Ahead of the Gran Premio Red Bull de España, the Press Conference gathered together some of the biggest names in the paddock to talk shop ahead of track action getting underway on Friday – with Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) joined by nine-time Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Austin winner Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), COTA podium finisher Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Moto3™ Championship leader Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai). First to speak was ‘DesmoDovi’, fresh from a visit to the Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre – the Royal Andalusian Equestrian School – and that’s where the Italian started.
“Today was fun, really nice! But I was very close to the horses and it was a bit scary! The pictures are really nice though,” he smiles. And then it was back to the racing: “I’m happy with the final result in Austin, on Saturday we struggled a bit with the laptime and we started well back, but we made a good start and I was able to recover. I’m happy to get here leading the Championship, there are a lot of fast riders and I think there are more people fighting for the championship than me and Marc 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. I think it will be different this season here because the competitors are in a different situation. But the asphalt is the point, I don’t know why we can’t be competitive this year.”
Next up was Rossi, the man with a stunning record in Jerez and the winner most recently in 2016. Since then, it’s been a tougher track for Yamaha, and the Italian notes how important the weekend will be.
“It will be very important for understanding if we’re stronger and faster, if we’ve improved the bike because last year was a very difficult weekend and I wasn’t so fast, my speed wasn’t enough. It looks like in the first races we’re more competitive and we’ve improved the bike, but here will be an important weekend to see how much and understand if we’re fast enough.”
‘More competitive’ in the first races is a bit of an understatement, with the Italian second in the Championship as it stands: “I’m very happy about the start of the season because in the three races I was always quite strong and I’ve taken some important points. Now the most important part of the season starts from Jerez and we have a lot of good European tracks. The target is try to fight for the Championship and stay there, and for sure compared to last year the atmosphere in the team is better because that always correlates with the results.”
The atmosphere for Rins then, after his first premier class win in Austin, must have been a good one over the past two weeks. And he affirms it was, but he’s already reset to try and do it again – this time on home turf.
“It was incredible and unbelievable to get my first win in MotoGP in Austin, I got my first win in Moto2 and Moto3 there so I’m quite happy, these two weeks were incredible but after the race I was thinking about the next one in Jerez. I’m excited to start with the new tarmac and we’ll see how it’s going.
“I’ve not done a lot of laps with a MotoGP machine because I was out through injury in 2017 and last year I crashed early, but in testing I’ve done a lot of laps. I feel prepared and my team do too, so I think the target is the same – to go with the front group, fight, and try and win. If it’s possible we’ll try and win and if not we’ll try and finish as far forward as possible.”
After Rins came Marquez, the man who was leading that Americas GP before disaster hit and he slid out of contention. But, much like Rins, the reigning Champion says that’s already been processed and focus has moved on to Jerez – the first home race of the season.
“It was a frustrating Sunday,” replied Marquez when asked how he was feeling. “But not the whole two weeks. From Monday we were already focused on Jerez. The important thing is me and my team understand why I crashed, because I had a really good feeling and I couldn’t understand it. 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. 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 exactly the same points and we’ll try and be competitive this weekend, it’s a circuit I like and that goes well with my riding style but we need to understand the asphalt and the level of our competitors. We also need to understand the racetrack 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.
Next the mic passed to Miller, who completed the podium in Austin and took his first ever rostrum in the dry.
“It was an achievement,” says the Queenslander. “The other podium, or victory, was in the wet and it felt great but less like I’d 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. We’ve been working hard during these weeks to get ready for this one. We had a great test here in November, so I look forward to carrying some of that momentum hopefully into here. As you said with the asphalt it will be a little bit of a question mark, we’ll have to go out there and see how the tyres work and having four options here it will be a little but different to see what we’ll do in the race.
“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.”
Finally, Masia was the final rider to speak in the opening stages. Arriving to the first home race of the season – and in the lead – is some pressure for the sophomore, but he’s more than ready to race.
“I’m really happy to be the leader. It is only the third race of the Championship but it’s nice to be there. I’m also happy to be first in the first European race, at home, so I’ll just try to continue like this.”
The Spaniard was also asked about his quick progression from the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship to where he is now. “In Estrella Galicia it was really hard because I was small and with a lot of weight on the bike. But it’s a dream come true to arrive in the World Championship and being here is amazing. I can’t believe it, so I’m going to try to continue like this and enjoy it!”
Marquez had some advice for him: “I’ve known Jaume for a long time and he had good talent then, he’s showing it now. He can be very competitive but it’s normal – I’m laughing because I know the feeling! First home Grand Prix, leading the Championship…” The reigning Champion turned to look at Masia and smiled again. “Just keep calm!”
That’s it from Thursday Press Conference talk at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España and now it’s time to head out on track at Jerez. FP1 begins on Friday morning at 9:55 (GMT +2), with the race on Sunday at 14:00.