The paddock is back in Europe and it’s first stop Portugal as the stunning Autodromo Internacional do Algarve plays host. The Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal got underway on Thursday with the pre-event Press Conference, with Championship leader Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) joined by fellow COTA podium finishers Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), as well as eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and, of course, home hero Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).
How are you feeling and what are your expectations for the weekend as title leader?
Enea Bastianini: “My feeling is fantastic. Here at this track I won the 2020 Moto2 title but also I’m the leader of the Championship for the moment. It’s only been four races, but it’s been really nice for me, the team and everybody, it’s fantastic. Now we have to reset, the European races are different. The levels of the bikes and riders are very close, and it will be really difficult to stay out front, but we are really motivated and can’t wait to start the weekend.”
And what about the possibility of a wet race on the GP21?
EB23: “The conditions will be strange this weekend. There will be a lot of win and the possibility of rain. In Indonesia we made a good step in the race in the wet conditions. Also, Pecco was really fast here and I can check his data to see something but I want to start this weekend from zero and after we will see what happens.”
Do you have a good feeling after Austin, and hitting 500 podiums for Suzuki?
Alex Rins: “As you say Suzuki made history in Austin with 500 podiums. I’m so happy to be part of that. Since 2017 when I joined the team we’ve worked hard to achieve big things so now we’re in great shape. We finished 2nd in Austin but we’ve done many great weekends. Let’s see this weekend, the weather could be tricky. Friday and Saturday we might have rain and wind. We’re in good shape so let’s see where we end up.”
What about the future?
AR42: “We haven’t started talking yet. The good thing and the thing that keeps me calm is that already Livio and the Japanese guys have told me that they want to continue so I’m calm. I can ride in a better way because of that. My manager will start talking in the next races about an extension.”
There are some potentially good races coming up for you, what’s the importance of building momentum?
Jack Miller: “Yeah that’s the plan at this point in time. It’s nice to come into the European season let’s say with the ball rolling a little bit. Bumpy start as it generally is for me and the Championship but like you say, got the ball rolling now we’ve got some good tracks coming up. Starting to really gel with my bike, understanding it more and more every weekend. You know what we need to do, where we need to work on that kind of thing but all in all just happy, going through the motions trying to do the same thing we did in Austin which was just put together a solid weekend and I think that gives you the confidence. It brings you the confidence for Sunday’s race you know, we ran out of steam a little bit there but it was definitely a building block on what we need to do for the races coming forward.”
On the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve:
JM43: “It’s so different to any other track we got on the calendar that makes it nice you know, we gotta negotiate the hill, the elevation, you’ve got corners off camber, on camber. It throws a bit of everything at you so it’s definitely a refreshing track to ride after you know, a lot of the tracks nowadays are built very similar, so it’s kind of nice to go to something that’s completely left field. We’ve had a pretty good record around here so yeah hopefully we can find you know the speed that we had this time last year and well not this time, the one at the end of the year, so we’ll will try to find that and yeah build a solid weekend. As the boys said the Championship sort of really starts kicking off here and starts heating up now so hopefully we’ll be in the forefront.”
Are any problems now solved heading into Portugal?
Marc Marquez: “Yeah of course Austin was a good weekend. The target was to find confidence and we did it. We approached the weekend in a good way and did a solid weekend. It’s true I always want more, to finish in sixth position, the comeback was very good but we were looking for something more. Yeah we had a technical issue at the start, and it’s something that can happen with a new bike and the most important thing is Honda found the problem and resolved it for the future. It’s important and it’s time to think of this weekend and to continue our progression.”
Now with the new bike and fit again, what are your expectations?
MM93: “It was a nice comeback one year ago here in Portimão after the long injury. It hasn’t been an easy year with ups and downs and some injuries but anyways we are in Portimão to compete. It’s true that inside our box we don’t have a lot of reference because I competed only one time and it was half and half. The last GP here, Alex and Pol were quite fast. We need to understand with this new bike if we can continue the same way we did in Austin, it’s time to reconfirm here in Portimão. The best thing is to approach the weekend without expectation and just try to understand, try to feel the bike and after Warm Up we will understand where we are.”
On a more up and down start to the season:
Miguel Oliveira: “The start wasn’t what we wanted because we wanted to be inside the top ten and close to the top five. We come here and being a home GP we can reset the mind and everything. My motivation is high. We want to find the speed we had in the past and try be competitive here in Portugal again.”
And it was a warm welcome with the pre-event parade proving a huge hit:
MO88: “I think it was around 700 bikes. Maybe more! Every year there’s something going on, so this year we managed to get KTM involved and bring the MotoGP bike to the street. Every time you take the bike out of its natural environment it’s amazing. A privilege to be involved and to be surrounded by this great support. Let’s hope I can give something back.”