European tour: riders ready for crucial Jerez

It’s the start of MotoGP™’s 2019 European adventure as five MotoGP™ riders and a Moto3™ rider sat down for the Spanish GP Press Conference

Ahead of track action on Friday signaling the start of the 2019 MotoGP™ European tour, World Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) sat down for the Gran Premio Red Bull de España pre-event Press Conference and was joined by Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Americas GP winner Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Moto3™ joint-Championship leader Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai).

After a two week lay off from Austin, the riders were raring to get going as MotoGP™ lands in Europe for the meaty part of the season, starting with the historical Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto. But it’s a track Dovizioso has struggled at in the past, with no MotoGP™ podiums to his name at Jerez, so what are the title leader’s thoughts as we gallop into a crucial round of the campaign having spent some of Thursday posing with some Spanish horses?

“Yes today was funny, nice, really nice but I was very close to the horses and it was a bit scary but the picture was nice,” began Dovi. “But yes I’m happy about the final result in Austin. In Austin, on Saturday, we were struggled a little bit for the lap time and started near the back but I was able to do a good start so I was able to recover. I’m happy to arrive here with this situation in the Championship.

“There’s a lot of riders, I think it’s more than just me and Marc for the Championship compared to the last two years. So it will be even harder this season but I feel more confident than last year. I think we can be more competitive but here in Jerez you never know. Last year our speed in the race was really good but this year the asphalt is different, so it will affect everybody a lot. Let’s see if it will affect in a positive or negative way.”

The aforementioned crucial round is something Rossi touched on. Jerez will be a huge indicator as to how much Yamaha has improved from last year, and the man currently lying second in the Championship is curious to find out.

“It will be an important to understand if we are stronger; faster; if we’ve improved the bike because last year it was a difficult weekend,” said Rossi, who sits three points off Dovi heading into the European leg of the season. “I wasn’t fast, my speed wasn’t enough. It looks like in the first races we were quite competitive, we’ve improved the bike and here it will be a good weekend to see how much and understand if we’re fast enough.

“Now starts the most important part of the season, from Jerez, there are a lot of European tracks that are very good. We need to understand. The target is to try to fight for the championship, to try to stay there, and of course the atmosphere in the team is a lot better and that is correlated with the result.”

For Rins, these two weeks have been “incredible” after picking up his maiden MotoGP™ win in Austin. But the hard work doesn’t stop for the Spaniard and Suzuki as they aim to continue their momentum on a track Rins has had little race experience with on a premier class bike.

“In a race I didn’t do a lot of laps on a MotoGP™ (bike) because in 2017 I was out with injury and last year as you say I crashed early. But at the test we did a lot of laps, so this is the same thing no? I feel prepared, my team too, so I think the target is the same. Try to go on the front group, try to fight and if it’s possible to win the race. If it’s possible we will win, if not we will finish as high as possible.”

Someone who will be out to stop Rins from attaining his target is Marquez. A crash in Austin means the reigning Champion sits fourth in the standings, nine points off Dovi, so a repeat of last season’s Jerez win would go down nicely for the number 93.

“COTA was a frustrating Sunday. From Monday I was already focused on Jerez. The most important thing is to understand why I crashed. I was riding in a good way, I was confident on the bike and it was difficult to understand but then, after analysing things we understand,” commented the Honda rider.

“Now we need to focus on Jerez, try to keep the same level because I feel really good with the bike. I’ve felt good since Qatar, so it’s important to continue like this. Last year we arrived here with the same number of points and we will try to be competitive this weekend. It’s a circuit that I like that normally suits my riding style well. We need to understand the asphalt, the level of the opponents and then the race track in the afternoon. In the morning when everything’s fresh, it’s easier, then in the afternoon everything is more difficult, so just try to understand and be competitive from the beginning.”

And finally, what about Miller? A first Ducati podium was achieved by the Australian back in Austin as with a factory Desmosedici seat up for grabs, Miller is hoping to continue his solid start to the season in Jerez.

“Yeah you know it was an achievement. The other podium or other victory was in the wet so, it felt great, but it didn’t really feel like I achieved it. To get a dry weather podium under our belt is always nice. The bike is working great, I feel super comfortable at the moment we’ve been strong at all three rounds. The team are doing an amazing job and like I said before it’s a shame we had that result in Qatar because it would be interesting, especially after how things have shaped up, to see where we would be in the championship.

“Last year we had a decent result but that was due to everyone falling off in front of us. We’ll see what we can do this year. I’ve had good pace in the past, just never really been able to put it all together in the race. So I’m hoping this year we can put it all together and have a good weekend, if it goes like it has been at the last couple of GPs and we can keep working in the same way through the practices I think it will be good.”

The 2019 European tour is upon us. The riders are more motivated than ever as Jerez provides a stern test for the teams shaping up for a Championship attack, but who will be tasting victory come Sunday afternoon?

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