MotoGP ready to rock Sachsenring
Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have scored 13 victories between them at Sachsenring
A new surface for Michelin and the teams to contend with after the track was resurfaced earlier this year
MotoGP 2017 – Round Nine – Sachsenring
On a rainy Thursday at the Sachsenring, the pre-event Press Conference ahead of the GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland saw Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) joined by Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) and Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) – with talk turning to the weather, the new track surface and the Championship fight as it continues to change week by week.
First to talk was Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso, who says that still sounds like a strange description. It is the first time that a Ducati has led the general classification since 2009. Dovizioso finished 3rd in an exciting German GP race last year, which started in the rain and ended with the track totally dry. Before the riders came in to change bikes, Andrea led the race, and was the rider who led the most laps in the race. Casey Stoner was victorious in the 2008 race, marking the one and only Ducati victory at the German track.
“It sounds strange to me to be the Championship leader and I’m so happy with how we’ve worked in these eight races to be first – it’s a dream and I’m really happy. We’ve worked really hard in these five years. Especially in the last few races we’ve worked in the perfect way and even in Assen no one was able to work so much for the race, and we used a different setup in the race and it worked. I could make a good laptime, which for me is almost more important than the final result. Fifth wasn’t so great but conditions were very difficult and it was easy to make a mistake. My confidence is good, my feeling with the bike is good and I feel great with the team – that plays a big part in the final result. The weather here isn’t new and we’ve had it here before but the new asphalt will make a difference. We have to try it tomorrow, and no one could test here so we don’t have feedback to know about the tyres. Anything can happen and that’s positive – it means you don’t think too much about it!”
The man who now sits second after a DNF at the Dutch GP is Viñales, who now has tunnel vision on taking back the top.
“I’m disappointed about the crash at Assen but in another way I was lucky. I’m happy and motivated, we were strong in Assen in the dry and that’s when I can relax. If I push myself to the limit we can be on top again. We’ve made many mistakes this season but we’ve learnt and we know what to do. We’ve improved in the rain too so it’s a good chance here to work hard. Last year I was quite strong here, I’m in good physical condition and here is quite demanding. Last time out we paid a lot for a bad qualifying and here we have to pay attention to the weather, when to put on the new tyres…it’s going to be a tricky weekend but we have to do our best.”
One man who will certainly bring his best to the Sachsenring is the winner the last seven years he’s ridden it – Marc Marquez. From the 125 World Championship to MotoGP, the Repsol Honda man has won every year from pole. Does that play a big role in his preparation? He says it helps, but that 2017 is still unpredictable.
“Sachsenring has always been a good circuit for me and for Honda. That’s important, but this year is different. There’s a new surface so we need to see how the grip is, and the tyres. And the other thing here is the weather…last year was a flag-to-flag and then everything can change but arriving at a track where you’ve won in the past is good and you’re confident. Even in Assen we were able to recover some points so we’ll see what we can do here on Sunday. It’s so difficult to kind of plan the Championship – two races ago I was almost out the battle, and now I’m only some points behind. It’s really long, we need to work hard and push – I’ve made a few mistakes in the first part of the season but I’m there and I want to continue with the same mentality.”
Between them, Marc and teammate Dani Pedrosa, have scored 13 victories at Sachsenring, and have stood together on the podium twice, in 2014 and 2015.
“Sachsenring is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar and we are going there ready to prepare for the race as best as possible. I honestly do not know what to expect from the resurfacing of the track as it’s difficult to make predictions before getting there but I hope to have a good feeling with the bike and the tyres. We know as a team we are working well together and doing things right so we will continue with this mentality and try to understand how to make the tyres work better in every situation. The Championship is still very close and I look forward to getting back on my bike on Friday and fighting for a good result on Sunday”.
MotoGP 2017 continues to deal different hands in this first half of the season, and it was Valentino Rossi who played the best the last time out, although the German GP promises to be different again.
“First of all I’m very happy about the victory, it was after a great race and with great emotions. And it’s important for the Championship because it looks very interesting – a lot of riders and different bikes are very close. Never has the situation changed from one week to the next like it has this year. I’m there and not so far, and it will be important to be competitive here because it’s a different track compared to Assen. It looks like the forecast is quite bad but it will be important to be prepared for all conditions. Last year I wasn’t so bad in the dry or wet, but last year it was a crazy race with different conditions and flag-to-flag; we tried to stay out and it wasn’t the right strategy. So I hope for a full dry or full wet race, but we’ll try to be ready and cleverer in case of a flag-to-flag race.”
The possibility of a flag-to-flag seems like a threat on Sunday – and Petrucci has at least one target as his run of incredible form continues.
“I didn’t expect to be so fast in the dry in Assen, but I managed the race and the light rain at the end maybe helped me a little bit. It’s a good moment for sure and the bike is going well. Here I feel positive and last year I did well in the dry, then in the wet I tried to push and crashed. The weather will be important I think, and also the new asphalt. We’ll see, but these things are the same for everyone. It’s a great emotion to be here with these riders, they’re all fighting for the title and it’s great to fight with them even if I’m quite far off in the Championship. But I’m in a good position and I have nothing to lose. But my main target is to not do what I did last year and crash.”
Finishing the race was the speciality of Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) after the German was the only rider to have scored points every weekend until Assen – so that’s the first target as he prepares to line up in the premier class for the first time at home. After an impressive start to the season, Folger says the goalposts have now changed as expectations have been excelled – and is happy to race on home turf.
“I’m very pleased to be here, the German crowd is amazing. I was signing things earlier and it’s great to feel the support. The season so far is going well. The winter started well, we had some expectations at the beginning that we could be in the top ten but then suddenly we did better than we expected. Now we know we can get in the top six if we have a good day. We have good speed and just need to show it every weekend. It’s not always easy for me with the weather and track conditions, every track is different to ride on a MotoGP bike. I need some experience, but if we have a good day we can do a good job. I wondered if MotoGP was the right choice and in the end it was – in the winter test I was relieved, and I think we’ve done everything right.”
Folger’s teammate, Johann Zarco, seeks to bounce back after the Assen battle just a few days ago and achieve his target of seizing a podium at the Sachsenring track.
“Sachsenring is an interesting track that is quite small, but there are a lot of left corners. I won the race there last year when it rained a lot, which is a nice memory. Of course, it will be great to have three days of clear weather this time but let’s see what happens. I have a good feeling on the bike and I am happy about how the weekend in Assen went because I got the pole position and I was strong at the beginning of the race. I want to remain on this pace so that I can fight again, and have the opportunity to get on the podium in Sachsenring which would be fantastic to achieve before the summer break.”
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow is looking to build on his excellent result at Assen last weekend. After a disappointing run at Mugello and Barcelona, Crutchlow underlined his class with a fine fourth-placed finish in Holland last time out and is now aiming to continue that momentum at one of his favourite venues on the calendar. The Briton has great history at the Sachsenring having secured two runner-up finishes at the German venue in the past four years. One of those came 12 months ago as he finished behind Marc Marquez and the 31-year-old has high hopes of producing another big performance. Crutchlow admits he is hoping to avoid more bad weather having struggled in the wet at Assen, but still believes Honda riders have an advantage at this weekend’s venue.
“It’s a circuit I like and it’s a track that Honda bikes have gone well at over the years. I have no real idea why, I think because our bikes slide a lot and from turn six onwards there’s a lot of sliding to be done, so we don’t seem to be hindered as much as the other guys”.“I’m looking forward to the weekend; it was not too bad in Assen, it was good to come away with a decent result as I felt good all weekend there, except in the rain. But sadly it looks like it might be another wet weekend here! Overall, (in Assen) I think the team did a good job as it wasn’t an easy weekend, something seemed a little amiss, but hopefully this weekend will be a lot better. Wet or dry I’ll be giving 100 percent and we’ll see where we end up.”
Jorge Lorenzo has raced at Sachsenring 14 times but has never won there. He has also never managed a win in Argentina, Austin or Austria, making it four circuits on the calendar where he still lacks a victory. However, Lorenzo has achieved six podiums at the Sachsenring: in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. Along with two pole positions here, which he achieved in 2006 and 2010.
“After a difficult weekend at Assen, I can’t wait to arrive at the Sachsenring to resume the positive trend we demonstrated in the races before the Dutch GP. The German track has a new surface and I’m pleased about that because for sure it’ll help us have better grip. We will have to see immediately what the tyre wear is like on the new surface, but in any case the most important thing for me will be to find a positive feeling with the bike again and get back to being competitive.”
The 3,671m Sachsenring is the shortest circuit on the calendar and its layout with 10-left-hand turns covering the majority of the configuration already makes it one of the most challenging tracks of the season. This year’s event will also have the added difficulty of a new surface for Michelin and the teams to contend with after the track was resurfaced earlier this year.
Unfortunately, due to noise restrictions at the circuit, it has not been possible to conduct a test there with MotoGP machinery, so the paddock is heading to Germany with little information as to what the asphalt is like. The technical layout with fast and long left turns means a particular tyre is required to get the most from this demanding track.
Michelin brings front and rear asymmetric slick tyres in soft, medium and hard compounds to Sachsenring, which will feature a harder left-hand-side to cope with the stresses and attrition that side of the tyre goes through, whilst the right will be a softer compound to heat up quickly and give optimum performance through the track’s three right-hand turns.
Situated in Hohenstein-Ernstthal near Chemnitz in Saxony, Germany, the circuit staged its first road race in 1927. This was on a layout on public roads including the village of Hohenstein-Ernstthal and in 1937 the event was named ‘Sachsenring’. Racing continued on the public roads – despite stoppages for world conflicts and cancellations due to safety issues – until the early 1990’s when the last road-race was held. The latest incarnation of the Sachsenring circuit is a purpose-built racetrack that held its first motorcycle Grand Prix in 1998 and has staged the German round since then, making this the 20th running at the track. Weekend crowds of more than 200,000 people regularly head to this event and although it will never have figures from its prime in 1950 when 480,000 spectators turned up on race-day, it is still one of the most attended races of the year and a unique experience that is not matched anywhere else.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin Motorsport Two-Wheel Manager
“Sachsenring is always a demanding circuit due to its unusual layout, and this year’s race will have the added challenge of a completely new surface. We have no data regarding the asphalt as it hasn’t been possible to test there due to the restrictions, so we are going a bit blind. We are sure we have the tyres to work well on the new layer and have prepared the compounds to the information we do have. The slick tyres will be asymmetric for the front and rear with a harder left-hand-side – as they were last year – this is to cope with the design of the track. The bikes spend a lot of time on the left on this track and Sachsenring needs a very special tyre, with a right that heats up quickly, to make sure the riders get good traction throughout the whole lap. It’s also a venue that can have some unsettled weather, as last year’s race showed where we had a wet start and then a drying track, so there were many types of tyres used in that race to get the best performance.”
The 30-lap ninth round of the 2017 MotoGP Championship gets underway at Sachsenring at 2200 AEST.