Ahead of the Gran Premio TISSOT dell’Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini, Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was joined by fourth overall Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), winner last time out Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), fresh premier class podium finisher Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider Aleix Espargaro to talk a little about last weekend and the Misano test, as well as look ahead to our second assault on Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
Here are the key quotes from those present, with Dovizioso up first:
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO: “The Championship is crazy. A lot of up and down for everybody, which is why we are very close. I’m happy to be in this position at this moment of the Championship, but for sure we have to make a step to be able to fight. I’m really happy about Tuesday’s test, we had two targets and we achieved those two targets. I’m really happy about that, my speed was really good. A lot of riders did a really good pace. In the way I rode it was much better, we understood which corners I wasn’t good enough and I was able to be better, more relaxed. We changed the set-up to allow me to help me in a better way and we tried something on the bike, a new piece, and it was a bit better. Overall the feeling is better than Sunday for sure, but there are a lot of really fast riders, especially after Misano 1 – we will see.
“For me it’s always difficult to make a really good lap in qualifying and in MotoGP, it’s very important. But that’s not the biggest issue at the moment. Most of the race I wasn’t fast enough, it’s very important to be stronger now than what I did was. For example at the start of the race I was with Pecco, so I still had a chance to get a podium but I didn’t have the speed. I’m really happy with the way the test ended, so let’s see if everything we tried is true.”
As well as the weekend ahead, he was also asked about the recent announcement that many on the grid, Dovizioso included, will be testing at Portimao on street bikes to get to know the track.
“In this Championship, to be there and fight for the Championship, you have to do everything. To ride with a street bike is really different and you can’t understand the tricks of the track. But you can understand a bit and be able to start in a better way when we go with a MotoGP bike so we decided to organise that.”
JOAN MIR: “It is really difficult to find something to be faster, as we did a lot of laps on this track and it is not easy to find something to gain that tenth or two tenths to be more competitive but yeah I’m happy now I think we made a good step with my confidence on the bike. I’m able to ride a little bit better, maybe not faster, but better. It is a good improvement and I am happy with the test so let’s see if this can give us more in the early laps of the race and maybe the qualifying.
And what about a comment recently from a rival saying the Suzuki is the best bike?
“It is nice that somebody can say something about your bike without trying it. It is something funny. For me it is difficult to say what is the best bike in the championship because Fabio said this but the winner last week was a Yamaha so it was curious to hear this!
“I think that we have a great package which is important and on most tracks we are competitive. We have to improve in areas like everybody but the consistency is nice.”
VALENTINO ROSSI: “For us last Sunday it was an unforgettable day, especially for all the people who work for the academy project. We are very proud of our riders and very happy for my brother, Bez and especially for Pecco and Franco. Yes like you said if I could have arrived on the podium it would have been a historic moment, but unfortunately Mir overtook me on the last lap. For me anyway it was a good race. I was able to keep a good pace from the beginning but at the end I was a bit in trouble. I tried everything to remain on the podium, and I was able to stay in front of Rins but when Joan arrived he was too fast for me. It was a great shame because the podium is always special, Misano more, to share with Franco and Pecco could also be more special but it’s like this. It was a good day and good race, we have another chance this weekend, I think it will be difficult for everybody because I expect the other riders and bikes to be more competitive, and closer to us. So if we want to try and fight for the podium we have to try and improve Sunday and be stronger on Sunday.
“It was a good test on Tuesday, we worked very hard, I did a lot of laps and we had some stuff to try. Some things were better, some were worse. For tomorrow I don’t think we will change a lot the race bike to start with. After we’ll see during the weekend. Also, the forecast and track conditions will be very important.”
And did he expect to be fighting with riders from his own academy?
“Sincerely, no, sincerely no. First of all when we started, we didn’t know what would happen in the next years, it’s a very unique programme. At a certain point when Franco won the first Championship in 2017, I started to think in that moment I will have the strongest rivals in MotoGP from the Academy. But anyway it’s good, we are happy, I think that staying together we improve always our level and we always enjoy racing together.”
Next to speak was the winner next time out – who also then missed testing on Tuesday with an upset stomach. Will that hurt his second weekend at Misano?
FRANCO MORBIDELLI: “Sincerely I don’t think so because testing is in a little bit different conditions and many riders had the chance to test some items to improve, and improve the feeling with the bike, but they still have to confirm it in the race weekend.
“I don’t think skipping the test is going to affect me too much. Anyways I hope to make a good and nice weekend like I had last weekend. It will be important to reconfirm the level that we had in the last race and it will be important to step it up. If you want to remain in the same spot you need to step up your game a little bit.
“It will be important to heal a little bit more and I hope that for the weekend I will be better!”
Bagnaia was next up, and first explained how it was a bit different racing Rossi at first…
FRANCESCO BAGNAIA: “Its normal that everybody thinks about Vale, riders like us coming from Moto3 and Moto2 arriving to MotoGP. When you see Vale on track it’s always something different because when you’ve grown up with an idol and you race against him it’s always special, and strange. Last year I was, not in trouble, but thought more in this moment because I always thought more when I was behind Vale. I don’t know why but it was more like this and maybe because I’m more comfortable with the bike, this year I race against him like we are at the Ranch! You are thinking less. It’s strange but it’s like it’s Dovi or other riders in that moment.
And what about the test?
“We just had one thing to try and I think it has good potential for the future. At the moment we are concentrated on the standard setting and I let Ducati work more on that. Tuesday’s test was difficult to understand things, the grip was right and the conditions were incredible. Every rider was so fast, in the test it’s difficult to understand what something will be like in the race. We stopped before to rest the leg, I think that I arrive to this weekend more prepared with the leg because I know we can do the race, it’s not a problem. Starting working on Friday is for sure better.”
ALEIX ESPARGARO: “Obviously you can’t be happy with 13th place, but if you analyse the race we were more than 20 seconds quicker than 2018 and 2019 and we were battling the same group of factory KTMs that finished on the podium in the last three races.
“And, also very close to the leader of the championship, Andrea; who won here in 2018, so I mean the performance and level of the bike is growing. I’m happy if we compare with last season but the level of the MotoGP category is very high so unfortunately we still have to show that our bike is better by finishing in a better position but we are taking a step forwards.”
Finally, how was the test day for the Noale factory on Tuesday?
“The plan was not easy to organise because I had many small things to work on to improve my level for the next GP. But it is on Aprilia’s mind to improve the bike and understand the direction for the 2021 bike as we are the only manufacturer who can change or improve the bike for next season. So, it was a compromise, I spent a lot of laps trying different configurations to understand the new bike, trying new items, so no big news or changes for my bike for this weekend but we understand a few things for the future.”