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Three races, six riders, 32 points. In the Gran Premio de Europa pre-event Press Conference, MotoGP™ World Championship leader Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was joined by his five main contenders: Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
After a weekend off, the riders are rearing to go. But how are they feeling heading into the first of two races at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo? How much pressure are they feeling? Mir has a 14-point advantage and admits that there is now more pressure, but the Spaniard is solely focussing on himself and his feeling on the bike.
“Yeah for sure feeling a little bit more pressure because the Championship is getting older, so every one of us feels like this it’s going to finish soon. Just enjoying the moment, we will see what position we will finish on Sunday. I’m confident of doing a good job, giving my 100% and at the end we will see where we are,” commented the Suzuki star.
“Honestly I didn’t care about the others, I just care about my feeling. That’s something I have enough of, have a great feeling on the bike and five 100% every weekend and at the end we are in this position, with three races to go it’s not a bad position. It’s important to continue like that. For sure we can see there are a lot of title contenders, more than normal, but it is what it is. I don’t care about the others, I care about getting the feeling.”
Unlike his GSX-RR counterpart, Quartararo didn’t enjoy a successful couple of weekends in Aragon. Seeing his teammate Morbidelli win in flawless fashion was a difficult pill for El Diablo to swallow, but the Frenchman has hit the reset button and is ready to take the fight to everyone on a track that he “really likes.”
“It was tough to reset because when you have two races at the same track, and in the end, in the second race you go backwards and don’t make any improvements and then you see your teammate and he is doing one of the best races of the season,” began the three-time 2020 race winner. “Honestly, it is tough to understand when we were there but I have pressed the reset button and we have arrived at a track that I really like, last year was a super good race for us so yeah, I am fully motivated and I think it is the correct mood to arrive in for the last triple-header.
“You know, most of the season I’ve been in front of the Championship and I was feeling no pressure but now that I am second I feel that I had a little bit of pressure and right now I feel much better, the confidence is here and of course we have a lot of contenders and in the end we saw this year with the amount of races we haven’t got as many points as previous years, so anything can happen, 75 points in the game. I think all of the riders that are here can win the Championship easily, we have to stay focused and don’t lose it and take it race by race is the only way to think about fighting for the Championship.”
One of the riders sat alongside him was his 2021 factory Yamaha teammate Viñales. The Spaniard didn’t stand on the podium at MotorLand and lost ground to Mir, but beat Quartararo in both races. He too is in a buoyant mood in Valencia despite the P7 finish in Teruel, however, lessons have been learned and the Spaniard was in a buoyant mood on Thursday.
“For me and for us the last two races haven’t been bad honestly. We take some points on the Championship which is good. We also made a lot of mistakes, so we understand many things during the last three races,” said Viñales. “Now we have three races where we can enjoy a lot, it’s a track I love and also Portimao is a track I like.
“We have three weekends where we can do really good. The potential on the bike is there, Franco did a great job in Alcañiz, so this gives us a lot of energy and positiveness to come here to Valencia and put on a good performance. We’ve won this year, we know how to do it, so we need to put everything in a row and hit a good lap time. It’s important for us to hut some consistency, the first four laps in Aragon were really good but after that it was a nightmare. I couldn’t push on the bike and it was very difficult. So we need to understand that and we need to work. I hope the team has something to work on and to give us an extra feeling to be competitive here in Valencia.”
And there’s only one thing Viñales is aiming for this weekend: beat Mir and Quartararo. “I think our strategy is very clear: finish ahead of those two guys. That will be the main strategy to close the gap in the championship. for sure it will not be easy but we want to put in the maximum level to finish in front of them.”
After his superb Teruel performance, Morbidelli is now fourth in the overall standings. For the Italian, the pressure is pretty much off and in his words, he’s “feeling great.” A great potion for another huge weekend as he has Viñales, Quartararo and Mir all within striking distance.
“I feel great, I have a great feeling with the bike especially in the last race, I enjoyed riding it a lot and I felt great,” said Morbidelli, who is now firmly in the title frame. “Maybe Alex (Rins) and I joined the party a little late, but we are trying to catch up.
“I will speak for me, but I will give my everything in these last three races in order to get the Championship because we are here now fighting for that, and we need to aim for that and to have no regrets at the end of the year. Whichever way it will go, it will be a positive Championship for me and a nice Championship anyway, but at this point, three races from the end and 25 points behind and having the momentum we have, we have to aim for something big.”
Morbidelli also touched on a term that was used often in the pre-event Press Conference, and one we’ll probably hear a lot over the next three weeks: pressure.
“I think that being in a fight for a Championship is a particular feeling, it is a strange feeling and a strong one. It is a feeling that I had in 2017 and that most of these riders had in the past. Having that feeling again is for sure nice, but bad at the same time, but I am sure I am one of the guys that is feeling that ‘bad feeling’ less, because I am behind, I am 25 points behind and I need to catch up, I need to do everything perfectly to get that (the lead), so basically I have nothing to lose.
“I am a little bit, and I think the guys that are behind, are in an advantageous position this way but a disadvantageous position in the point of the view of the points. We are behind so we need to do everything perfect but maybe we have less pressure so we can force a little bit more compared to the front guys.”
It’s safe to say that Dovizioso’s time in Aragon didn’t go to plan. Now 28 points behind Mir, the Italian has it all to do if he is to become 2020 World Champion, but the conditions might favour the wise warhorse this weekend. A wet race always favours the Ducati man, but Dovizioso is clear: he needs to be faster in the dry to have a shot at the title.
“Yes for sure, if it were wet we would have to use that chance in an intelligent way, but like you say we have to be faster on the dry to think about and fight with them. It looks like they are in a really good situation and with good confidence at the moment, something we don’t have and it is difficult. But you know every race is a different story and this is a different track so we will see, we will try our maximum in the remaining three races, we will do everything. It will be tough, but we will try.”
And last but not least, the man 32 points behind his teammate and sixth in the standings: Rins. The Spaniard is happy to be in the title race after his shoulder injury woes at the beginning of the season, and like Morbidelli and Dovizioso, the pressure is off.
“For sure I’m happy to have the chance to still fight for the championship in the last three races. This season I was very irregular in the final position in the races, with the shoulder injury and small mistakes in the races. I’m happy I still have the chance to fight for the championship. our target needs to be fighting for the podium like we did in Aragon. I’m 32 points behind so we don’t have the pressure, so we will try to ride free.”
The final countdown is on. Valencia plays host to yet more Championship-defining races and the weather could throw a real spanner in the works. The tension is building and the first of the triple-header races kicks off on Friday morning at 10:55 (GMT+1) with MotoGP™ FP1. Tune in to see who holds the early advantage.
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