MotoGP rider conference kicks off the Portimão Test
The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve will host the 2020 FIM MotoGP World Championship season finale, so to gather a little experience of the new track ahead of its debut, a two-day test of the venue is taking place across Wednesday and Thursday.
The factories are represented at the test by Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), Michele Pirro (Ducati), Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki), Dani Pedrosa (KTM), Stefan Bradl (Honda) and Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia), and on Wednesday a number of current MotoGP riders will also be on track on street machinery in order to familiarise themselves with the venue. Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders Aleix Espargaro and teammate Bradley Smith will also test on Wednesday.
Riders on street machinery on Day 1
Joan Mir and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar)
Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team)
Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing)
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu)
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)
Brad Binder and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
Johann Zarco and Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing)
Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team)
Riders talk ahead of Autodromo Internacional do Algarve Test
Before we take to the track, however, a Press Conference set proceedings in gear as the test riders sat down to answer some questions from the media. Here are a few highlights, from the venue in question to the incredibly tight fight for the 2020 crown and more
“I’m really excited to come back again to ride the Yamaha M1, because it’s been nine months, almost a year without riding and I’ve never been so long without riding, so for sure it will be quite difficult to adapt again to these speeds and bikes! But we have two days on a new track, that’s also important because it’s not only new but also especially with the up and down here, it’ll be important not to make silly mistakes at the beginning, do kilometres and try to give maximum information to Yamaha for the official riders. If I understand well, we’ll be on the same bike as Sepang, we weren’t able to bring the new bike so we’ll use this test especially to get the best gear box for the official riders and to test the tyres, to understand in these conditions with this tarmac, which are the best for time attack and race distance. This is the main target, and probably also to play a bit with the set up, I will have the 2019 bike and the setup is a bit different so that’s a little less important than gear box and tyres. It’s a very tough Championship, very equal, now Joan Mir and Fabio opened a little gap to the others but till the last race there were 4 riders, 6 or 7 with real options for fighting for the title. Now looks like the strongest will be Fabio and Joan. It’s interesting as there are a few races to the end and I’m having a lot of fun watching the races on TV!”
“I’m curious to try the track with a MotoGP bike because before I was on a 600 Supersport machine ten year ago. It’s a beautiful track but I don’t know with MotoGP. I’m curious because MotoGP is very fast. And anyway, this circuit is up and down. Tomorrow and Thursday I’m curious to try and help the official riders have a good base for the race with the gearbox, tyres and new asphalt… and to try the bike here! It depends on the view, for Bagania the tyre helps a lot. For Dovi, it’s the opposite. This is the problem at the moment, this new Michelin tyre is difficult to understand especially for Dovi because Dovi is very fast in the braking, at the moment it’s impossible to use this weapon to go fast. Pecco last year had a very difficult time because the tyre didn’t help in braking but at the moment Pecco uses the bike very well, like Jack, and Dovi struggles but the championship isn’t over and we continue to do work to go fast every race and it’s possible to still battle for the Championship.”
“It’s a great track here, I’ve been here quite a few times with WorldSBK and it’s one of the best tracks, really, really nice. I’m looking forward to experiencing the new track surface because that was the only problem before, it was quite bumpy. Now hopefully this is better, so it’s a great track and I think it will be a good track for us with the flowing line. I think the riders will have a lot of fun here, it’s like a rollercoaster. It’s really nice to ride, lots of blind spots, fast, very interesting track; very technical. It’s difficult to predict MotoGP this year! It’s been unbelievable so far, and the Suzukis are doing great! Alex unfortunately was badly injured and he was very brave at the start of the season but it took him some time to get going, and Joan is now is a real force in the Championship. For us it’s going really good. It would be great to get a victory but I think that’s coming soon. So it’s a very exciting time because it’s so tight, everyone can have a chance, and I think it’s going to be an exciting end of the season. I think the Suzuki is a very, very good bike this year. It was good already but this year with the new chassis and engine we’ve made another step forward so the bike is now very good at many different tracks – even in Austria which on paper was supposed to be the worst track, it was very good there; performed really well. With the flowing line 100% we’ll have a small deficit in engine power so when we use high gears especially, we’ll have a small disadvantage there and we understand that, but the bike has qualities that are able to shine, and this year the new tyre seems to gel really well with our bike as well. All that together plus Alex and Joan being very strong riders as well, it’s really exciting for us. The bike looks good and not just in pictures! On the track it’s really fast.”
“It’s my first time here, of course the key tomorrow is try to learn the track, get a bit of feeling on the corners and how to learn the blind spots of this track cause there is a lot of elevation change, in many points you won’t see the corners, so you learn how to approach them and where to brake etc, you need some laps. At the same time we’ll be trying the tyres and we have some different tyres, today and the race in November will be different conditions but we have to try different tyres. See the speeds, to sort the gear box and get the feeling on the first day… and from there, reset again for the second day! I think KTM is very happy with the progress from last year, it was really positive to see the step. The key I think it’s a more settled package on the bike, a little more confidence with the bike for the riders and also the championship is… one race you can be on top and the next struggling, this also affects the results for everyone. So far it’s good for KTM, this step from last year, and I see that maybe now the Championship will be more stable towards the end, so let’s see how it’ll look at the end… Every race we see a lot of change in the performance of the riders and bikes, I think from now on it’ll be a bit more stable especially the guys who see their chance closer to finish well. Maybe from now on we can guess the results a bit more. So far it’s been so unpredictable that it’s hard to say!”
“2020 is busy so far! I’m fine again after small surgery, I’m back to a good level and feeling good, and ready for this test! But I think I won’t have the chance to do two full days because I have to travel to France and arrive in time for FP1. I think it will be the same as the others adapting – getting first impressions tomorrow, fundamental things first and there will be a lot we need for the gearbox, electronics and tyres, it’s not going to be things to test even if we wanted to use it. But trying to – like the others said – step by step get the first information, this is true. The Honda isn’t the easiest bike at the moment, and all manufacturers are competitive and even hundredths can make a big difference. We’re not so far so small things can make a big difference.”
“This bike has improved a lot, it’s a step forward compared to the old one but we need to do more kilometers. The bike is completely different and a very good step forward. Aleix is a very fast rider and knows very well what we need in the bike, and Aprilia works hard every day to try and help him and Bradley. Step by step we’ve started to improve the level of the bike but we need a little bit more time. I rode here two years ago with WorldSBK, I like the track a lot and can’t wait to try it on a MotoGP bike. I think the bike has a good engine and is good mid corner. I think Aprilia have made a good step and we need to try and make the best of that here.”
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