Héctor Barberá had to experience difficult times, after being arrested last June, but now he’s ready for a new challenge. The Spaniard will contest the final 2018 World Supersport races with Kawasaki Puccetti Racing and he will share the pits with Jap Hikari Okubo.
Barberá will debut in “WorldSBK Universe” after 17 years in MotoGP, a world he came inside in 2002 in 125cc. To Héctor, the one taking place in Suzuka on 7th April 2002 was the first of 267 races in 125cc, 250cc, MotoGP and Moto2 and the highlights of such period are two runner-up championship finishes (125cc in 2004 and 250cc in 2009), 10 wins and 22 more podiums, in addition to 2015’s Open title in MotoGP. The 31-year-old Valencian started 2018 season in Moto2 with Pons HP40, but the results were disappointing (best one: 11th in Le Mans) and what happened last June led to him being kicked out by Sito Pons.
While many people addressed Barberá many insults and negative comments (especially on social media) due to his trouble with the law, Manuel Puccetti decided to put aside Héctor’s private life and to offer him a new opportunity and so Barberá will ride a competitive bike which was initially given to Kenan Sofuoglu and later to Sheridan Morais.
We decided to interview Héctor about his new life and his long stay in MotoGP. Here’s what he said to us.
What do you think of this deal with Puccetti?
I’m very happy and excited for this new challenge. It’s a very good project, in my opinion, and this change represents for sure a great boost for my motivation, after 17 years in MotoGP. Kawasaki Puccetti is a winning team and this is proven by the titles they reached in the past. Furthermore, the bike is competitive and Manuel Puccetti seems to be an amazing person. I think we can do battle.
Do you already know the people you’ll work with?
I had the chance to visit the team’s headquarters and there I met the people who were working on the bikes. However, I haven’t worked with them yet. This will happen at our first test together.
Will you be at Portimao Official Test at the end of the month?
Probably we’ll test somewhere else, but we still don’t know where.
Let’s talk about your long stay in MotoGP. Are you satisfied with your achievements?
Yes. All kinds of things happened: I had very good times, very sad ones, injuries, moments at which I felt great physically…I believe life is a continuous learning curve and I’m grateful for all the seasons I could live in MotoGP, because I could grow and improve both personally and as a rider. I got several important achievements: in MotoGP I was Open World Champion, in 125cc I was third in 2003 and second in 2004 thanks to many podiums and wins and this kind of results allowed me to be 250cc runner-up in 2009. I achieved less than I could, and sometimes it was my fault, but overall I’m very satisfied, because all of these things made me who I am.
What’s your saddest memory from this experience?
The title I lost in 2004 in 125cc. At that time I was the fastest rider in the championship, but my bike stopped three times and in Malaysia, when I was very close to make it, I made a mistake and I crashed (the title was finally won by Andrea Dovizioso, ed).
And your best one?
When I became 250cc runner-up in 2009, because I did it on my home track, in Valencia, during a period in which I felt very good. Moreover, it was a special race, the last one of 250cc class, and there I defeated many strong riders.
How close did you follow World Superbike, while you were in MotoGP?
Very little, since I had to travel a lot, but I’ve always seen it as an interesting championship and this year I was following it more carefully because of my friend Loris Baz (who was his team-mate in MotoGP in 2016 and 2017, ed). To be honest, I know very little of World Superbike and this is why I feel so enthusiastic for this new adventure.
Would you have imagined a future in WorldSBK, without what happened this year and the offer from Puccetti?
When I raced in Moto2, I didn’t, because I was focused on doing well there. However, I believe that nothing happens by chance and I think I got this opportunity, because I had to make this change. I also confess that I had lost motivation, since I spent much time without a competitive bike, and maybe the mistake I made two months ago was caused by this. I wanna say thank you to Manuel Puccetti, because he cares of me as a rider and private life is not important to him. I hope to return his trust with good results.
What’s your goal for these four races in Supersport?
It’s hard to say, since I haven’t tested the bKawasaki yet, but my only thought has always been to win. I know the level is very high and I have to know Portimao, Magny Cours and Villicum tracks, but I trust my team a lot and I’m sure we’ll be very strong. I would lie, if I said I don’t aim the win, but at the same time I know everything is new and so I take it step by step. First I test the bike, then we’ll see.