Ahead of the eyetime Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, it was pre-event Press Conference time after a quick turnaround from the Czech GP and Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Brno race winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), teammate Jorge Lorenzo, Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Moto2™ Championship leader Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as they geared up for another weekend of action.
Marquez was first rider to talk, and the weekend began to take shape as another potential Marquez vs Ducati showdown: “One of the main goals in Brno we achieved: try to increase the lead in the Championship and we did it. I was happy, right after the race I was a bit bitter because of both Ducatis but then I analysed the race in the motorhome,” said the six-time World Champion, who now has a 49-point lead over Rossi and a 68-point advantage over Dovizioso in third.
The duel between the 93 and 04 was a defining moment in the 2017 Championship, but will we see something similar this year? “Both Ducati riders, like we saw in Brno, are on a really high level so we’ll try and find the best way to fight with them until the end,” explained Marquez, who will introduce some new things “step by step” at the Red Bull Ring that he and the team tested in Brno on Monday.
“It will be tough, but you have to start the weekend positively, we’ll try to be there and find the step. The main aim is to be on the podium. If we can fight for victory we’ll try but you don’t know before you try the tyres and asphalt and everything,” ended the Honda rider.
Dovizioso came out on top in that famous battle with the Spaniard, managing to earn his second win of the season last time out in Brno and comes into the 2018 Austrian GP high on confidence. “After the victory in Brno, you arrive at the next round with good confidence and even more to this track because on paper our bike works well here,” commented Dovi, who knows last year wasn’t easy and expects his rivals to be even closer to the Desmosedici machines this year.
“But last year it wasn’t easy! We struggled but then in the race, our speed was really good, and I was able to fight with Marc. But I expect this season our competitors will be stronger because they’ve increased their power and aero – maybe they will be closer. Marc last year already arrived at the end with me. So, I don’t think it will be easy, but Brno was important for us. The victory comes from hard work, we changed a few things from me and the bike and I think we have a small margin to improve so let’s see how this weekend will go.”
And what about teammate Lorenzo? The Spaniard already has two victories to his name this season and produced a fantastic ride to finish second in Brno, so coming to a favourable track for the GP18 also gives him confidence to go well this weekend. “It was a great race last time out and in the test we improved some more details, I’ve been more competitive especially on older tyres so I think we arrive in the best way possible to Austria,” said the five-time World Champion, who is also wary of Honda’s improvements this season, as well as recognising the advantages Ducati have at the Red Bull Ring.
“Every race is different and in every race, you have to see how the performance of each rider is. But obviously this track is where you are on the throttle the most, for our bike it should be good. We have great acceleration, great top speed, power, stability in braking so it should be a good track. But like Andrea said Honda improved the power of their engine and it should be close. But I think we’ll have a chance to fight for the win.”
All three riders sound confident they can stand on the top step of the podium this weekend, but who will it be come Sunday afternoon? Will it be another Ducati vs Marquez battle in the ring or is the weather going to have a major say in proceedings?
Tune into VideoPass to watch FP1, which gets underway for the premier class at 09:55 local time (GMT +2).