Ahead of the MotoGP season opener in Qatar next weekend, we speak with BT Sport pundit Suzi Perry about the sport’s popularity, some of her favourite interviews and her thoughts on 2018.
In our interview, which took place moments after BT Sport’s new three-year TV deal was announced, Perry discusses her stand out moments from last year and tells those who haven’t watched Moto2 what they can expect from the rookies in the top class. You can read the full interview below.
Looking back at last year, it was another fantastic season! What stood out for you last year? What are some of the key moments that stand out in your mind?
Andrea Dovizioso. For me, he was the headline of last year. He might not have been the champion at the end of it, but he put a bomb underneath the races didn’t he? In Austria, there was that moment where he was neck and neck with Marquez and he just dismissed Marc. That was the first time we’d seen him do that and from then on he was a different rider, a different person – more confident and at one with the bike.
Australia was a real shame. It was a real shame that it didn’t go his way towards the end but what brilliant entertainment. He is lovely! Andrea is such a lovely lad – he really is. He doesn’t care about being the hero or the clown – he is just a really laid back kind of guy. The Professor they’ve started calling him, which I guess is a bit of a F1 expression in some ways. It probably suits that team really because if you look at what Dall’Igna has done with Ducati and the aerodynamics, it is leaning more towards Formula One than the other teams so maybe Professor suits him.
But yeah, that moment in Austria and the race in Australia were the key moments for me. Just the most sensational races. It doesn’t get closer than that. When you see the tyre marks on the leathers… Phew… You know they’ve pushed it over the limit really don’t you? It was just an amazing season last year. I loved every single second of it.
Last season you were guaranteed that every race was going to be exciting, bar maybe one or two, and it was great because you generally didn’t know who was going to win. Are you seeing any signs that the sport’s popularity is improving over here in the UK because I know it’s still quite a niche.
It’s a niche. It’s always been a niche sport. But the people that love it, really love it! For those that love it, they can’t wait for every single race! We now can’t wait for Qatar! The winter is the longest winter and the way that the sport is shown now, is great.
On BT Sport fans get every lap live and it is produced properly. They get good packages, it’s not just wallpaper. They get a really good insight, so I think if you love the sport, it’s brilliant. We’ve got to get over the fact it’s not primarily free. It’s just not like that anymore, but that makes it slightly harder to reach new people obviously.
I think they’re reasonably happy with the figures. It’s the second biggest sport on BT Sport after football and we would welcome anybody to come and watch! We’re always looking for ways to get new viewers and I think if Cal can do well this year, for the British angle, that would be great for us and we are desperate to see Cal up there again!
Moving onto the 2018 season, for those who don’t watch Moto2, what can we expect from the rookies?
We can expect them to come in with no regard for any of the riders! They will come in and think that they will win races, and maybe they will so that’s exciting.
Franco Morbidelli is the most laid back character in the paddock and I think we will get some really great battles with the new guys that are coming through. Then there is his team-mate, Tom Luthi, as well – that’s an interesting combination. It will be interesting to see how that goes.
We have more characters coming into it when it is already a character-full paddock. The talent pool is just sensational. There isn’t anybody there that shouldn’t be there. It’s going to be really exciting to see those guys in MotoGP.
How far do you think Zarco can go this year? Will he win races?
Yeah, why not! Absolutely. There is going to be some pretty unhappy factory Yamahas when that bike is better than their bike again.…Like it was last year. But let’s see! He is really extraordinary as a character. I love him. He is so off the wall. He says things which really challenge your thoughts. I don’t see why he can’t win races this year.
In terms of the title, Marquez is always going to be the favourite but who in your mind is going to be the man that can get closest to him?
It is so difficult to tell at this stage. We have had two very different tests (Malaysia and Thailand). After the first test I would’ve put the Yamaha guys in there, but we never know what they’re doing in tests, really. It is such a grey area.
I think I would have to go with the six riders from Ducati, Yamaha and Honda. Those, for me, are the guys that are right up there. I think Dovi still has the edge over Jorge as things stand. If he comes in with the confidence that he had last year, he will start off being the top Ducati rider, although Qatar is good for Jorge so we will see.
Yamaha… I just don’t know! They had such a dud of a season last year so it is really difficult to tell. We haven’t seen Maverick at full 100% yet and I’m looking forward to seeing that!
For the Honda boys, they have surprisingly come in really strong because usually they start off on the back foot and then get stronger and still win the championship, so the fact that they are coming in strong is a really big warning sign for the other guys. I would love Dani to win some races this year. Those for me are the six although I think we will have some surprise winners this year as well.
Over the years you have interviewed some of the MotoGP greats. Is there a single interview that you will always remember?
I interviewed Max Biaggi and Mick Doohan at Imola when they were having a massive PR spat against each other and I cut the interviews together and it was just them totally bitching about each other and it was just really funny. Mick always says to me, “oh I remember that interview you did…” He thought it was hilarious!
There are just a lot of Valentino interviews that I remember as well. When he went into the toilet after Brno I think it was, I interviewed him straight after that! I interviewed him after winning the championship at Phillip Island when he had snot all over his face and I had to wipe it off! He’s just funny! Valentino is just very, very funny and always has us in stitches so I think the Valentino years stand out. I don’t know if I can pick one specific time really. He’s always just so interesting. I also love Wayne Rainey. He is really, really interesting.
What about from the current crop? Not including Valentino, who do you most look forward to interviewing?
I really enjoy talking to all of them. I have a massive respect for them all. I don’t think any of them are boring, ever! I don’t think there has ever been an interview where I thought oh I didn’t get anything out of them! They always give. They are very giving.
I always loved interviewing Colin Edwards on the grid because he was always funny! Very gripping humour. It’s a bloody great job! I’m really lucky to have it.
Who do you like watching out on the track? If you could pick one rider to just watch by yourself on the track, who would it be?
I think Jorge is a beautiful rider. He hits the same tiny bit of tarmac every single time so in terms of flow, I think it would be Jorge if you were just watching lap after lap after lap. It’s balletic almost. It’s like he’s dancing around the track.
Let’s end with Julian Ryder! What will you miss most about Jules?
Awww. I grew up listening to Keith and Julian in superbikes and that is one of the reasons why I got involved in the sport in the first place. I always say to Jules; “you were one of the reasons why I am here.” I will miss his historic knowledge I think.
Personally, he was always the person that would say to me; “calm down or you need to take a breath or relax.” He always wished me luck before every single broadcast, always, always, always! I will miss him as a slightly parental figure… He won’t like me saying that as he’s not old enough! But he knows what I mean. I will definitely miss his historic knowledge but he is still out there doing his thing so we will still catch up with him at some point.
BT Sport is where the best in sport go head to head. Watch the new MotoGP season exclusively live on BT Sport 2, starting in Qatar on Sunday 18th March. For more info visit www.BT.com/sport