Jack Miller takes MotoGP RC213V to the Salt Flats!
To mark the start of the Gran Premio Red Bull de la República Jack Miller decided to take his CWM LCR Honda RC213V-RS out on to the Salinas Grandes salt desert in Jujuy, while a number of top riders gathered for the traditional pre-race press conference.
The spectacular setting of the Salinas Grandes salt desert, normally a quiet and serene place, instead bore witness to the flame spitting power of a 250bhp motorbike as Miller rode his Honda RC213V-RS on the unique surface.
Located in Northern Argentina at 3,500 m above sea level, the Salinas Grandes is a large salt desert that spans over 6,000 square kilometres. Salt deserts and lakes around the world have traditionally been used for land speed record attempts over the years, but never before has someone attempted to ride a fully-fledged MotoGP bike on one.
Miller is no stranger to facing challenges, like the one he has taken on this year by becoming the first ever rider to jump straight from the Moto3 class, in which he was runner-up last year, to the premier class of motorcycle racing, MotoGP.
As the Australian set about having fun on the salt, it provided a spectacular treat for the senses, with the smell of petrol fumes in the air and the iconic scream of a Honda V4 engine a fitting way to welcome the MotoGP World Championship to Argentina.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go up that high into the mountains and discover a big salt-flat like that. It was pretty cool. We had some fun on board the CWM LCR Honda but it’s back to business time now this weekend in Rio Hondo.”
“I’m looking forward to getting out on track and I expect it will be a little bit slippery in the first couple of laps like last year. There have been a few car races and other events since last time so there should be some more rubber down and that makes me keen to get out on track.”
“In Texas I got a lot more comfortable on the bike and during the race got to sit with the big group and learn so much before picking up my first points. I look forward to taking what I learned from there and put it into practice here. The track suited the Honda of Marc Marquez who won here last year, so I hope it works here for me too.”
Up next was the traditional pre-race press conference, where Valentino Rossi, Andrea Dovizioso, Marc Marquez, Cal Crutchlow, Aleix Espargaro and Yonny Hernandez gathered in front of the world’s media to answer questions about this weekends action.
The man who currently leads the MotoGP World Championship standings, Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, kicked things off by talking about his start to the season: “It is not very important to lead after just two races, but it is for sure the best way to start, especially because I have already won a race and that’s the best feeling. To have 41 points after Austin, which is a difficult track for us, is good. And now it’s the third Grand Prix, and on paper this track is better for the M1.”
Rossi stressed the importance of looking after your front tyre at the Termas De Rio Hondo, and addressed a recurring issue throughout the press conference, the incredible passion of the Argentine fans: “The passion of the fans is unbelievable, sometimes it is a little bit difficult, but it is great to see the popularity of MotoGP in Argentina.”
Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso is the first Ducati rider to score back-to-back podiums since Casey Stoner in 2010, after he finished second in both Qatar and Austin: “What a start for us, it has been almost perfect with two second’s places meaning we are 2nd in the Championship.”
The Italian went on to discuss how this good start to the season has created a good atmosphere in the Ducati garage: “The feeling in team is different, now we have a lot of energy to fight and to work in a right way to develop the relation in the right way, we know each other better. When the pace of the bike is good, everything changes, as you can work in a different way over the weekends.”
Dovizioso was then asked about his bike appearing to run out of fuel almost immediately after the checkered flag in Austin, to which he gave the slightly cryptic response of: “We didn’t run out of fuel, we had a problem with the tank and we cant talk about it…!”
Repsol Honda’s reigning MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez admitted that while the Championship looked good for the spectator at the moment, he was concerned after his performance in Qatar: “My worry was that after Qatar I needed to come back strong and get back in to the Championship race, and now we are only five points behind.”
Marquez last year led home a Honda 1-2 in Argentina, with his currently injured teammate Pedrosa taking 2nd, although he thinks they are in for a tougher challenge in 2015: “Last year I felt good here but this year, as we saw in Austin, everyone else has improved so we have to work hard to be at the same level.”
Cal Crutchlow on the CWM LCR Honda had to miss last year’s race in Argentina through injury: “It is great to finally be here for the GP in Argentina, we get such a good welcome when we come there are so many fans! Even though last year I watched it from home, it was one of the great Grand Prix of the year.”
Despite not racing at the track before, the British rider has taken part in a test at the Termas De Rio Hondo: “I hope to make the most of Free Practice as I didn’t race here last year, and we are at a disadvantage. When I tested here there was no grip, so while its good I know which way the track goes, we still have a lot of work to do but I am looking forward to racing.”
The man who set the third fastest lap during the race in Austin, which is incredible when you consider the lack of power his GSX-RR bike suffers from and the fact that CoTA has the longest straight on the MotoGP™ calendar, was Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro. The Spanish rider is hoping to improve further in Argentina: “We would have preferred a better placed finish in Qatar, but we took points, which is good when we suffer a lot on the straight. We are happy with the job we are doing but we need to work hard and we hope to closer and closer to the guys at the front.”
Argentina qualifies as the home Grand Prix for Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez, who hails from South America and was the first Columbian to ever compete in the World Championships. He is looking to bounce back after crashing out in Austin: “I am so happy to be here, it is like a home race and I want to get in the top ten and make a good result for my fans and my people.”
Hernandez will wear an Argentine flag on his helmet during the weekend: “This is a special edition helmet for the race, as I feel at home here and it is especially for all Argentineans and Latin Americans.”