Ahead of the final round of the 2018 MotoGP™ season, four faces who are moving onto pastures new faced the media at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team), Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha MotoGP) and Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) will ride for their respective teams for the final time this weekend in what promises to be an emotional Grand Prix.
Ahead of the general pre-event Press Conference, a special ceremony was held to induct Pedrosa as a MotoGP™ Legend. But what are his feelings heading into his final weekend of racing action? “You feel like it’s not real, like it’s not happening,” admitted the ‘Little Samurai’, answering teammate Marc Marquez’ question to him during the ceremony. “Like you want to stop time, but time keeps running and goes through your fingers. It’s strange. I will realise after, when it’s finished. You don’t believe it’s happening.”
There will be tears shed when Pedrosa crosses the line for the final time in Valencia on Sunday, but there may also be a few watery eyes in the Angel Nieto Team box for Bautista. The latter will also be saying goodbye to the Grand Prix paddock next year as he heads over to WorldSBK, and Bautista was sad to be leaving after having such a strong second half of the season:
“My feeling is that it could be another ten or twenty races now because it’s a good moment,” answered Bautista, who says he will miss the feeling of a MotoGP™ bike. “In the last races we were quite competitive with the independent bikes and the factory bikes so I will miss this feeling but I will try and end the season and my MotoGP career with the best result possible and try to enjoy it with the fans, the team and these guys on track.”
One rider who we aren’t saying goodbye to though is Lorenzo. However, for the Spaniard, Sunday will see him compete on a Ducati machine for the final time before he joins Marquez in the Repsol Honda garage. After missing the last four races through injury, the five-time World Champion is hoping he can end his two-year relationship with the Bologna factory on a high, despite not being fully fit:
“The injury has improved a lot in the last ten days so now I feel good enough to try and achieve the best result possible for the team,” explained the number 99 rider. “It will be an emotional race because it will close an important chapter in my career. Maybe the rain will help me a bit to not stress the injury too much in the recovery too. I’m looking forward to getting on the bike.”
And then there’s Zarco, who leaves his close-knit French Tech 3 team to start a new chapter with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. First and foremost for the Frenchman, Valencia is an important weekend; top Independent Team honours are his to lose, while he also has a top five finish in the Championship to fight for with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins – both of whom are locked together on 149 points.
But how does the double Moto2™ World Champion feel about saying goodbye to his Tech 3 team? “I’m so happy to have been with a French team for the first time, I didn’t have to go and see them to talk to them, I was in my own world!”
“Being in a 100% French team in the paddock helped me, I’m not so sad to leave them though because they’re also changing to KTM and I think we’ll still have a close relationship.”
Sunday at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo will be an emotional day, but there’s business to attend to first. Every rider will be gunning for the best result possible and with most having nothing to lose, the battle on track should be immense. Make sure you don’t miss any of the action from the 2018 finale in Valencia, with MotoGP™ FP1 kicking off at 09:55 local time (GMT +1) on Friday.