Thursday’s pre-event Press Conference signalled the start of the inaugural PTT Thailand Grand Prix at the Chang International Circuit, with Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) joined by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), teammate Alex Rins and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro to preview Buriram: a weekend that - according to the riders - will be very different to the test that was completed back in February.
PTT Thailand Grand Prix: Pre-race Press Conference
Aragon winner Marquez was the first to speak and after taking a tuk-tuk tour of Bangkok on Wednesday, the Spaniard turned his attention to his RC213V and the new circuit that awaits. The six-time World Champion was third quickest at the test in February, but he knows this weekend could look a whole lot different as every team will have a “different” bike at their disposal:
“We did a test in the winter but I think now all the manufacturers arrive with a different balance, different bikes and it will be interesting to understand the level of each one.”
Dovizioso, who sits as Marquez’ closest title challenger, admits the first half of the Buriram circuit is Ducati territory with two slow corners immediately followed by long straights – similar to the Red Bull Ring. However, the second half of the lap is where the Italian thinks the Bologna factory could struggle: “The first half of the track yeah, the second half is a bit slow, second gear and we struggled on the test.”
Bangkok to Buriram: Marquez's banging arrival to Thailand
Likewise to the number 93 though, ‘DesmoDovi’ is adamant this weekend will be completely different to said test, with tyres and speed of the riders a factor in his opinion: “But we only did the test and we haven’t raced here, and the tyes are completely different to the test. The situation with the speed of the riders is different to February so anything can happen, For sure we’ll start with good speed but we’ll see how the tyres are. In the test we tried something but the grip was very low… The heat is high, maybe even more than Malaysia and it’s very hard for everyone. The bike is very hot, that will affect the race – and the tyres will. It’s impossible to know much now.”
Rossi was up next and he agreed with compatriot Dovizioso, as well as admitting the Thailand test didn’t go too well for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team as they arrive back here in a difficult moment: “On paper it will be hard because the track isn’t fantastic for the M1 but we’ll try. Like Andrea said, the weather is difficult because it’s very very hot, and it can rain every day. So first we hope for a dry race! We did the test here and it wasn’t great but we’re in a difficult moment.”
Another rider who admits to struggling during the test is Suzuki’s Iannone, who secured a brilliant third podium of the season last time out in Aragon: “During the test I struggled a lot here but Alex did less than me so that’s a positive,” explained the Italian, who confirms he’ll only know how the weekend may pan out after he’s been on track for Free Practice. “But I’ll only have an idea about the weekend tomorrow when we start. I hope we can start well, and we’ll see.”
Teammate Rins also had a great race in Aragon after finishing P4 for the second consecutive race and like Iannone mentions, the Spaniard struggled less at Buriram back in February. So how is the number 42 feeling ahead of this weekend? “The test was good, the track was quite fast and I was able to be fast,” confirmed Rins. “I think and hope the bike will handle the track well. I like it a lot, there are a lot of fast corners, two or three slow corners but the layout is fine for me, and I think it could be good for our bike.”
Meanwhile, Espargaro was concentrating on making sure next year’s RS-GP is better than this season’s version in order to allow the Spaniard and future teammate Iannone to challenge for more top six finishes: “It’s a bit of a break because it’s been a difficult season,” said number 41 after his superb Aragon P6. “We made a mistake in the direction of the bike…I would say the bike is slightly better than last season but everyone improved so much. The important thing now is to understand the direction for the 2019 bike.”
Be sure not to miss an intriguing FP1 session from the Thai GP as the riders will give us a first indication as to who will be fighting for glory this weekend. Action for the premier class starts at 09:55 local time (GMT +7).
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