I always had dreams of becoming a fully-fledged factory rider … fair to say I didn't think it would happen with me sitting at home in Townsville having not raced for six months, but 2020 has been a strange old year. But it's done, and having my 2021 plans sorted out so early is so exciting with what I'll be doing, and in many ways a dream come true for me. When I got to MotoGP in 2015, this is what I was always chasing, so to have it actually happening is a bit surreal. But it's the reality, and it feels bloody good.
This is, pretty much, what I've been working towards my whole life – to sign with a factory and be a fully-fledged factory rider is something you put in your mind as long-term goal when this all started way back when. To be there … it's so exciting and a little bit unreal in some ways, but shows you that all the hard work and sacrifices everyone who has helped me to get there were worth it.
I have to thank Ducati for putting their faith in me, and backing me to do the job they want me to do and trusting that I can do it. Me wanting a full factory ride with them has been on my mind since I joined in 2018, it was always the goal. When you're on one-year contracts like I always have been, it's something you're striving for. And they helped to bring me along. The last two years with Pramac, I've learned a lot about myself as a person, as a rider, about everything to do with the sport really. They've helped me to become a more complete rider and person and I've loved the time they've spent investing in me, it's made me hungrier than ever to keep getting better and making the most of that. The Pramac guys have been so close to the factory team that I've learned how factory riders are supposed to be, supposed to work. It's had a big effect on the way I approach my racing, and there's a methodical way of working that I had to learn, but it's one where you can have a lot more impact on the way the team and bike works. More responsibility, basically. I've really enjoyed that.
I remember thinking last year that I felt the rider market in MotoGP was in for a bit of a shake-up in the short-term because of the way Marc (Marquez) has been on top most of the time since he's been in. He's only a couple of years older than me, but at first it was the older guys like Valentino (Rossi), Jorge (Lorenzo) and Dani (Pedrosa) who were his main opponents. But things have changed. Yamaha have Maverick (Vinales) who is my age, Suzuki have Alex (Rins) and Joan (Mir), and I was hoping Ducati would see me as their young guy who has been around for a while but is still pretty young to get into that conversation. Marc is the benchmark, so the main goal for all of the other factories is to get somewhere close to him. For me the big switch-up was Yamaha bringing in Fabio (Quartararo) for next year to replace Rossi – it was an inevitable decision but one that had to be done, but for them to actually do it was a different thing because, I mean, it's Rossi ... I'm stoked that Ducati see me as their guy in that age range to try to fight amongst ourselves and hopefully with Marc in years to come.
This season – I'll say 'when' we get it started more than 'if' – I'll be even more keen to finish my time out with Pramac on a good note. We had a plan at the start of the season for what we wanted to achieve and it's taken us longer than we wanted to start it, but once we get going I'll be doing everything I can to get the results we want for the team and for myself. The team and the organisation have been unreal to me, so hopefully I can help them achieve that they deserve before I switch garages. Nothing would make me happier.