At the age of seven he left Yugoslavia, his parents moved to Paris and “growing up in that big and beautiful world was certainly my first stroke of luck”. He speaks slowly, calmly. Without any hurry. Miodrag Kotur is one of those men who weighs everything, even his words. It is the beauty of the precision that has accompanied him all his life. For years in his work in Formula 1, in Ferrari and close to the gods Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher.
Since 2015 his kingdom has been motorcycles, as team manager of Leopard.
“In life you learn to have a lot of patience, to be objective, to be precise, and even independent. You don’t have to compromise, and if you want to succeed in life you have to love what you do. Otherwise you don’t do things properly, and it’s a shame”. These are the teachings that Miodrag has also given to his four children: Michael (named like Schumi), Maxim, Melanie and Megan.
Lessons that he also tries to transmit to the riders in his paddock. Jaume Masia is fourth, and until ten days ago he was fighting for the title. Then there is Dennis Foggia who still has to grow, and there is the constructors’ title to win.
“It has been a different year. We took two riders from KTM who had to adapt to a Honda and they didn’t have all this time to express themselves. And then we didn’t race at circuits like the one in the US or Sachsenring, where we had always been strong. This also damaged our championship ”.
But you fought until the penultimate race and you are in first place in the team classification.
“In Portugal we will try and do our best. However, it was a positive year, perhaps we expected a little more from Foggia, that he could adapt more to the bike. At the beginning he went better, towards the end he dropped and I don’t even know why: we are trying to understand “.
Kotur: “A very tiring season, lived with the fear of catching the virus”
And then what did you understand from such an absurd year?
“Confinements, restrictions, double races: it was a very tiring season. Even psychologically. There was a fear of catching the virus, and perhaps of being excluded because one of the team had caught it. A bit like what happened to Arbolino. All this mixed up the stress and I think in the end we all need to have a nice Christmas, with the family, something peaceful ”.
Let’s talk about MotoGP. Did Mir surprise you? A star was born?
“Joan was a star already born. We had him for two years, we had him in CEV and we did a program at the last moment because he hadn’t found a top team. He was with us for two seasons: rookie of the year and a world championship conquered, indeed totally dominated. Mir was already a champion ”.
What is your idea of him?
“Of all the riders I’ve experienced here from 2015 to today, Joan is the one who has amazed me the most. He is a great professional, on the track he knows what he has to do, how to do it, he knows who is in front, who is behind. I don’t watch MotoGP so much, the time is always what it is. But I saw the race last week. He was good, he managed it, Mir is not a hot head “.
Kotur: “Joan Mir is a great rider, the one who has amazed me most of all”
What do you mean?
“He wasn’t interested in getting on the podium, breaking everything, he used his head and managed the situation well. I remembered when he was with us, when he had to finish third it was OK, when he had to go and win he did it. He is a great rider, he has a great future ahead of him, and I hope Suzuki will give him a bike like this year. After he won the world title I wrote him a message. Today or tomorrow I’ll see him, he often comes to us, we all have wonderful memories ”.
Is it the craziest world championship because there is no Marquez or would it have been the same with him?
“The absence of Marquez shuffled the cards. It is obvious that it would have been more difficult for Mir. But it was a short world championship and this also had an impact. It was the same for us: Masia found himself 24 points behind Arenas with two races to go, but usually there were more races left. The same in MotoGP: the absence of Marquez made itself felt, but many riders would have put him in difficulty anyway “.
Are the guys from Moto2 and Moto3 in too much of a hurry to leave the lower categories?
“Yes, for me a rider should try to get among the first in Moto3, stay there for at least two years instead of planning to go to Moto2. There are cases that surprise me, guys who have done a year in a category and then leave immediately. There are cases where it is worth it, I’s true. But not always”.
Kotur: “With Schumacher we played football together, there was harmony. Mir is similar, he knows how to integrate with the team”
Is it a generational question?
“I don’t know. I remember when I was eighteen years old, I thought of different things. But the kids I meet now I see them as mature for their age. But you can see a champion, when you have him in the garage. You can see the professional. Take Schumacher. I had a good relationship with him. On Thursdays we went to play football in the evening after the debriefing. It was a group, we were all focused on him and on winning. A harmony is created. Mir is the same. You could see what he wanted, where he wanted to go, how. He is someone who knows how to get on with the team, integrate and be loved and drag the team along to make it perform at its best “.
What is the biggest difference between F1 and MotoGP?
“Handlebars and wheels”.
Tell us more…
“In my first race with the bikes I immediately understood. The start surprised me. Once the rider starts, we can no longer do anything. In the garage the work is done, the rider is on his own. In Formula 1 the strategies are very different, the team is very important in F1 ”.
Kotur: “Todt is the most precise person I have ever met”
Is precision more important in F1 or on a motorcycle?
“Precision is always important, even in life. The most precise person I’ve met is Todt. But I think it’s more important in Formula 1. A rider dominates the bike. There must be no mistake on cars, they have also become too precise, too technological “.
But is it still fun?
“There is still the man on bikes, the risk is higher than with a car. Motorcycles are a younger environment. But for me, yes, F1 is fun. But I am of a certain generation and I understand that things have to be reinvented for the young. I have four children, two boys. The oldest was born in 1997, he watches it a bit. The others don’t. Michael is an engineer, he’s passionate about it. But even his friends don’t follow it very much, they live in a virtual world. Instead, F1 should be exciting for young people, they are the future ”.
What will Stefano Domenicali bring?
“I know him well, he was my boss for years. His first approach is dialogue, and he is someone who also knows how to surround himself with people who want to work the way he wants. And I must say that it has always proved to be the right one. I also happened to disagree on certain decisions. In the end, however, he was always right. Stefano explained it to me very calmly, he was never pissed off, it was really good advice, and in the end I would go back to my office and think: “Hey, he’s right, we have to do it like this”. He always helped me at Ferrari, even in difficult moments. Stefano has no enemies, only people who respect him. I hope he brings something more to Formula 1 to attract young guys”.
Kotur: “Sad to see Ferrari so slow, I have so many friends who still work there”
What effect does it have on you to see Ferrari not winning?
“I’m sad because I’m a Ferrari fan, not just because I worked there. At sixteen, a friend of mine gave me a Ferrari pin, I was the happiest boy in the world. It is obvious that I would like it to be more competitive. For the fans, for my friends who have remained at Ferrari. Ferrari fans are real fans ”.
Do you like Leclerc, can he be a driver like Mir?
“He can be like Mir, even Leclerc is a guy who has the desire, the determination to win. Hopefully he will have the opportunity to fight with a competitive car ”.
Why does Hamilton always win, is it just the car?
“The Mercedes is the best car, and besides, he’s a great champion. It is not easy to win, to win again, to go up against other young and hungry drivers. He too had his moment of weakness, after winning his first world championship. He lost his determination, but then it passed. He has become a professional “.
Who is there after Hamilton?
“There are some drivers, Leclerc, Verstappen, but they need to have a competitive car, and it will still take some time”:
And after Valentino Rossi?
“After Valentino there is Mir (laughs, Ed.). Even Morbidelli, his was also a good season, was able to manage situations mentally. But Valentino is Valentino. They also asked me in Formula 1: what will happen after Schumi? Hamilton, because champions always come. But in MotoGP Mir has this charisma that can make the difference, he is always a smiling guy, very helpful with the press, with the fans. Italy, and then the world, all started cheering for Valentino. In Spain I don’t know if it will be like this ”.