The scene was set for a weekend to remember as Marc Marquez led riders through the streets of historic Graz on MotoGP’s return to Austria.
It’s almost time for the lights to go out for the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, and ahead of the track action at the Red Bull Ring – Spielberg, MotoGP made a pit stop in the picturesque city of Graz. It is almost 20 years since the FIM MotoGP World Championship last visited the country, and the pre-event parade through the streets of the southern city proved the perfect homecoming before action moves to the new layout of the nearby Red Bull Ring.
The festivities began on Tuesday as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) became a tour guide for the day, with fellow riders Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Moto3 duo Brad Binder and Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Moto2 riders Sandro Cortese and Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) entrusting their sightseeing to the double MotoGP world champion – with seemingly successful results as the key landmarks of the city were ticked off the list – and some tourist photos snapped.
Wednesday dawned with slightly damper weather but spirits higher than ever as Marquez and Bradl prepared to lead Binder, Bendsneyder, Folger and Cortese through the streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, truly welcoming MotoGP back to Austria.
After a media Q&A session in the morning, the riders then fired up their engines and set off on the parade route – beginning at Café Promenade and taking in the best of Graz before the finish line at Hauptplatz – to give fans a glimpse of what is in store in the Austrian GP and kick off the weekend proper.
The spectacular scenery of both the city of Graz and the surroundings of Spielberg should make for a weekend to remember at the Austrian GP upon MotoGP’s return to the country, with the new layout of the Red Bull Ring ready to challenge the world’s fastest riders and another 25 precious world championship points up for grabs. Free Practice begins on Friday morning, as the grid get back to business after the summer break.
“I used the summer break to relax, going on holiday with friends. It was important, of course, to analyze the first half of the season and prepare well for the second half. I am really looking forward to the weekend. There are a lot of fans here, and I have seen a few with Marquez t-shirts on, which motivates me, of course. The Austrian countryside is wonderful. Of course I love Wiener schnitzel, and if I win on Sunday, there is going to be schnitzel at the team dinner!”
“My father won the Austrian Grand Prix at the Salzburgring. He also raced at Spielberg, but a few things have changed since then. He is coming to the Red Bull Ring for the first time to watch the whole thing. The dialect here is very similar to what I am used to back in Bavaria, which makes it something of a second home race for me. I definitely feel really happy in Austria. The atmosphere is going to be super, it will all be going on and we can look forward to a great race.”
“On paper, the Red Bull Ring looks easy, but when you go out on it for the first time, you soon see that the course has its own challenges. It’s extremely quick, which makes it difficult to push it that last extra bit you need. You really need a lot of experience here. A driver can quickly do very well here, but can also quickly lose out here. You definitely can’t overdo things, especially in the first sector, when it comes to braking and accelerating.”
Andy Meklau, Red Bull Ring’s race director
“I took a good look at the circuit today. Everything has been wonderfully spruced up. The weather is also going to be a factor at the weekend. We can definitely look forward to a unique atmosphere. For me personally, I am about to fulfill a dream. I have been fortunate enough to celebrate victories here as a driver, and I now have the privilege to work as a race director!”
Gustl Auinger, founder of the Red Bull Rookies Cup
“Every spectator can sense the fascination of MotoGP straight away. It is something very special to push a motorbike to its limit. You can see the rear wheel spring up when braking, you can see the knees and elbows rubbing the tarmac on turns, you can see the bikes going berserk down from the peak and front wheels rising. I am convinced, as we all are – that this is a sport of heroes, and they are going to be welcomed with open arms! We all can’t wait for it to finally get going. I am sure I can afford to make a guarantee that it won’t be boring for a single minute.”
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