MotoGP men smoke up Buenos Aires and talk ahead of MotoGP 2016 Round Two
With the first round of the MotoGP World Championship done and dusted, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso, Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi were joined by Pol Espargaro and home hero Yonny Hernandez for the pre-event press conference.
New rules and regulations saw a closer mid-pack battle in Qatar, but the factory riders were able to maintain their position. Three days of testing gave all the teams ample data to fall back on, but no such safety net exists for the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, none of the teams or riders have visited the circuit with the new tyres and electronics before.
One rider determined to do well is Jorge Lorenzo, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider is riding a wave of confidence after a near perfect race win in Qatar.
“Yeah for sure we couldn’t start in a better way in the first race in Qatar. I think we solved everyone’s doubts about the new electronics and the new tyres, we were a little bit worried about the performance during a long race with the Michelin. But we saw that we could be very constant and even faster at the end of the race, we solved the doubt in the first race and also the electronics. For sure with the bike now you need to be more precise and more careful, especially for the tyres at the start of the race but we know we can finish the race in a good physical condition and we finished with the win. We can’t be much happier than now. Now we’re at a different track so we’ll see what happens with a different layout and different tarmac.”
“The layout of the track is one of the best of the calendar, it’s very funny to ride. Just in 2014 the bike wasn’t the best and also I didn’t arrive in my best physical condition but I finished third so it was quite a good result given the package. Last year, last year wasn’t a very good race. We didn’t choose the best tyres and we weren’t so competitive during the weekend. I think with the new electronics and tyres we can be much more competitive here and in Austin and try to improve the third from 2014.”
Jorge Lorenzo also remained cagey on his plans for 2016.
“The situation is more or less the same. Now we have to concentrate in these two races, which are very important. We haven’t won here or in Austin. To be honest I don’t want to tell much more I want to keep this with my people and decide in the next weeks. I don’t want to tell much more.”
Meanwhile Andrea Dovizioso looks to go one better than the previous race as he and Ducati hunt for victory yet again. 2015 saw Dovizioso take his third second place finish of the season; history repeating itself certainly wouldn’t be the worst situation for the Italian.
“No one really knows how we’ll go in Argentina, Austin or Jerez with the tyres especially. We have to be focused and really quick to understand the way during the weekend, how to manage the tyres and the set up of the bike. I don’t want to think too much about the result in the race. We arrived here with a really competitive package and I feel good with the bike. We’ll see the weather during the weekend.”
Dovizioso’s teammate Andrea Iannone had to sit out proceedings in Qatar and is out to make amends this weekend in Argentina.
“I’m still pretty disappointed about the race in Qatar, because I was very fast, I had the right race pace and the potential to score a prestigious result. Now I can’t wait to race in Argentina, at the Termas circuit which has different characteristics to Losail and where it’s sure to be a totally different race. It’s a great circuit, and we will be going there with a lot of optimism: that’s how we have to work this year and always try and be competitive.”
After testing and the opening sessions of practice in Qatar, few expected Marc Marquez and his Repsol Honda Team to challenge for the podium in Qatar but the young Spaniard was able to turn it around at the last minute. An aggressive ride saw him wrestle his way up to third and just miss out on second. The Argentina GP didn’t get off to an easy start for the Spaniard who had a litany of travel issues on his way to the track, taking 60 hours of travel time to arrive at the track.
“We come to Argentina in a positive mood after achieving a third-place finish in Qatar, a result that wasn’t really predictable before the start of the season. We worked very hard and very well with Honda and with the team over the weekend, and on race day I was able to push as hard as is currently possible. Of course we haven’t had a winter test here to count on and we’ll have to see if the setup we found in Qatar will also work here. That would be a good step forward for us, generally speaking, and we could even aim for a little bit better result on Sunday. Of course it will be a question mark until Friday but all in all, Argentina is a circuit that I like. We’ve always been fast here, so I feel positive for the weekend.
“Normally last year everyone chooses the same tyres for the race and we already saw in Qatar that there were many different options, me and Valentino with the hard-hard and Jorge with the hard-soft, Dovi with the soft-soft. It will be interesting and important this year to find the best tyre in practice because it’s the key, like in Qatar in the last laps Jorge was able to improve the lap times and do a 1’54, which was really fast. We will try to understand well and try to choose the best one.”
“At the Qatar GP, we made a consistent step forward with the setup compared to the winter test. We improved our pace and I was able to maintain it during the race, with good consistency. The positives were that my arm worked well at a track that has proven challenging in that respect in the past, and that we were able to learn more about the new bike. But it’s still not enough; we need to improve the riding position, the way the bike behaves on the track and the setup in general in order to find better speed, because at the moment the gap to the leaders is still too big. That will be our target for Argentina. I didn’t race here last season but I have good memories of the track from 2014, I like the layout and I hope we’ll be able to take another step.”
Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of Valentino Rossi’s debut on the world stage, despite being the oldest and most experienced rider in the premier class he’s showing no signs of slowing down, even with technical changes continuing to shake up the field.
“Yes it was a lot of different and new things for everyone. At the end in the race it was not so bad. From one side I was quite happy because I could stay in the first group and the race was quite fast. Unfortunately I couldn’t arrive on the podium, which was my target so we need to make better to improve and become more competitive and stronger. Also the choice of tyres is now more open because in the first group there was a lot of different choice so we need to concentrate and make the right choice for Sunday here.”
Rossi is the only rider in the premier class to have finished inside the top four at both races held in Argentina
“We hope for good weather, I like the track. It’s good that most riders like the track, it’s a funny layout, medium-fast and it’s quite technical. Last year was a great result, but also the year before the race was not so bad. But you know it looks like this year we have a lot of bikes and riders who are fast so we need to find something more.”
Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“After a good opening race in Qatar we’re on our way to Argentina. Termas de Río Hondo Circuit is a good circuit for us that suits our YZR-M1 well. Last year Valentino secured a brilliant victory in a hard battle that race fans are still talking about to this day. Last year Jorge arrived here still recovering from a cold. This year our riders are both in top form so we are expecting another close fight this weekend. We have already gained more knowledge on how well Michelin’s tyre life lasts over long distance from the first race. It will be interesting to see how the tyres will perform at this circuit where we haven’t done any testing yet. One thing is certain, after last week’s victory we are all incredibly motivated and we are looking forward to working towards another strong result this weekend.”
A seventh place finish in Qatar saw Pol Espargaro secure the honours of being the top Independent Team rider, besting his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate in the dying moments of the race. After an up and down 2015 season, the satellite Yamaha man is continuing to regain his confidence.
“Especially in Qatar, everyone starts a bit nervous there and it’s easy to make a mistake there and lose a lot of points already. I think it’s not the best option. I didn’t start well so I lost a lot of time at the start and I missed maybe one or two positions at the end. It’s what I said to you, it’s important to take points and to be the first satellite bike. We have to make our job like in Qatar but for sure we have to improve a little bit especially at the start because I wasn’t really powerful there. Looking forward to the weekend.”
Espargaro also loved his trip through Buenos Aires.
“Yeah it’s amazing, we did some laps in Buenos Aires and it was funny. But to finish in the Boca Juniors was unbelievable because of the history you have. It was a new experience, I never expected to go in the middle of the stadium with motorbikes but we did! And it was fantastic and a great thing to do with my brother who is a football hooligan!”
“The season has commenced in a good way for me as I finished in 8th at Qatar. Of course, I want to be higher than that but I was really close to my teammate so my intentions for this GP will be to go one step further and seal that top independent team position. It was quite a challenging weekend for us in Argentina last year, but I managed to end the race in 6th, and the circuit itself is good fun to ride and a bit different. Anyway, the key point will be the tyres because compared to Losail, the surface is very different. However, I aim to hit the ground running on Friday and get the work in to make sure we have a more successful qualifying this time and then go all out for another top 8 on Sunday. After the first Grand Prix we can see how competitive it is, but we will keep on pushing and fighting all the way to the chequered flag in every race.”
He may be from Colombia, but with a huge number of fans making the pilgrimage to Argentina, Yonny Hernandez treats the race as his home round. Hernandez was joined by the Espargaro brothers for a spectacular tour of Buenos Aires just ahead of the weekend.
“For me it’s like racing at home. It’s a lot of fans and people here wishing me well and to do a good race. It’s special to race here because it’s my race as a Latin American. It’s amazing to represent my country here and in MotoGP. I hope to work hard with my bike here for good points. I think the fans are growing, especially in Colombia and here. When I come here all the people know me. When we went with Pol in Buenos Aires everyone was looking, it’s strange but good!”
The opening race of 18 in Qatar saw Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaró make a positive debut on their new 2016 Factory GSX-RRs, confirming the solid progress that has been made, technically, over the winter by the Suzuki Factory team in Japan, along with their pre-season testing.
Viñales classified in the top-times during the Qatar weekend, recording a front-row grid position, plus a positive sixth place in the race; even though a few minor issues with rear grip prevented the 21-year-old Spaniard scoring a possible better result to start his 2016 campaign.
Team-mate Espargaró also had some issues at the opening event in finding the best feeling with his machine, but a last-minute change to his GSX-RR just before the race allowed him to improve in confidence; and these changes helped him progress further from his grid-position of 15th to 11th overall in the race.
In 2015, the Argentinian GP was a memorable one for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR: Espargaró put-in a very effective fast-lap and classified second on grid, bringing strong emotions to the team; Suzuki’s first ‘parc fermè’ in its first-year MotoGP comeback into the premier class. And both riders finished top-10 in the race.
“Although it will be a long trip, I’m happy to go to Argentina and immediately get back on my GSX-RR. Since the winter we have made really positive steps forward, the machine has improved a lot; and I feel very comfortable. The result in the Qatar Qualifying is proof of our competitiveness, but the final result in the race left me a bitter taste, as it could have been better. I’m eager to start working with my team again, we still have so many things to test and to verify; and the room for improvement is there to make some more steps forward.”
“After the bad weekend in Qatar I can’t wait to get back with my team and start working on my machine again. We have been struggling to find a good set-up, we made so many changes in Qatar, but after the race we may have now found a good direction so I am curious to try it as soon as possible. The technical package we have is excellent; therefore I am confident I can improve a great deal. We are all working hard, so Argentina will be a good opportunity to show this, I hope.”
Cal Crutchlow was beset with electronic problems at the opening round in Qatar which caused him to crash after a very impressive start but the Isle of Man – based midlander was a superb third on the LCR Honda last year on the demanding 2.986 miles Termas De Rio Hondo circuit and he is chasing to repeat the podium finish on Sunday.
“Overall we started the season well and honestly I felt good on the bike. What happened in Qatar it’s a shame but we need to take the positive from that as we were competitive enough. We knew that the lap times got faster and faster and faster over the race and I was pleased for that. Last year it was a sensational moment for me and my Team here in Argentina and I am looking forward to this weekend. Hopefully we can repeat the podium this year”.
The Aprilia Racing Team Gresini heads to the second round of the season highly motivated after the Losail début, where riders Bautista and Bradl consistently improved their feeling with the new bike. For Alvaro the first championship points astride the 2016 RS-GP also arrived, a result achieved thanks to his excellent race pace management.
Romano Albesiano – Aprilia Racing Manager
“The Qatar race allowed us to gather a lot of information on the bike’s racing performance for the first time. We are going to Argentina with developments in various sectors, from the shifting strategy to engine tuning to torque and engine brake management. We expect to take a step forward in terms of performance with respect to the encouraging result that Alvaro achieved in the first race. From Stefan we expect that he will take that final step in terms of adapting to the new tyres and the new bike”.
“We are going to the second round of the season ready for a new challenge like in Qatar because with the new bike we’ve never ridden on another circuit. Our goals are also basically the same: get in as many laps as possible, finish the race and take home some points. After confirming the good base that we have, in Argentina we’ll also begin to intensify our work on the chassis. I like this track. You need a lot of traction but also a good engine because there is a nice straight stretch. Considering the way we kicked off the season I’m optimistic. Both the team and I are ready to give 100%”.
“The bike is improving lap by lap and precisely for this reason I look forward eagerly to every new race weekend. I hope to do well in Argentina and I like the circuit. The layout is a bit different from the usual set up. There are no particularly difficult points but it will be an important test bench for us anyway. We have two important weeks ahead of us with the Termas race and then the Texas round. I’m confident in our potential as Alvaro’s result in Qatar demonstrated. We need to get some kilometres in and aim consistently for the points zone”.
Team Estrella Galicia Marc VDS rider Jack Miller has embarked on a two-week South and North American MotoGP adventure in confident mood after a positive outcome to the recent season opener in Qatar.
Motivation is high after Miller and Rabat rebounded brilliantly from a difficult time in practice and qualifying to finish inside the points in Doha.
And another double top 15 finish is the clear target for this weekend’s trip to the fast and technical Termas de Rio Hondo track in Argentina.
Although both have previous experience of the Argentinian venue, this weekend’s encounter will be something of a journey into the unknown, with both eager to get to grips with new Michelin tyres for the first time at the 4.806km track.
Miller is optimistic he can battle closer to the top 10 this weekend after the Termas de Rio Hondo round provided the Australian with one of the biggest highlights of his rookie MotoGP campaign in 2015.
Some skilled and aggressive riding against vastly more experienced opponents saw Miller finish top Open class rider at the end of a memorable eight-rider fight for 12th spot.
“I feel really positive coming to Argentina because I’ve been working really hard on my physical preparation. I was walking in the mountains for five hours and I feel already that I’ve got a lot more motion in my right ankle, which is getting better each day after my accident in January. This is a track I think that will be more suited to the Honda and I like it, so I’m here with high hopes and looking forward to putting to good use all the experience we gained in Qatar.”
“Qatar was a difficult MotoGP debut for me but I gained a lot of experience with the bike that will help me for the future. Of course we want to be finishing closer to the front but in Qatar I didn’t take any risks because I needed to stay on the bike and learn. Argentina is another difficult challenge because I’ve not ridden a MotoGP bike here. I’ve good memories of this track from 2014 and the Honda has a good record here too in MotoGP, so hopefully I can be stronger this weekend. I am looking forward to it and I will try and improve step-by-step. I will need to make as many laps as possible in practice to understand the different references on this track compared to Moto2, but the most important objective is to be more competitive than the last race both in terms of my final position and the time to the leading group.”
MotoGP action gets underway at midnight tonight, Friday, April 1.