Before the on-track action gets underway at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas on Friday, Termas winner and Championship leader Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was joined in the pre-event Press Conference by second in the Championship Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Ducati) to discuss the weekend ahead.
Crutchlow was the first rider to comment, talking about being top of the current standings, and the competitiveness of the 2018 Championship.
“I don’t know whether I’ve silenced any critics or not but it’s true, don’t doubt me,” he said, backing up his words in parc ferme after his hard-fought win in Argentina. “I think we entered the season to do a good job, the team’s worked really well…sure on Sunday or next race maybe I’ll finish tenth and we won’t be leading but I think at the moment we deserve it because we’ve done a good job. To be leading the rider and team standings is an honor for Lucio as well.”
The Brit then mentioned how good it is for riders – like himself – to be able to compete with the factory teams. “It’s nice for us three guys to be sat here, knowing we’re competitive with the factory teams. In Qatar we were competitive too. It’s great for the Championship.”
Dovizioso was next to speak, with the Italian first discussing his Argentina GP.
“We were very lucky in Argentina we took a lot of points without good speed, Jack showed there was a possibility to be faster during the race so it means we didn’t work in a perfect way, but it was tricky conditions and a lot of riders struggling. We’re not happy about that weekend but we’re in a good position in the championship.”
The number 04 will be aiming to – at least - replicate his two podiums he’s previously earned at the Circuit of the Americas, but the Ducati rider also acknowledged the increased level of competition this year.
“We have to fight for the podium or the top five, and then wherever we can, fight for the victory. I think this year will be different to last because there are a lot of very fast riders, you have to take it race by race.”
After his second place in Argentina, Zarco was understandably in good spirits and the double Moto2™ World Champion is one of the ‘very fast riders’ Dovizioso was referring to. The Tech 3 rider comes into this weekend with the mentality that he can take his first premier class win.
“It’s pretty nice to get a podium already in the second race, and being close to the victory. On the last lap I was very close to Cal and thinking what I could do to win the race but it was difficult so finishing second was the best solution, and it makes me happy to be third in the Championship.
“I don’t want to say we’re just fighting for the podium. When you go racing you want to fight for victory. I need that mentality before the weekend. Why Marc is so fast here I don’t know, and I want to understand it throughout the weekend.”
Viñales was next up, and after a difficult opening couple of rounds, the Yamaha rider is hoping he can replicate the speed he’s had here previously.
“It was important to stay on the bike and get points, then in the second half of the race I felt very strong. We need a better qualifying…but here in Austin I’ve been fast in the past so I’m excited to start and see if we can improve on Argentina.”
The former Moto3™ World Champion then suggested that if they worked on a few areas, he and his M1 machine will be as competitive as they were at the start of 2017. “I started to feel good on the last laps in Qatar so we have to keep working, I think if we improve just a few things we can be as strong as last year.”
It’s a different story at Suzuki, as the Hamamatsu factory have made big progress – and Alex Rins has taken his maiden MotoGP™ podium. There’s no doubt about how strong Rins looks this season, and the Spaniard spoke about his excellent weekend at Termas de Rio Hondo.
“We are doing a good job, but from pre-season the bike has started to feel good. In Argentina we had a perfect weekend, more or less like Qatar but in Qatar I lost the front and crashed.”
There were no such crashes in Argentina, and his podium confirmed his speed and competitiveness on the Suzuki in 2018. “We have a very competitive bike and we improved a lot from last year, also, I have more experience.”
Moreover, the number 42 comes to COTA with the fond memories of his first Grand Prix win. A track then, he enjoys. “I’m excited to start because this is one of my favourite tracks. I have good memories here and we need to keep the same level, work hard from the beginning trying to be in the top ten for qualifying…and enjoy the race.”
After his eventful weekend in South America, Miller began speaking about his race at Termas, and what he’s learnt from the race as a whole. The Australian was in the hunt for victory throughout, and despite ending up fourth, ‘Jackass’ showed he and his GP17 – along with the other Independent Teams – are very competitive this year, making for an exciting Championship.
“I’m frustrated but semi-satisfied as well. Knowing my past record in previous years I wouldn’t have made it past the first lap with that much pressure! It was a positive weekend for us, I had the feeling back I had in Thailand and Malaysia.
“There are so many guys on competitive bikes in the field, you can’t doubt anyone. Independent teams winning and nearly dominating the podium last week…it’s pretty impressive and it’s just going to get better and better as the year goes on.”
The level of competition in MotoGP™ has certainly reached new heights this year, so can one of the Independent Teams – once again – take victory this weekend and end Marc Marquez’s (Repsol Honda Team) dominance at COTA?