Festivities in the Czech Republic got underway with a pre-event in the centre of Brno ahead of the HJC Helmets Grand Prix České Republiky, with Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) joined by Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) to attack the main square of the city – on mini bikes. With burnouts and some wheel-to-wheel action to kick off the weekend, MotoGP is back with a bang in Brno.
The pre-event Press Conference saw Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich), Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) meet the press ahead of the event, with the focus of the session squarely set on the championship, and how cards have shuffled after the Austrian GP.
Marc Marquez was the first to speak, and the championship leader first discussed his shoulder – after a crash in FP3 at the Austrian GP caused a brief dislocation.
“The shoulder we can say it’s not 100% – but it’s fixed and won’t be a problem for this weekend,” affirmed the 2013 and 2014 World Champion. “At the moment if I work well in the gym the shoulder will be fixed but who knows in the future. Everything looks fine at the moment, and it looks like Brno will be a better circuit for us. It was an important fifth place in Austria because Lorenzo only took 5 points more, and Valentino only 2. So I’m happy about that because we were struggling at the Red Bull Ring and could have lost a lot of points. But here we’ll try and fight for the victory, and if it’s not possible to win just try and not lose too many points to the Yamaha riders.”
Whilst Marquez defends his 43 point lead, Jorge Lorenzo is the man on the chase and got back on the podium in Austria after some more difficult races.
“I needed a good result,” said Lorenzo of his impressive ride at the Red Bull Ring. “I didn’t doubt that sooner or later I would get back there but the result helps. Now here we’re at a circuit that historically and theoretically is good for us, and good for my riding style. So let’s see if theory matches reality and we can fight for the win. These tyres can change things dramatically at every track. One race you can dominate and win the race then the next one you can be fifth. And now, with the Ducatis being competitive, you can finish easily down in fifth. You can lose a lot of points or recover a lot of points, so this can change things a lot.”
This battle in the top echelons of the points was a point of focus in the Press Conference, with the riders agreeing there were 7 riders that could fight for a victory in 2016 – the Yamaha, Honda and Ducati factory team riders – as well as Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar.)
Valentino Rossi was focused on trying to fight with Marquez and Lorenzo at the venue, after not having been able to in the recent race weekends at the track. The Italian took his first win in the 125 world championship in Brno, as a rookie in 1996 – meaning the track does have a special memory as he returns to it once again, 20 years later.
“This year seems like the opposite of last year with a lot of good qualifying, a lot of front rows…but then more problems in the race,” said the rider from Tavullia. “We need to understand the level of the others because the Ducatis could also be very strong here, and the Hondas. Marquez, but also Pedrosa because he always goes very well in Brno. It’s a great track and also the scene of my first victory so it’s unforgettable. But in the last few years I haven’t been able to be as fast as Marquez and Lorenzo. The target for this weekend is to be a bit faster and fight with them.”
Andrea Iannone was present for the Ducati Team after taking the win last time out at the Red Bull Ring, but is very much back to business, expecting Brno to be more challenging.
“The victory was incredible, but now it’s important to remain focused on the second half of the championship because there are some very strong riders,” said the Ducati winner. “I know Dovizioso will be pushing hard in the final part of the season but so will I, to close out our relationship positively.”
Another Ducati rider present was Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich), who is hoping to keep his 2016 momentum going after a podium, a P4 and a top open finish in the last three races.
“The beginning of the season was difficult when we were a bit unlucky,” said Redding. “But the last race was quite good and the target is always to finish top 8 – so I was happy with that. I like this circuit, but in the past on smaller bikes my size has seemed like a bit of a disadvantage at Brno.”
Alvaro Bautista has recently been announced as returning to the Aspar Team for 2017 to ride a Ducati, with the Spanish veteran having shown great progress on his current Aprilia Racing Team Gresini machine.
“I’m so happy to go back to the Aspar team,” beamed the former world champion. “Because it’s a team I had great results with in the past.” Those results included winning the 125 world championship with the team in 2006, during a long relationship that the Spaniard is happy to return to as he remains in MotoGP™.
After the Press Conference, the MotoGP paddock then gathered on the main straight of the circuit to celebrate the 400th GP of the new era – since Dorna, IRTA, the MSMA and the FIM began #RacingTogether 25 years ago. With flares, music and parachutists even dropping in to celebrate the landmark occasion, the big 400 has kicked off in style at the legendary Automotodrom Brno.
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