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The MotoGP™ World Championship arrives back in Europe for the fourth round of 2016, but much of the conversation centred on 2017.
Having had a week off from the hustle and bustle of racing, the MotoGP™ World Championship is back in action at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España. Racing now settles into a more regular rhythm as the paddock bounces around Europe until the three fly-aways late in the year. For many riders Jerez is their first chance to race at home in 2016, ready to put on a great show for the thousands of fans who flock to Jerez each year.
MotoGP™ Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), is one of the many riders eager to once again hear the roar of his home fans. He was joined in the press conference by Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), who spent a week in the headlines after announcing his Ducati move. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was also there as he searches for better luck. Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) answered the press’ questions after each scored their best results of the year in Austin. Lin Jarvis, the Managing Director of Yamaha Racing, was also present at the press conference to discuss Lorenzo’s move and Yamaha’s future.
From the first three races Marquez has managed three podiums, including two victories and as such sits atop the championship with a comfortable 21-point lead. The return to Europe not only offers Marquez a chance to race at home, but also presents a very different style of track to race on: “We’ll try to continue the same way but now we come to Europe so that means European style tracks. They’re a little different compared to American, Argentina and Qatar. Here they are more narrow and we’ll see how we can manage this and how the setup is on these kind of tracks. Anyway, I’m happy because it looks like we’re better each time and the feeling with the bike is better.”
His victory in Austin put him level with Phil Read in terms of outright wins with 52, but taking number 53 might be tough in Jerez: “Here’s a track where Jorge is usually pretty strong so we’ll see. We did a test in November but from then till now you can imagine how many changes there have been on the bike. We’ll see how the tyres work on this track and with this kind of asphalt.”
Rumours had been swirling since the start of the season that Jorge Lorenzo would make the shock move to Ducati in 2017. The whispers of the paddock proved correct as just before his home race it was announced he would depart Yamaha after nine incredible years together. He faces a new challenge in 2017, but right now Lorenzo’s attention remains fixated on the 15 remaining races of 2016: “Yeah for sure it has been one of the most important and difficult decisions of my life and my career. But for this moment it’s still far away, very far away. Still 15 races remaining so at this moment I have all my attention in the present and in this championship I really want to fight in this championship and fight my hardest for my fourth MotoGP world title. At this moment I just think in blue and try to get the best results I can with this team.”
In 2015 the Spanish GP started a four race winning streak for Lorenzo, after his crash in Argentina a repeat would certainly help his championship hopes. Winning races is important, but making the most of difficult situations is crucial: “We started in the best way in the Qatar race but things got complicated by my crash in Argentina. It was really a pity to lose so many points in this race. But luckily in Austin, which is normally a difficult Grand Prix for me, we solved the situation in the best way. We couldn’t win, we couldn’t beat Marc, we finished second in a race that a lot of riders and favourites crashed. So we’re second in the championship and we have a high chance to fight for it. We’re 21 points behind, last year we were 29 and now I feel we have a higher potential than last year to win races.”
Andrea Dovizioso has twice had the podium within his reach in the last two races, horrendous misfortune seeing him twice taken out by other riders. But MotoGP™’s unluckiest man remains positive: “We did a great start in Qatar with a good result. The reality was we had the speed in the first three races and we had the chances to finish all three races in the podium so we have to look at that as that’s the reality. Unfortunately in the championship we are quite far but the speed is there and the bike is feeling good. When you don’t make a mistake it’s not a big problem. The problem is the points in the championship but it’s not our fault. It’s bad for the championship but about me I was lucky in the crash in Austin.”
With one of the two Ducati Team seats already taken in 2017 by Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso is potentially racing for his future in the Bologna factory. In classic Dovizioso style he’s staying calm about the situation: “Now Ducati become strong, I’m really happy about that because it means in the last four years we did a great job and Ducati have a chance to bring a world champion into Ducati next year and this is really positive for Ducati. Like I said already in some interviews I’m quite relaxed, the results were there, the speed was there this season and it’s completely different this year. The bike is good, the relationship with Ducati is good, they know very well what I did for them in these four years. I’m relaxed about that, like I did in the first three races I’m focusing on the results. This is the most important thing.”
Austin saw Maverick Viñales take his best ever premier class finish and helped Suzuki secure their first double top five result since returning to the World Championship. A strong rookie season and excellent results in pre-season testing have Viñales in discussions with several teams already: “I feel really good. When two big factories like Yamaha and Suzuki want you it means you work really hard and you have enough riding style and can be fast enough to ride those bikes. Anyway, right now I’m focused on this Grand Prix as I think it’s very important for us to achieve our best results in these next races as we have a lot of potential and we need to work harder on the Friday. I think in Austin that if I had a better start it was maybe possible to fight for the podium again.”
Viñales’ speed hasn’t just caught the eyes of team managers, it’s also surprised the Spaniard himself: “For sure if last year when I ended in Valencia, when I ended so far from the top, if someone told me that I would make this step I wouldn’t believe them! But they work so hard and every weekend we improve. We’ve shown we can be on the level, maybe not now but in the next races.”
Throughout the season Scott Redding has been getting faster and faster, steady improvement has been the primary goal of the Brit throughout the year: “In Qatar it was a good race but we just didn’t have the package together and then in Argentina we had some difficulties with the tyre on Saturday and then in the race it wasn’t so bad but again a small problem so we didn’t finish. Then in America we got the small things in together. The race wasn’t so bad, just with the soft option front we had to try our best to save the tyre. Just improve step by step and get closer and closer to the front guys over race distance.”
A key to his success has been Redding’s feeling on the bike, no longer constantly fighting and battling, now able to enjoy his machine: “I’m more relaxed and I’m having fun on the bike again. I want to go out and ride and that’s the main thing, I start to enjoy it and I can be myself like I was in the past and that’s what makes a good rider. Now I’m just rebuilding my confidence and enthusiasm.”
Lin Jarvis and Jorge Lorenzo have achieved great things working together, in Austin Lorenzo scored his 99th premier class podium and thus his 99th podium with Yamaha. Jarvis was understandably upset about losing Lorenzo: “It’s like going to discotech and asking a girl to dance and she choses the guy next to you. Of course we would have preferred for Jorge to stay there’s no doubt about that, hopefully we can finish this season off in the style we ran the whole eight years together. This is our ninth season together, we’ve had a really good run. I was very involved when Jorge came to Yamaha so of course when you get to the end of an era, to a period, it’s a sad moment for sure.”
Much like Lorenzo, Lin Jarvis remains focused on 2016 and doing all that he can to help Lorenzo and Yamaha claim their fourth title together. But discussions have already begun to take place to find the rider to fill the 99 shaped hole in Yamaha: “We are looking at some people and Maverick has proven that he’s one of the new future talents of the MotoGP. I think he has a very good chance to be World Champion in the future and he’s an attractive rider. There are other options that we have as well, other riders with different profiles. Things are never as straight forward and simple as they seem.”
Attention will shift back to 2016 when the premier class takes to the track at 09:55 Local Time for Free Practice 1 on Friday the 21st of April.
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