suzuki competed with a factory team for a while. The following years people said Suzuki was still there with a factory outfit but that wasn’t the case. So this year I think Suzuki has also found an effective test rider.”
A championship without Marquez
This has been a rather odd year though, without Marquez…
“Yes, Marc Marquez was missing, not just any rider, but the man who up until the end of last year was clearly the strongest. His absence has been felt, but at the same time it’s made for a more open, hard-fought championship. An icon was missing this year, but it’s been a great championship.”
It’s difficult to compare different periods, but which do you think was toughest, your championship season or Mir’s?
“A world championship is never easy and very few have secured the win with minimal effort. My title was hard earned and so was Joan’s. But a world champion is always a world champion”, concludes Franco Uncini.
Translated by Heather Watson