I don't know if it was sheer casualty or a premonition, but the fact is that on the day of my birth, my father had a bike accident when he was heading to the hospital where my mother just gave me birth. 10 years later my father was waiting for me on a Mecatecno he just bought for me – I had to learn how to pick-up locks because my father wouldn't let me ride it if he wasn't around and I wanted to ride all the time. When I was 13, my parents bought me an 80cc motocross bike; that's when I got into racing and really dedicated myself to bikes, until I build up a group of friends which was to become my first team.
With the support of my friends and little resources, I raced for the first time on asphalt at the Can Padró circuit. Back then I was riding a NSR 80cc Honda and later on I switched to Rieju to win the Catalan Championship and Criterium. The transition to road racing was definite when I was riding in the 250cc Spanish Championship and in the 125cc European Championship. I was racing Honda but I also had a few outings on a home-made bike, the Viali, which never really evolved because they lacked resources.
I made my first Grand Prix appearance at Catalunya, where was held the European GP. I was racing there as a wild-card and I took seventh after fighting with the likes of "Aspar" and Gianola. It was a great achievement for me and the Pit-Lane team decided to have me race in the six remaining rounds of the season, even if it was tough to get the budget to make it. I was able to take ninth in Jarama and I decided to continue with the same outfit the following year, which allowed me to take 12th overall, being the best privateer of the Championship.
In 95, things changed quickly. At the beginning of the season I was riding in the 250cc class with Sito Pons' team. I had some good results, but also a couple of crashes and technical failures. As Alberto Puig was severely injured in le Mans, I was brought up to the 500cc class and inherited his NSR500. Later in the season, I led most of the Catalan GP until I crashed. The 250cc Open Ducados title squared up a positive year. The following year, I took my first GP win at Catalunya. I had to wait Jarama 98 to get the second one, after getting three second places in 97 and a handful of DNF due to crashes.
In 98, I got my best overall result taking 4th, despite the accident in Donington. After the crash, they removed my spleen and a blood clot have cost me my life and I have to confess that back then, I thought it was all going to end, but nevertheless I fought and eventually made it. At the end of the season, I decided to leave Sito Pons' team and joined Yamaha to undertake a new challenge.
I spent my first season with Yamaha trying to get to the grips with a bike that didn't suit my riding style: it meant crashes and frustration, even if I began the year with a podium at Sepang. I was always losing the front end without being able to do anything and we never seemed to find a solution. A year later, in 2000, things got better as the results showed it: I got to Catalunya leading the Championship on par with Roberts. I was aiming for a great result but I was another victim of the heavy rain which hindered the race. That was a low point and it took me a while to bounce back, but adverse circumstances meant I couldn’t get the expected results.
The following season I was doing a good campaign but I realized in Suzuka that I couldn't fight up front and soon after that I crashed doing some Supermoto training at Can Padró, so I was unable to race at Welkom. I was still far from full fitness but I managed to get three podiums and almost won the very last 500cc Grand Prix of the history, in Rio, well if West hadn't been in the middle of the track on the very last lap.
In 2002 I felt much more comfortable with the switch to 4-stroke machines and I was able to maintain within the top 3 despite some really tough rivals, as Rossi's and Ukawa's Hondas were unreachable. I managed to get four times on the podium but the last part of the season was plagued with problems - at some point I could aimed for the runner-up title and I eventually finished in fifth overall, after having serious chassis issues in Motegi, Sepang and Philip Island, and I don't forget the start in Valencia. My comebacks at Estoril and Rio where I was last at the start and crashes at Rio and Donington when I was leading left me with bittersweet impressions.
The 2003 season wasn't really good even if the winter testing went really well. The thing is that we weren't able to catch up with the Hondas and the Ducatis also proved to be serious rivals. The first results weren't really encouraging: in the first four races, I had a tenth, a ninth, a DNF and a crash. In Catalunya the situation improved and I was able to take fourth just a few tenth adrift from the second-placed.
I was fourth again in Holland and at Brno. Those three fourth places were my best results of a poor season which was concluded by the announcement of Valentino Rossi's deal with Yamaha.
Looking back on the 2004 season, I can't say that my last season with Yamaha was a good one. Despite everything that happened this season, I had a good feeling with the bike, even if the year began with a poor 10th place on the grid at Welkom. I took pole in Qatar and two second place on the grid in France and Holland. My best result was second in le Mans. I crashed at Mugello and Sachsenring when I was in the top four and in Qatar, my bike stopped just a few laps from the chequered flag when I was third. Without those incidents, I could have made it in the Championship top 5, but that's history now, as is my stint with Yamaha. At the end of the year I embarked onto a new chapter of my career joining Ducati.
2005 was a year of challenges as I joined Ducati and switched to Bridgestone tyres. The winter testing went well until a crash at Catalunya meant I was 100% fit for the beginning of the season in Jerez. In the first few races I could only witness the way tyres wore out too quickly and the amount of work that Bridgestone had to do. I crashed in China under a proper downpour and I couldn't go past the second corner in France as I suddenly had to brake to avoid another rider. From mid-season we got more competitive and I have to admit that I personally failed twice: I crashed at Laguna Seca and Sachsenring when I could have made it in the top 4. Fortunately things improved and I got podiums at Sepang and Phillip Island. In Malaysia I was about to pass Valentino and take second but I couldn’t do it. I finished the season with fourth at Valencia, knowing that I wouldn't continue with Ducati.
Sito Pons then made me an interesting offer, but at the beginning of 2006, I learned I was out of the ride because the team couldn't compete in the Championship. Fortunately, I was able to join Tech3.
This season wasn't to be an easy one and we all worked a lot. The first difficulty we had to face was the fact that we had so little time to get ready for the beginning of the Championship. On top of that, the teething problem we experienced with the Yamaha meant that we couldn't focus 100% on the Dunlop tyres development. Everybody put a lot of effort into it and we progressed throughout the season, but so did our rivals. I was able to fight for the point-scoring positions and taking the flag in the top 10 was a great result. But for sure I wasn't going for the results, it was all a matter of development and daily work. We all made some sacrifices, myself but also the guys at Tech 3 and Dunlop. I believe we were able to showcase some good potential even with limited resources.
In 2007 I went back to Honda because of my friend Lucio Cecchinello, but what at first had to be a winning association, Honda-Michelin, at the end resulted more complicated. With the substitution of 1000cc class by 800cc, Honda built a very complex bike with difficult set-up. This problem, which was generalized to all Honda's teams, forced HRC to get down to work and to concentrate on their main team, thus condemning satellite teams to very few changes. Also it did not help the fact that Bridgestone did a great step forward in the development of their tires, which were more effective than our Michelin. Bridgestone broke the hegemony that Michelin held in MotorGP for many years.
However the team worked very hard and found good solutions to be as competitive as possible, but we suffered too many falls to get into the top ten. In spite of everything, we got some good results that gave us the strength to carry on and keep improving.
During summer break, Honda offered me the opportunity to participate in the Suzuka 8 Hours with Taddy Okada, where we got the second position with a Honda CBR 1000RR. I felt comfortable on the bike and was delighted with its performance and driving characteristics; it opened my eyes to the performance of a superbike.
This experience entailed a huge dilemma. Continuing in MotoGP meant to compete with an unofficial motorbike with which it was almost impossible to win. But switching to Superbikes World Championship meant that I could ride a much reliable bike in a championship with a greater equality in mechanics than in MotoGP.
We finished the season as best we could, with a couple of good results, and finally decided to switch to Superbikes.
It was hard to say goodbye to the World Championship that had given me so much joy. Especially when you feel strong enough to compete against young drivers, but one of the incentives to compete is to have a chance of winning, and that, MotoGP was not giving it me any more.
And since then, I'm in Superbikes. Within a great atmosphere, I have got back with victory, and all the drivers have given the public great racings. The truth is that I feel very happy and full of strength and excitement to run many more, so I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I enjoy riding them.