Ahead of the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, reigning World Champion and Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Mugello winner Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team). Talk went from last time out at Mugello to the weekend ahead in Montmeló, and also centered a lot on the moves made recently in the rider market.
Before the Press Conference began proper, however, there was a minute of silence held to honour Andreas Perez, who sadly passed away during the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Championship round last weekend. Earlier in the day, riders also paid tribute to another fallen hero: Luis Salom, who passed away following an accident in 2016. The inauguration of the Luis Salom Corner graffiti installment at Turn 12 saw many riders turn out to honor the multiple Grand Prix winner.
As the time then came to talk, first to speak was the number 93 of Marc Marquez, who debriefed the Italian GP to begin with. “Mugello was a difficult weekend for us,” begins the reigning Champion, “but it normally is a bit. We were struggling a lot with the front tire there, and I wasn’t able to manage it well or in the right way in the race.”
Looking ahead to this weekend, however, Marquez feels positive. “Here in the test, I felt good and confident. I know it’s not one of the best tracks for me, but still I’ve finished on the podium a few times from 125 to MotoGP.”
Next, talk moved to the biggest headline of the week: Jorge Lorenzo was confirmed at Repsol Honda from 2019. Marquez says it will be a big change – but that he’s happy he’s on the inside, not facing it down from the outside.
“It will be a big change inside Honda, a new teammate and new riding style. I’ve learned a lot from Dani when I arrived, he was riding the Honda so well. But Jorge is a strong teammate and we’ll try to learn from him because he’s a completely different riding style. But I’m happy I’m INSIDE the team, although he’ll be tough to beat!”
Marquez also went back to that point, and reiterated that he’s eager to learn from the five-time World Champion who’ll be arriving next year.
“When another rider arrives in the box you can compare styles. It will be interesting to see how it works with a different style. From the outside you can see a few things but when you have the data it’s easier! But he’ll be a strong teammate. Dani has been strong, Cal is strong, and the best thing for Honda is to have that.”
Next up to speak was Rossi, and the Italian GP podium finisher is already reset for the weekend ahead. “This is a track that I love,” says the ‘Doctor’, “but in the last years I’ve had very different results. 2016 it was a victory and then last year it was one of the most difficult races of the season and I struggled a lot, and we didn’t expect it after the year before. After Assen as well we started to have a lot of problem in the second half of the year. But it’s important, and the track has changed a lot with the new layout and new track surface without the bumps, and that could help us and our performance,. It will be important to understand our level.”
Then, of course, the rider from Tavullia was asked for his thoughts on former teammate Lorenzo’s move – echoing many voices in the paddock.
“I was a bit surprised because there weren’t any rumors around – they did well at keeping the secret! I didn’t know what was going to happen, this was one idea but I didn’t expect it.”
The secret to keeping the best kept secret in the paddock? “Just don’t tell anyone,” laughs Lorenzo, “it’s easy!” The Mugello winner then went back to give a little insight as to how it came about.
“My goal and my first priority was to stay at Ducati, until Le Mans, where I realized that maybe they wanted to swap me…then we started to plan another future. So, my manager and I started to think about projects. I approached Honda. Until then I wanted to win with Ducati. Races, the Championship if possible. Now, everybody is looking at me…I entered the Championship when I was 16, I know how fast I can be on different bikes. I won with Derbi, I rode for Honda, Aprilia, Yamaha…Ducati. I work a lot of hours, millions of hours and I have this capacity. I know what I want to do with the bike and for sure it will be a challenge, but that’s the future, I am a person of the now and I still have a lot to do with Ducati. Like I did with Yamaha - until the last race I tried to win and do the best for the team.”
So focusing on the present once again, Lorenzo is positive about the weekend ahead. “We are in a sweet moment with Ducati, it’s a good package, and we try and improve it every month. It’s good for all riders, on our side we got some pieces that helped me keep a constant pace and we arrive at a good track after a good test a month ago here.”
Can the Borgo Panigale factory win two in a row as they did in 2017? Last year it was Lorenzo’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso – and this year the Italian could equally be another threat for the victory.
“For sure this is one of the best tracks in our Championship,” says ‘DesmoDovi’. “It’s nice to ride the bike here and we won last year, but this year is a different story with new asphalt and less bumps. I think we have to work very well during the weekend to understand the tires – a bit more because of the new asphalt. I expect a lot of fast riders with different bikes but I’m confident, in the last two races I’ve fought for the podium and the victory but every weekend it’s a different story so we have to keep calm and work in the right way like we have been doing.”
Then asked about the future and his newly-confirmed teammate, the positivity remained as the number 04 spoke about Danilo Petrucci.
“I’m happy, because I have a good relationship with Danilo and he knows a lot about our bike. That’s positive because we can work together to try and improve the bike. There are some big changes next year and I think that’s good for our Championship.”
On to the man himself, Petrucci talked Mugello before then moving on to his career path that will now see him become a factory rider in 2019.
“Mugello was a very difficult race,” begins the Italian. “After Le Mans, where I was on the podium, and at Mugello, last year I was on the podium, so everyone expected it…we worked very hard, in qualifying made a small mistake but then in the race my start was good but then I had contact with Marc, went wide and tried to recover, but my rear tyre was tired with four or five laps to go. I pushed at my best and my target was to save the tyre but I was back in ninth…anyway, I did my best and I was happy about that. But for sure I dreamt of an all Ducati podium until five laps to go! I have no regrets and now we’re focused on this race.”
From STK1000 to factory MotoGP rider – it’s been a long road.
“It was always my target to be on a factory bike, even if I was last on the grid! I remember when I started here there were many races where I was last in practice, qualifying and the race! The road to glory is very long! But then my years with Ioda taught me to never give up, then when I joined Pramac I knew I could ride a bike. It’s a good starting point to now try and win my first race.”
Then Argentina GP winner Cal Crutchlow took the mic, saying Mugello was a good step forward after some tougher races.
“Mugello wasn’t too bad,” began the Brit. “I aimed for the podium at the start of the weekend and I didn’t get it but we have to be happy because it was a very difficult race and tough to manage. We tested there and felt fantastic but in the race weekend it seemed more difficult for us. It was tough in the battle at the time and I couldn’t pass because I didn’t want to risk not finishing. I settled for getting some good points. But Mugello was a step in the right direction for here.”
Crutchlow also talked about Lorenzo’s move to Repsol Honda, saying he thinks it’s a positive and will be interesting to see someone on the bike who, like him, has ridden different machinery. “I think Honda have played a good card there, they’ve taken on a great Champion with great speed, but I’m as interested as anyone to see if he can adapt to the style of the Honda. And it will be great to see someone who has ridden other bikes on it.”
Any advice for Lorenzo? No. “He’s a Champion,” grins the rider from Coventry. “He’ll figure it out himself!”
Finally, Moto2 rookie and reigning Moto3 World Champion Joan Mir took to the spotlight, just a few days after an equally big announcement for him – a move to MotoGP next season with Team Suzuki Ecstar.
“I’m really happy to join MotoGP next year,” says Mir. “It’s like a dream for me. If you said to me three years ago that I would be racing in MotoGP next year I would have said you were crazy! But I’m really happy about the progress so far, we’re growing quickly and I just hope to keep going on this line and I hope to improve more in Moto2. That’s my priority, and then in MotoGP to keep learning. Now we’re scoring points and podiums, but we need the victory. But we’re working well!”