Pursuit of consistency: "The season starts now"

The riders in the Catalan GP Press Conference outlined where their strengths and weaknesses lie as MotoGP™ hits the halfway point in 2020

The pursuit of consistency. It’s what all the riders are currently trying to achieve in this topsy-turvy 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship and in the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya pre-event Press Conference, the topics of consistency, strengths and weaknesses were discussed by Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Emilia Romagna GP winner Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Repsol Honda Team’s Alex Marquez.

Press-Conference, Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya

Both Dovizioso and Pol Espargaro mentioned that “the season starts now”. The MotoGP™ riders are at the halfway point of 2020 and with only four points separating the top quartet in the Championship, as well as just 27 splitting Dovi to Espargaro in 10th, it’s all to play for from here until the chequered flag is waved on Sunday afternoon in Portimao. Dovizioso’s recent form has been a worry and even he is surprised that he’s still leading the Championship, but the experienced Italian is aware of the problems that need solving in order for him to get back to his ultra-competitive self.

“Very surprised but like everybody I think. Apart from Austria and Jerez 1, I’ve never been strong and fast like in the past. I’m surprised I’m leading the championship but it’s been a crazy championship because everybody is struggling. Every race, somebody struggles,” began the number 04 rider. “This is the reason why the average score is very low. Nobody is very consistent or strong in every race. It looks like the season starts now, more or less.

“We are very close and unfortunately my feeling with the bike is not the best but I think what we have to change is clear, from a few races but it’s very difficult for me to change that at the moment. I think its small thinks and small things can affect the final race result a lot. I don’t know if we can be competitive in Barcelona because the grip will be very different compared to Misano. I love this track so I think we can be competitive but on paper everybody looks really fast so I don’t know.”

But to be competitive in Barcelona, Dovizioso still needs to figure out something that has plagued his season so far – braking.  

“The way I brake in my career and especially in the last three seasons – it doesn’t work anymore. I’m not able to brake hard or brake in the way I want. I have to change that and I’m trying to change that but it’s not very instinctive, so it’s very difficult to make the perfect move and approach of the bike. But that affects everything. Still I’m not that good at that point and it’s clear that’s the point where I have to be better.”

Viñales is now just one-point behind Dovizioso in the Championship after his first 25-point haul of 2020 last time out. And the Yamaha star is excited for upcoming tracks that he “loves”, but he’s another rider conscious that consistency is key.

“Well I think that the Championship is still open until the last two races we will try to be smart and try to be conscious. We will keep building and growing as we are doing. For us it is important the consistency. We will try to build up another good weekend and then we will jump to tracks I love like Le Mans, Aragon and Valencia. Montmelo is a track where we need to take out the maximum, it is a track I love to go so we will try to push very hard,” began the Spaniard.

Chatting about Yamaha’s negatives this season, it’s clear that all four riders are struggling to pass riders on different machinery. A good qualifying is vital for the YZR-M1 riders, with Viñales saying starting on the first row is a main priority.

“I think our main priority is to start in the front row. The sooner you take the lead the better, because sometimes you struggle,” commented Viñales, talking about struggling to pass other machines. “For example the last race I was able to close the gap to Pecco but I don’t know if I was able to overtake. It’s always very hard with our bike to overtake, especially on the tracks where you don’t have two or three corners in a row to get a chance to overtake.

“We understand (the bike) very well, now we are focusing on the good points of the bike, in the last race I used it to overtake Jack Miller on the first lap, so I understand the bike well and think I’m riding on the point with the 2020 bike. It remains the same question, if you have a bad qualifying it is hard to gain room or pass the riders. We need to concentrate here in Montmelo in sector two or three to see where we can overtake and be sure we are strong.”

The only rider who is showing any signs of stringing together some consistent form is Mir. The Spanish MotoGP™ sophomore has taken more points than any rider over the last four races, hence his surge up the standings, and Mir agrees: consistency is everything in 2020.

“I agree. This season it’s super important to be 100% focused on the consistency, it’s so important. I think that every one of us already knew that at the start of the season, but for some reason, we weren’t able to do it – I don’t know. Now it’s true we’ve found this consistency and I’m really happy for that. But you know, we found the consistency in the last four races, there are still a lot of races in front of us and it will be important to continue to be as competitive as we are now, here in Barcelona can be a good chance to continue doing that,” said Mir.

The Suzuki man was then asked about if he’s been able to study the different bikes on display, where his strengths and weaknesses lie in comparison. And Mir was able to offer up some details on what he’s seen during races – especially with Yamaha and KTM.

“Well in the last race I was able to study a little bit the Yamaha of Fabio, also Pol and a couple of bikes because every one of us were really close talking about race pace. In that situation you can see what areas you are better and what you’re not. I could see at the end of the race the lines to what Fabio was doing were really, really similar to mine. Looks like the Yamaha and Suzuki are quite similar.

“Then I was able to see also the KTM – completely different lines, going in with brakes, braking a bit harder probably and well, more like the Ducati. In Misano I was able to see those bikes a bit more. I think we have a great package, ok we have some point where the bike doesn’t work well, like everyone for sure has problems that the bike struggles in some areas. We have a bike that is really balanced at the moment.”

The likes of Quartararo – who was absent from the Press Conference due to illness – have recently suggested the Suzuki is “the perfect bike.” No bike is perfect as Mir described, with one-lap pace in qualifying being a big worry for Suzuki at the minute, but Mir and the GSX-RR seem very well dialled in at this stage of the season.

What about Pol Espargaro? The Spaniard mentioned how he’s now starting to rue some of the crashes he’s had during the season, but is confident after his second podium of the season. His home race in Barcelona isn’t typically one that suits him and KTM – but that could all change in 2020.

“Now is the moment when you are angry when the points are gone because of some stupid crashes in the past,” admitted the number 44. “Already we need to look forward, we are just at the beginning of this new championship, that is going to be the second part of the season.

“This race in Barcelona for sure is not one of our best, it is one of the tracks on the calendar where KTM have struggled in the past few years a lot. But you know everything has changed this year, the performance of the bike is much better, the tyres fit better than in the past and the bike performs better, so why not, we can perform similar to the Czech Republic, a track where we struggled in the past but had a great result.”

The younger Espargaro brother then delved into where his and KTM’s strength has been this year, and how he used it to his advantage to stop Quartararo from passing him for most of the second half of the Emilia Romagna GP.  

“From the beginning we got some good strong points like braking into the corner. We brake very deep in and still we are powering that part of the bike every year it’s a little bit better which is nice. We just got this year some more stability and traction from the bottom which allows us to brake even later and stop the bike inside and make this big corner which I really love to ride like that.

“I’ve been riding with Fabio and Joan the last race for sure, the last laps of the race with the soft tyre was completely used, it was destroyed, so I couldn’t really do a lot but even with that I was able to defend the position from Fabio. I knew that if I could kill their corner speed they are in a bad situation, I was just braking deep in and using the strong points of the KTM and then using the power to go out of the corners, which we also improved the revs this year, so the bike is super powerful. You need to know your advantages, what you can use against the others and if you know who is behind you just be clever to block them.”

Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Alex Marquez achieved his best result in MotoGP™ last time out at Misano. The rookie is adapting well to the tricky RC213V, with Marquez’ strength lying in his Sunday afternoon performances – his weakness on a Saturday afternoon. The Spaniard’s aim is “top 10s at more tracks”, but where does he feel the Honda is in terms of performance?

“In the end for sure we are working and we trying to improve, but the Honda has the potential that only you need to know. Where you take that potential, how to manage that potential and it’s a bike that really difficult to take all the profit from the bike. So for sure all bikes have weak points, Honda has a weak point like all manufacturers but I think in the end this year, with small changes like Andrea (Dovizioso) says, small details make the difference because all the bikes are working really good in a different way, in different points of the tracks but all the bikes are so competitive. The Honda has the potential, the only thing we need is to understand a bit more, to take the profit of the potential and I’m sure we can be fast from now until the end of the season.”

Small details and consistency: ingredients that look likely to crown this year’s MotoGP™ World Champion. As the riders say themselves, the season starts now. Barcelona is the setting for the next premier class battle before a weekend off, and we could well see another different winner on Sunday afternoon – and another Championship leader. Tune into MotoGP™ FP1 from 09:55 (GMT+2) to get a first glimpse at who is looking strongest in Catalonia.  

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