Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) took his first win of the season in Jerez, and only his second ever win – after his stunning Misano 2016 victory – in some style. That puts him in the thick of the title fight and motogp.com caught up with the Italian before an event in Madrid.
It was a difficult season last year, so first up…how does the win - after his first position - feel?
“I started in front, I was very charged up, I raced without underestimating my opponents but I wasn’t expecting Oliveira to be so strong! This victory was really satisfying and I want to thank everyone who supported me at the end of the season, which was a difficult one for me. There was a lot of expectation and a lot of people supported me, my family, the VR46 Academy and this new team that believed in me and gave me the chance to race. It was a difficult period and crossing the finish line first was great.”
Despite that tough 2017, however, Baldassarri was already on song in testing – so when did he think he could definitely be a frontrunner and winner in Moto2™ this season?
“We’ve been competitive from the start, but I didn’t expect to be second in the Championship after the fourth race, in a new team where you first have to get to know everyone to be able to work well. The first tests went well but the confirmation comes in racing. In Qatar I fought Bagnaia for the win and I realised I could do well from then on.”
So how has the tough season and the work to get back to the top changed the Italian?
“I’ve grown a lot, and the negative period has helped me to do that. I’ve definitely grown.”
Looking forward, then, what is Baldassarri aiming for?
“Since the start of the season, it’s to give the maximum race after race. We’ve already seen that we can fight for positions right at the top of the standings.” That he has, although other than Francesco Bagnaia – his friend, training partner at VR46 and flatmate – he knows there will be some serious opposition. The list is first some usual suspects in the intermediate class: “Marquez for sure, he’s fast and he’s always there. Oliveira, who is maybe more consistent. And we can’t count out Pasini, who is a very strong rider with a lot of experience, who is part of our group and trains with us at the ranch. A known adversary!”
Then, however, Baldassarri also picks out Dynavolt Intact GP’s Xavi Vierge – who is, to him, showing he can be at the fight at the front. With one podium already, the Spaniard could well become a threat week in, week out.
Next up is Le Mans and the French GP, a track Baldassarri likes and one where, if all goes to plan, he could take the Championship lead for the first time; currently sitting in P2 and only nine down on flatmate Bagnaia.