IANNONE REVEALS ALL: “It’s a really special comeback for me… I’m really happy, it’s incredible”

Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) made his racing comeback in last month’s Australian Round, securing a front row start and a podium at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. It was a memorable return to racing and his MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship debut, stunning everyone with incredible performances during his first competitive weekend in four years. In Australia, ‘The Maniac’ sat down to discuss in-depth his return to racing, the WorldSBK paddock and his first weekend in World Superbike.

HOW THE COMEBACK CAME ABOUT: watching WorldSBK, speaking to Dall’Igna…

The Australian Round marked Iannone’s first race weekend in four years after his ban and, when WorldSBK went Down Under, the one-time MotoGP™ race winner explained how he felt during his ban and how the comeback came about, including a trip to Misano with his father and talks with Ducati Corse’s General Manager, Gigi Dall’Igna, which led to the #29 racing on the Panigale V4 R with Team GoEleven.

Having how he felt during his ban and the comeback process, Iannone said: “My four years without racing… in the beginning, it was dramatic. It’s difficult to understand and adapt because I lost my whole life. When you lose everything, you are a little bit disorientated. It’s like a big crash, but when you have a big crash, maybe you stop for a year. I stopped for four years. It’s tough to explain this situation. I felt a lot of support from my fans, my family, and my friends but it wasn’t easy. Especially in the first year, I was a little bit more closed in on myself but, step by step, I started to live a normal life a little bit.

“I stopped following MotoGP™ and started following WorldSBK. I don’t know why but this is the reality. When I followed some races, I felt like I wanted to be in the races and the battle, and this is why I started talking with Gigi Dall’Igna sometimes. One day, I went to Misano with my father and met him. We spoke a little bit and he said, ‘So, Andrea, you want this, and you think you’re ready?’. I told him I was. I’m back after a long time, I’m really excited for this comeback. I’m happy, I live this dream. I won’t recover what I lost; it’s impossible, but in part, I want to try to recover my happiness.”

THOUGHTS ON WORLD SUPERBIKE: “The level is really high… the first 10-12 riders are really fast!”

Iannone’s WorldSBK debut forms part of the new era in the production-based Championship, with rookies making their mark early on, Champions making massive moves to new manufacturers and more. Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) claimed a debut win in Race 1, joined on the podium by Iannone, while Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) took a podium in the Tissot Superpole Race in his first weekend with the German manufacturer. Despite all the stories, the 34-year-old was able to write his own headlines and gave his thoughts on why he wanted to race in WorldSBK.

Detailing his attraction to World Superbike, Iannone said: “WorldSBK is really good, the atmosphere in this paddock is fantastic. I felt a lot of passion for the motorsport, for the bike, it’s a really good energy for me. All my career, I thought it was the best Championship. Now I’m here and want to enjoy it. The level is really high because every rider is fast. I think the first 10-12 riders are really fast.”

THE FIRST FEELINGS: “I was immediately fast… feeling with the bike was good”

Although Australia marked his first race in World Superbike, he began his testing programme in October at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto when the 2023 campaign concluded. Since then, the #29 has been quick at every circuit he’s tested or raced at, as he continues to get back up to speed on a race bike. He’s tested at Jerez, Portimao, Phillip Island and Barcelona and has been quick at all four circuits, boosting confidence and raising hopes in the team he’ll be quick all season.

Talking about his initial thoughts when he first jumped on the V4 R, Iannone said: “At Jerez in October, when I tried the bike, I was immediately fast. We finished the first test in fifth place with a lap time that wasn’t bad. The feeling with the bike was immediately good. In any case, I think I need more kilometres. We need to work a lot. We understand everything a little bit better, especially the bike and tyres. For the tyres, everything changed because the tyres are different compared to MotoGP™ tyres. I think we worked well during pre-season and it’s important we have support from Ducati.”

THE FIRST PODIUM: “Didn’t expect this result… I fought with the best riders in WorldSBK!”

Although Australia was his comeback weekend, everything about it made it look like Iannone hadn’t been away for any period, let alone four years. Second in the Tissot Superpole session was followed up with the holeshot in Race 1 and third place, behind Bulega and Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha). He was 14th in the Tissot Superpole Race despite showing strong pace, and then fought for the rostrum in Race 2 but was narrowly beaten by Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) and came home fourth.

On securing a maiden podium, ‘The Maniac’ said: “I didn’t expect this result. When you achieve one podium, it’s a really great result. It’s a really special comeback for me and I’ll never forget this moment and this weekend. After a long time, I lived a beautiful moment one more time. I fought with the best riders in WorldSBK, in my first weekend and first race. What happens now? I’m in front, I’m first, I led the race. It’s incredible. I’m really happy, it’s beautiful. I won’t forget this first weekend.”

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Source: WorldSBK.com

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