MotoGP riders MTB and talk ahead of Catalunya
The Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya has kicked off with a casual mountain bike ride which took six riders from the city of Granollers to the nearby Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya.
The off road bicycle route was led by the Espargaró brothers, who played hosts on a very familiar mountain area for them ahead of their home race. Both Aleix and Pol – the latter also celebrating his 24th birthday this week – are big enthusiasts of mountain biking. They were born and raised less than 5 minutes away from the racetrack, and the Granollers siblings never get tired of saying how they could hear the cars and motorcycles racing at the Montmeló track from their very own house as they grew up.
Aleix Espargarò (Suzuki) reflected on the race weekend ahead: “Catalunya will be magic for me; it will be my home race and I’ll have a lot of support from friends and fans. I come from a hard weekend in Mugello that needs to be reset and cancelled: I struggled in many sessions and finally I couldn’t even put my race plan into action as I was taken out at the very beginning. My GSX-RR has proved to be performing well during this early part of the season and my feeling is that we still didn’t get the results we deserved. In Barcelona we will get some new parts and I’m very curious to see how the machine will be improved, I know that in Japan our engineers are working very hard because we fully believe in the project, so I’m looking forward to do my best and make a positive weekend.”
As did brother, Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) – “Round 7 means it’s time for my home Grand Prix and of course, this is one of the highlights of my season, especially as it’s also sponsored by our title partner Monster Energy! To hear my fans cheering is an amazing feeling and I will do my very best to please them particularly as I grew up very close to this circuit, therefore it doesn’t get any more of a home GP than this for me! Mugello was quite a positive race and most importantly a definite improvement after my recent arm surgery and so, I intend to do even better this weekend as I was able to start training again. I definitely have some good memories of racing at this track, like winning the Moto2 race from pole in 2013 which was the year I became champion and I aim to add another one to the collection this time. We also have a test after the race which will be very useful as we have a few things to adjust and amend, so I look forward to this week at home and I can’t wait to get the show on the road!”
The Factory Yamaha squad arrives at Catalunya brimming with confidence after a sensational race in Italy where Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo scored the team’s third consecutive double podium.
After being serenaded by home fans for his third place podium finish in Mugello, Rossi is excited to head to the next round in Montmeló. He has been leading the championship standing since the start of the season and is clearly in great shape. The Doctor holds a record of six premier victories with wins in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009 and is also one of only two riders who have won the race in Catalunya from pole position, the other being his teammate.
Lorenzo has every reason to be happy; having found a good set up for his YZR-M1 he has won the last three races and currently holds second place in the championship. He hopes to continue his winning streak this weekend and bridge the six-points gap to his teammate in the overall standing. As Montmeló is a circuit he knows and loves, the Majorcan fancies his chances to add a fourth Catalan premier class victory to his earlier wins in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
The track hosted its first MotoGP race in 1992 and has been a crowd’s favorite ever since. It has won the IRTA ‘Best Grand Prix’ trophy in 2001 and is known as one of the most atmospheric and exciting races on the calendar. The most famous battle in Montmeló happened between Rossi and Lorenzo in 2009.
Valentino Rossi – “I think Catalunya GP will be another good race, it seems that all races are great this year. The three main manufacturers are more or less at the same level and at every race you can expect everything. I love Barcelona, this is one of my favorite tracks. It’s always difficult to go fast in that track but last year I rode one of my best races and this year I’m in good shape. We have to improve a few little things. We have to be better at finding the right set up for the bike and we have to be faster so we can start the race from a better position. The YZR-M1 is going really well, we are first and second in the championship and the last few races of Jorge proved the bikes’ competitiveness. We are close and we will work strongly to make it a nice weekend in Barcelona.”
Jorge Lorenzo – “Three in a row is a good number of victories. I’d never thought this would be possible after a strange beginning of the championship with some external problems that affected my riding and also the results. After the win in Mugello I’m happy with my performance and also with the team’s work. Everything is going well right now, I’m only six points behind Vale and the bike is feeling the way I like. The next stop is Barcelona and this is like my home race. I know Montmeló really well, I’ve been riding there for many years and I feel at home there. The track is really nice and is also good for Yamaha. I will give the maximum there and try to be prepared for the race so I can fight for the podium again.”
Things have not been quite so rosy in the Repsol Honda camp. Dani Pedrosa’s layoff for wrist surgery and a number of crashes for Marc Marquez has cast a bit of a shadow over the normally glistening factory RC213V men.
Marc Marquez, has enjoyed podium finishes here in the past five years and will be looking to take his second win of this season. The Montmelò track is a favourite for teammate Dani Pedrosa who has a fantastic record here having won in all classes with a total of ten podiums. The local rider is still recovering from his recent surgery but enjoyed a strong race in Mugello taking 4th place.
Marc Marquez – “It was disappointing to crash out in Mugello but this can happen when you’re on the limit. This weekend we head to Catalunya for my home GP and we have a lot of work to do to prepare the bike. I’ve had good results at this track and won there last year, so will hope to do the same in front of all my fan club! Let’s hope we can have a good battle and put on a good show.”
Marquez also revealed that he would have a new exhaust to try this weekend, and believes he can close the gap on the leaders, “Of course it’s possible. 49 points is a lot, but not impossible.”
The biggest laugh of the press conference came when a journalist asked Lorenzo if he had any advice for his title rival Marquez, to which he replied simply: “I advise Marc nothing! If I knew him how to fix the issues I wouldn’t tell him, but every situation is different. I hope he has a lot of problems!”
Dani Pedrosa – “Mugello was pretty positive as I can feel my arm improving all the time. I’ve continued my rehabilitation since the race and now we head to my home race in Montmelò. We have a busy weekend ahead as we need to work hard on the bike to solve some issues. Setup is key at this track as you spend so much time on the edge of the tyre. You can feel the energy of the fans and I hope we can take advantage of it! Let’s hope it’s nice weather and the fans can enjoy the weekend!”
While the fortunes of Repsol Honda have taken a significant downturn in 2015, the opposite is true for Ducati. Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone are third and fourth in the championship, behind the Factory Yamaha pairing of Rossi and Lorenzo. Both Dovizioso and Iannone will be trying to continue the Ducati Team’s run of positive results, which has so far extended to six podiums in the first six rounds of the season.
Andrea Dovizioso – “At Montmelò we want to confirm the speed we had at Mugello, and I think that the Desmosedici GP15 can also be competitive at Barcelona. All of our disappointment over what happened at Mugello has been channelled into the determination and desire to get a good result there. I really like this circuit, it’s one of the best in the calendar and I can’t wait to make up for the last race. At Mugello we lost a lot of points in the championship, but we must think positively and I believe that at Barcelona we can fight for the podium once again”.
Andrea Iannone – “It’s a good moment for me and I am very happy to return to the track and do the next race. Barcelona is a great track and I’ve won races there in the past, once in Moto2 and once in 125cc. This week I managed to train a bit better and my shoulder is a bit better, still not 100% but it’s OK. Despite my physical difficulties, the Mugello weekend was fantastic, so we’ll try and do our best also at Montmelò”.
The CWM LCR Honda Team will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing event at their home round in Italy just over a week ago which saw both their riders slide out of the race.
For Australian Jack Miller, who has a European base near the city of Tarragona 100 kilometres to the south, this track is almost like another home round of the MotoGP World Championship. It is particularly familiar to him from the time he spent in the junior classes and so he and the team remain positive that they can return to point-scoring ways with his Honda RC213V-RS this weekend.
Jack Miller #43 – “I look forward to this race as a kind of second home GP after the race in Australia, with my European home being just down the road. I have always had a good feeling with this track and I’m looking forward to doing a good job here this weekend. The last two races we have looked quite strong through practice and then really struggled in the race, so we just have to make it happen here. Without a doubt we need to pull the finger out, and I can’t think of a better place to do that than here at the Catalunya circuit, with a track I like a lot. Let’s see what happens.”
Miller’s teammate on the higher specification RC213-V, Cal Crutchlow, suffered a dislocated right ankle in the Mugello crash, but has spent the time between races working on his fitness by cycling hundreds of kilometres near his Italian base. He has also undergone extensive physiotherapy to keep the ankle moving, and is hopeful that his hard work will pay off at this weekend’s latest MotoGP race in Spain.
Cal Crutchlow #35 – “I’m not feeling too bad. I had some great therapy in Italy – I stayed there between the last race and this one – and also did lots of cycling because if I stayed still for a long time, I could hardly move it. I never really rested too much, and I can move my ankle up and down now, but we rest our feet on the outside of the pegs so I will only know how it is once I get on the bike. We’ll take the morning session to get familiar with the track again, but from then on will be trying my best to see what we can do this weekend as ever. I’ve been looking forward to Barcelona as I think it is a better track for our bike, and we’ll work in our normal way to make sure we get the best out of the CWM LCR Honda package.”
Maverick Viñales scored his best MotoGP finish (7th) for Team Suzuki Ecstar at the Italian Grand Prix, and the Spaniard is expecting to take another step forward in Barcelona after receiving a number of upgrades to his GSX-RR
Maverick Viñales – “I’m feeling very good for going to race at my home circuit for the first time as a factory rider; it will be a unique emotion. I’m coming from a positive series of results and every time I take the track with my GSX-RR I feel better and better and the last race in Mugello gave me a lot of satisfaction. I’m pretty confident that I will enjoy the Circuito de Catalunya on the Suzuki, it’s a fast track and our machine proved to be very good to ride thanks to its chassis. Plus we will get improvements for the engine of our machine, I’m really curious. I’m aware that I still have a lot to learn, in particular my team and I are working on the management of the sessions and the tyres, to improve the pace but also to be more effective in qualifying and to enter Q2 to have a good position on the grid. This will be key for the future.”
Bradley Smith produced his best performance so far this season by clinching a hard fought result of 5th at Mugello and will seek put himself in the mix for a top six placement in the 25 lap sprint around the Circuito de Catalunya. He currently sits in 6th in the championship and at the front of the satellite MotoGP riders and will look to continue his positive form by adding more points to his tally of 57.
Bradley Smith – “I will arrive at the Monster Energy sponsored Catalunya round confident of opening the weekend in positive style as we have been strong at almost every GP this season. It is a circuit that I enjoy with it’s variety of different corners and the crowd is always amazing, especially in the last part of the track! In addition, the layout seems to suit the characteristics of the Yamaha YZR-M1 quite well, therefore, I’ll be gunning for another top finish. In Mugello, the qualifying didn’t go to plan so I aim to rectify this in Catalunya and grab a solid starting position to give me the best possible chance of success in the race. We also have a test on Monday where we will try out a few new ideas in order to help me in various areas as we look to bridge the gap to the leading riders. However, before that, there’s the Catalan Grand Prix and my fists are clenched already for the battle on Sunday, which I can’t wait to partake in.”
Athinà Forward Racing arrives in Catalunya after their the home race in Mugello, Barcelona will host the seventh race of the 2015 season, the second on Spanish soil.
Loris Baz, Open class winner on the Italian track and second in the Open standings only behind Hector Barbera, comes to Spain motivated to reduce the gap to his rival and score points once again. It will be a welcome return to the Catalunya circuit where he raced for the last time in 2008.
Stefan Bradl is looking forward to jump on his Yamaha Forward bike again. The German, who was forced to retire prematurely at Mugello, proved to be consistent all weekend long and is aiming to lead the Open class in Montemelo.
Loris Baz – “I’ll be back on the Barcelona track after so many years: the last time I rode here was in 2008. After the victory at Mugello, I’m motivated to do well again. We did a good job with the team and we are on the right track. Our target is to top the Open standings again and to score more points for the championship.”
Stefan Bradl – “We have been battling all weekend with the other Open bikes at Mugello. Unfortunately I was forced to retire after contact when I was fighting for the head of the class. We have made a good step forward after the test in Jerez and I’m arriving in Barcelona convinced that I can do well. The goal remains to win the Open class.”
For Power Electronics Aspar riders Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty the Catalunya GP is another opportunity to score a good result for the team in a home race. Hayden showed strong pace at the start of the Italian GP before unfortunately crashing out, whilst his team-mate Eugene Laverty managed to score points despite never quite finding an ideal set-up for Mugello. His objective is to continue his points-scoring form this weekend but almost more importantly to improve his feeling and pace with his package.
Nicky Hayden: “We found a pretty good pace at Mugello so it was a shame that we didn’t manage to finish the race off with a good result. Luckily I wasn’t injured in the crash and we can look forward to the Catalunya round, another great GP at a great track. The team is doing a fantastic job and each time I ride the bike I feel more confident. Catalunya is a really difficult track, where tyre wear is always an issue because of the number of long corners spent on the edge of the tyre. The good thing about Catalunya is that is has a bit of everything – some tight corners, some fast ones and some sections with hard braking. It is always a challenge to ride and I am looking forward to taking it on this weekend and scoring the best possible result.”
Eugene Laverty: “These past two rounds have been really difficult and so I really want to rediscover the pace we’d shown earlier in the season. Catalunya is essentially a ‘new’ circuit for me as I haven’t ridden there since 2008. I don’t see that as a big hurdle as I’ll do my homework and prepare well beforehand. The team are working hard to improve the balance of the bike to help me in the flowing corners and I’m confident that we’re moving in the right direction. My aim is to regain ground in the Open class battle and fight my way up into the top three by the summer break.”
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini continue development of the Alvaro Bautista’s and Marco Melandri’s Aprilia RS-GP bikes which have recently undergone various changes involving different areas, from the transmission to the engine and even aerodynamics and chassis.
Precisely with the intention of conducting an in depth check of the numerous technical changes which were recently introduced and testing other new frame solutions, before heading for Spain the team completed a day of testing on the Misano circuit. Spaniard Alvaro Bautista was on the track astride the Aprilia RS-GP.
Romank Albesiano (Aprilia Racing Manager) – “The first third of the season has been in line with the goals we set at the beginning of the year when we decided to return to MotoGP 12 months ahead of schedule. The project has had some difficult moments and it has made clear progress, which is all quite natural. Now we simply need to consistently continue the trend of general improvement in terms of bike performance. At Mugello we introduced a number of changes. These are goals which have been achieved for us, fundamental technical foundations for the design of the new bike as well. Barcelona will be important to once again verify the effectiveness of all the changes made and to have them work together to improve performance in practice and in the race.”
Alvaro Bautista – “I like the Montmelò circuit and it’s always a pleasure to race for my home fans, so I am expecting a nice weekend. In any case, before going to Barcelona I made a stop in Italy to do some testing on the Misano circuit. We had the opportunity to do some further checks on the changes that we had already introduced during the Italian Grand Prix in order to better understand which solutions to take forward. Our goal remains the same: to develop the bike during all the practice sessions, trying to achieve the best possible feeling in view of the race. Montmelò is another new track for the Aprilia, so we’ll be trying to work hard from the beginning to gather as much data as possible.”
Marco Melandri – “We arrive in Barcelona with good intentions. I want to work without thinking about the rumors regarding my situation. I hope to do a good job and I will give my best as always. My team is working hard and I hope that the new technical updates can give us a positive feedback”.
In the Moto2 category Tito Rabat heads arrives in Catalunya quietly confident, after taking his first win of the season last time out in Mugello.
The win saw Rabat move up to second in the championship standings, just 31 points adrift of series leader, Johann Zarco. It is a gap that the reigning Moto2 World Champion is keen to close even further this weekend, on a track at which he won from pole position just 12 months ago and where he’ll have the fervent support of his home crowd.
Tito Rabat – “I won in Barcelona last year, but this year the situation is very different. The championship is more closely contested and I made too many mistakes at the start of the season, allowing other riders to take advantage. The win in Mugello was good, as it put me back in contention for the championship, but now we need to focus on the weekend ahead. The approach will remain the same; work hard with the team to ensure we’re in the best shape possible for Sunday’s race and then, when the lights go out, push for the win. Barcelona is always a special weekend, because it’s my home city, so I hope we can give the crowd something to cheer about on Sunday.”
At the Catalunya pre event conference were local Moto2 rider Ricky Cardús and his German team mate in Tech3 Marcel Schrötter. Cardús himself does not live far from this area, and is an avid fan of mountain biking, a sport practiced by the majority of the riders across all three categories.
Also joining the field trip was the last Moto3 race winner Miguel Oliveira. The Portuguese rider enjoyed the activity in company of his Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Karel Hanika.
When all six riders, including the Espargaro brothers, arrived at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, they went on a lap around the track, previewing what lies ahead of them during the upcoming days. On Sunday June 14th MotoGP riders will have to lap 25 times, whereas Moto2 riders and Moto3 will have a race of 23 and 22 laps respectively.