MotoGP riders speak ahead of this weekend’s Catalunya MotoGP
MotoGP 2017 – Round Seven – Catalunya
With elevation changes, a kilometre-long straight, fast turns, hard braking zones and an imposing grandstand on the start/finish straight that provides an incredible acoustic backdrop on race-day, Montmelo is a must for any true MotoGP fan. Through fast, flowing turns where the edge of the tyre will be pushed to the limit, the rear Michelin Power Slick tyres will certainly be given an intense examination and to cope with these circumstances they will feature an asymmetrical design over all three compounds, with the right-hand-side having the harder rubber to manage the demands that the high-speed, sweeping corners will generate.
Grip levels at Montmelo can also be compromised as the temperature rises, this along with the bumpy nature of the track, makes it a very demanding circuit and the front Michelin Power Slicks in the three compounds – all asymmetric with a harder right-hand side – will have to work extremely hard to cope with the stresses placed upon them throughout the weekend. The Michelin Power Rain tyres will also be available within the allocation to cope with any changeable or wet conditions.
This season will see a change to its revised 4,652m layout at Montmelo, with modifications being made to the last chicane to give riders a safer run-off area. This changes the track to a nine right-hand and seven left-hand bend configuration – the previous layout had five lefts and eight rights – these alterations have been adopted following the accident that happened there in last season’s Moto2 practice when Spaniard Luis Salom was killed in a high-speed crash. With safety always a priority within MotoGP the layout was altered for the remainder of that weekend last year and has now been further assessed, with additional changes implemented for this coming weekend.
Situated just north of Barcelona near the town of Granollers, the Montmelo track has a habit of producing superb racing which is enjoyed by excited and knowledgeable crowds. With many Spanish riders in the race, some of whom originate from Catalunya – as well as being the home of Dorna – this year will no doubt be as passionate as ever.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin
“The recent test at Montmelo was very informative and we were able to try many different tyres to see what works well there. The track can be quite hard on tyres and as the heat rises the grip levels drop, so with the test we worked hard on the compounds to see what would stop that without compromising overall performance. We now have a good direction for the type of compound that will perform at the track and as always, we will bring the correct solutions to make sure all the riders, bikes and teams have an equal opportunity to be competitive. The layout this year is also different so we need to take that into consideration, which means that having a chance to visit there and try the new design before the race was extremely useful. The event itself is a very impressive one, the track and organisation are both great and the fans that come to support the many Spanish riders make for a fantastic atmosphere. It has produced some exciting races in the past and hopefully we can have a weekend where the racing takes the spotlight and we see a good show.”
After another podium and having fought for the win at the Italian GP, points leader Maverick Viñales’ (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) current position may well leave him thinking of nothing else: the rider from Roses is now 26 points clear, and next up is another home race – and another big challenge.
The temptation to push for the win at home will be big, and Viñales will need to walk the line between glory and the long game. After having issues in Jerez that forced him more into damage limitation than attack mode, the Catalan GP could be the first we see of Viñales unleashed on home turf. And it’s always good to be ahead, but it’s certainly never easy.
“I’ve become stronger every time I get on the track, my bike and my team. In this part of the season I have good communication with my team and I feel great, the bike is there so we just need to do a lot of laps with the new layout. With the tyres, we need to work hard, especially in the hot conditions. It’s difficult to believe I’m leading the Championship. I’ve always been fast here, I love the track and the fans, and it’s great that I also feel good with the bike. But the new layout will make a difference. Let’s see with the setup, but I think with my riding style it will be a good part of the track.”
So what of last year’s winner? Mugello may not have gone to plan for the number 46 after he had a motocross crash before his home race, but with a few more days to recover, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) will be hoping to return the favour from the Italian GP and beat Viñales on his territory. A P4 was a good haul of points in the circumstances last time out, but the number 46 isn’t one to race for points – a win would be just what the ‘Doctor’ ordered.
“My condition could be better, to be at 100% I would have needed another week, but unfortunately these races are in a row – it’s a shame, also for the Championship because they’re two of the best races in the Championship so it’s so busy! But fortunately for me I had a good race in Mugello and rode in front of all the fans, I didn’t have pain, but I knew I had to suffer a bit more over race distance because I was struggling more to ride the bike. So I hope here can be better. We need to understand the lines, the right way to ride the new layout, and the potential of the bike. We just need to be more competitive – the target is to be on the podium and have a good race.”
Whilst Movistar Yamaha had a good weekend last time out, it was a tough Italian GP for key rivals the Repsol Honda Team. Marquez came home sixth after struggling with the front, and Pedrosa crashed out on the final lap. They will want that to change at their second home race of the year, with the stakes always higher at home and this year even more so: Marquez took a big hit of points in France, and Pedrosa in Italy. However, both men have good records at Montmelo – and winning ones. The goal for the factory Honda riders will be simple: tip the scales back towards them, and as far as possible.
“Every race is important but a home race it’s always a special feeling with friends, family and my fan club here, so I’ll try and give 100% but also something more, and try and fight for the victory on Sunday. We know we need to work hard because it will be very warm, and we need to choose the right tyres. In Mugello I didn’t feel so bad during the weekend, but on Sunday we spoke a little bit and we realised we couldn’t finish the race with the tyre I liked best. So I chose the tyre with no feeling but to be able to get to the end. Here we hope to have a different feeling with the front. It’s a bit different here now, it’s like it has two parts – it’s only two corners changed but it’s quite a big change. In the test it was hard to find the right line, but I don’t think it will be much different in terms of the overall lap.”
“I’m looking forward to going to Montmelò as I like the track a lot and of course the atmosphere with my fan club and all the fans is always amazing! We will work hard to get back to the level we were at before Mugello and try and make good use of the information we gathered during the test we had at Montmelò in May, which was quite positive. Besides working on the setup, during the test we had the chance to try the new chicane and the modifications carried out to the layout which is more tight than before in that sector, even if the lap times are similar to the past. The surface is really bumpy and that also will be a factor to take into account. We are are ready to give our 100% to get a good result!”.
Another man looking to tip the balance back in his favour will be Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo. After a podium in Jerez for the ‘Spartan’ to follow his teammate’s rostrum finish in Qatar, Lorenzo will be pushing hard for a bigger bite of the points this time out, eager to add some more silverware following Andrea Dovizioso’s win at Mugello. The Catalan GP has always been good for the Mallorcan, much like Jerez, and Lorenzo was the fastest Ducati in the recent test there.
“I haven’t had much time to reflect on the race at Mugello and now we are about to do another race, here in Catalunya where I have always had a good feeling and where I have scored some good results in the past. I think that our sensations at Montmeló could change: we will have to understand how the different bikes adapt to the track modifications, but the reference that we have from the test here a couple of weeks ago is good. I was the fastest Ducati rider and this gives me the confidence to tackle this important race in front of my fans. Anything can happen on this circuit and I’m sure that I will be more competitive here than in Italy.”
Dovizioso will certainly be buoyed by his win as the next race gets in gear so soon after, but is equally sure to keep his same mentality: start positive, and see what the weekend brings.
“The race in Mugello was unreal for us. I really didn’t expect it during the race. My pace was really good – I was a bit surprised and really happy. I could keep the same laptime until the end and the feeling with the bike was great. There were positives and negatives, but a lot of positives. But here is a completely different track and the test wasn’t so good. So I have a big question mark about this weekend. It will be important to see our speed, and if we can confirm it here it will be important. But we know this track is difficult for everyone. The grip isn’t so good, the tyre drops…it’s not so easy to manage, and it’s very hot in the afternoon. It’ll be very difficult for everyone, but for sure we arrive here confident!”
The Independent Teams took some more impressive finishes in Italy, and Catalunya will be another battle royale. At Mugello it was Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) and Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) who shone, but some key protagonists from the season so far will be out to hit back: Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), victim of a last lap wipeout in Tuscany, and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who came home in P7, will be pushing hard to get back in the battle – as well as those coming onto home turf such as Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), who had a tough Italian GP with a jump start and subsequent penalty.
“From Saturday in Mugello we knew I could be fast, but maybe top five or close to the top five – I didn’t expect to fight for the race or the podium. It was good, I think it’s part of my process to be faster in the dry. Here the tyre choice will be crucial, and trying to set up the bike to save the tyre. This year I’ve made a big step in consistency in the races. In Austin I was two seconds behind Dovi, in Jerez the same – and in Mugello the same. So maybe Dovi can wait two seconds for me on Sunday?”
“The result at Mugello has really boosted our morale and we hope to continue working in the same way. We travel to Barcelona with a lot of motivation after the Italian race, where we did a great job in practice and improved our qualifying performance, which we set as a target because it was our weak point, and we completed it with a good race. In Barcelona we have to try to repeat it, to achieve a good position on the grid and on Sunday to go on track with the same mentality to finish the race, which is what makes you more stable and more confident. Montmeló is a track where we tested a few weeks ago and therefore we have references and a good base. The circuit has a very fast first part, it’s the section I like the most. The final section, for safety, is now very slow, very narrow perhaps for MotoGP.”
“The Barcelona round is up next and the track is nice, plus it should be hot. The circuit has a new layout since the terrible accident last year and as a result, it should be much slower than before. Overall, the team and I will need to manage the bike well, do our work and start making a decision about the tyres on Thursday. With the experience that I gained in Mugello, I think that I can set up the M1 better and I will push to be as close as possible to the podium, which is the target. We achieved this in France, so I will always keep this ambition in my mind in order to collect as many points as possible.”
“All the talk this weekend is about the chicane, and I don’t understand the riders that are complaining about it, we chose it! We decided that last year’s chicane wasn’t safe enough so we moved it back. We’ve just got to deal with the situation. It’s a tough race here because the tyres drop so much with the long radius corners. At the test the riders who did long runs dropped four seconds by the end of their simulations, so it’s going to be a difficult race to manage”.
“In other races we were fast and consistent in practice, but I crashed when we’d been quite competitive. In Mugello we improved qualifying a bit and I could start further forward, and then for me it was important to finish. So I just got my rhythm and was in the top five. It was important for me and the team, for motivation and confidence. From the beginning I felt really good on this bike, and in the races and in race pace. Austin was more difficult, but in the rest I felt good. We can finish in good positions, but then crashes are also part of the game. So I’ll try to keep this line we got in Mugello and try and be more consistent, finishing and taking points.”
Back in the battle quite literally should be Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), another local, who is expected to return from injury – subject to being passed fit on Thursday. His Suzuki teammate Andrea Iannone will be back to full strength following illness at Mugello.
“Barcelona is a circuit I´m fond of, and in addition could suit our GSX-RR’s characteristics. It’s a fast circuit with high cornering speeds, thrilling to ride. I’m eager to see how competitive we are able to be. In Mugello we made some improvements and I felt more confident. We will also test in Barcelona after the race; we will try out the improvements and I’m curious to see how they turn out. We are getting stronger and stronger and I´m hoping for a positive race in Cataluña.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Jonas Folger has time to recover from a big crash at the Italian GP during practice to get back to his best.
“The Catalunya track is one that I like and I am feeling very confident ahead of the seventh round of the championship. I’m sure that we can make a step forward from Mugello and solve the issues that we had. It will be interesting because I have heard that the circuit is a bit bumpier this year, but every rider will have to deal with this. I enjoy riding at that track and we have a one day test there afterwards so I am sure that it’s the place where we can amend the troubles that we have had recently. Anyway, I’m excited to get going and I will do my absolute best at the Monster Energy sponsored round.”
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) suffered a DNF with a problem in Italy and he’s also back on home turf, as well as first time Q2 entrant in Italy Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), who took an impressive P11 last time out.
MotoGP 2017 – MotoGP Championship Points Standings
- VINALES Maverick SPA 105 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea ITA 79 Ducati Team
- ROSSI Valentino ITA 75 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
- MARQUEZ Marc SPA 68 Repsol Honda Team
- PEDROSA Dani SPA 68 Repsol Honda Team
- ZARCO Johann FRA 64 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
- LORENZO Jorge SPA 46 Ducati Team
- PETRUCCI Danilo ITA 42 Octo Pramac Racing
- FOLGER Jonas GER 41 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
- CRUTCHLOW Cal GBR 40 LCR Honda
- REDDING Scott GBR 30 Octo Pramac Racing
- MILLER Jack AUS 30 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
- BAUTISTA Alvaro SPA 25 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
- IANNONE Andrea ITA 21 Team Suzuki Ecstar
- BAZ Loris FRA 19 Reale Avintia Racing
- RABAT Tito SPA 18 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
- ESPARGARO Aleix SPA 17 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
- BARBERA Hector SPA 14 Reale Avintia Racing
- ABRAHAM Karel CZE 9 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
- PIRRO Michele ITA 7 Ducati Team
- RINS Alex SPA 7 Team Suzuki Ecstar
- ESPARGARO Pol SPA 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- SMITH Bradley GBR 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- LOWES Sam GBR 2 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
- GUINTOLI Sylvain FRA 1 Team Suzuki Ecstar
Franco Morbidelli leads as Marquez eyes another win on home turf
Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) still leads the World Championship in the intermediate class by a good margin, but the Italian found himself finishing off the podium in his home race, as teammate Alex Marquez fought Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) for the win – and it was veteran Pasini who came out on top at home.
Mugello marked the end of the EG 0,0 Marc VDS team’s 100% win rate in 2017, but what will Catalunya bring? With hotter temperatures and a very different layout – modified, even – the Catalan GP is sure to be another thriller.
Last time on home turf Marquez took the win, in Jerez, and Morbidelli crashed out – but the Italian showed he’s not “win or bin” in Mugello as he came home in a solid P4 for more points towards the Championship. Marquez has also won at the track in Moto3, Lüthi closed in on points last time out, and Pasini took a stunning first victory since 2009 after having shown speed all season – so the showdown will surely strike another match at Montmelo.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is another who will be looking to get back on the podium, as well as Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – victim of a crash for Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) last time out and now in need of points.
Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) was another who crashed out but has pace, as does fellow contender for top rookie Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), who had a top six finish in Italy. Reigning Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was also back from injury with a bang at Mugello, and took a top ten – deepening the field even more as the next race appears on the horizon.
MotoGP 2017 – Moto2 Championship Standings
- Franco MORBIDELLI Kalex ITA 113
- Thomas LUTHI Kalex SWI 100
- Alex MARQUEZ Kalex SPA 78
- Miguel OLIVEIRA KTM POR 70
- Francesco BAGNAIA Kalex ITA 53
- Mattia PASINI Kalex ITA 49
- Dominique AEGERTER Suter SWI 46
- Takaaki NAKAGAMI Kalex JPN 41
- Luca MARINI Kalex ITA 41
- Simone CORSI Speed Up ITA 35
- Xavi VIERGE Tech 3 SPA 32
- Marcel SCHROTTER Suter GER 32
- Lorenzo BALDASSARRI Kalex ITA 26
- Hafizh SYAHRIN Kalex MAL 23
- Fabio QUARTARARO Kalex FRA 13
- Yonny HERNANDEZ Kalex COL 13
- Brad BINDER KTM RSA 13
- Jorge NAVARRO Kalex SPA 13
- Axel PONS Kalex SPA 13
- Sandro CORTESE Suter GER 10
- Ricard CARDUS KTM SPA 7
- Jesko RAFFIN Kalex SWI 5
- Xavier SIMEON Kalex BEL 5
- Isaac VIÑALES Kalex SPA 3
- Danny KENT Suter GBR 3
- Remy GARDNER Tech 3 AUS 2
- Tetsuta NAGASHIMA Kalex JPN 1
Can the Spanish strike back in Moto3?
There was a point to prove at Mugello for a host of riders riding on home turf in the Moto3 field, and the victory went to the home nation as Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) took a stunning first win. Now we race in Spain, with another armada of local riders wanting the same glory in their territory.
Migno tamed the mayhem of Mugello to take his first ever victory, just ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), and some of the hereto key title contenders suffered a little more. Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), the points leader, and Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), a big rival, will be looking to hit back quick at the Catalan GP – and know the crowd will be behind them this time.
There’s a host of riders for that home crowd to cheer: Juanfran Guevara (RBA BOE Racing Team), who took his first podium at Mugello, is going into his home race on a roll – and Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) may not have been on the podium but he was one of those who gained most; now second in the standings as we head for Barcelona. And Mir’s lead, despite a more difficult finish for the Mallorcan at Mugello, remains the same – with compatriot Canet behind him by 34 points.
The Brit amongst the Italians and Spanish, John McPhee (British Talent Team), is also now back in the groove after a solid sixth in Mugello, and after recent races, the fight at the front can surely not count out Platinum Bay Real Estate pairing Marcos Ramirez and Darryn Binder. Or Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers), who always plays a role once the lights go out.
Mugello was one of the races of the millennium. Now, can Montmelo deliver the same?
MotoGP 2017 – Moto3 Championship Points Standings
- Joan MIR Honda SPA 108
- Aron CANET Honda SPA 74
- Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO Honda ITA 71
- Romano FENATI Honda ITA 68
- Andrea MIGNO KTM ITA 68
- John MCPHEE Honda GBR 63
- Jorge MARTIN Honda SPA 60
- Juanfran GUEVARA KTM SPA 50
- Marcos RAMIREZ KTM SPA 43
- Enea BASTIANINI Honda ITA 36
- Nicolo BULEGA KTM ITA 28
- Darryn BINDER KTM RSA 26
- Philipp OETTL KTM GER 22
- Jules DANILO Honda FRA 16
- Bo BENDSNEYDER KTM NED 16