Ahead of track action getting underway for the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon on Friday, the pre-event press conference got us in gear at MotorLand, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) joined by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Moto2™ Championship leader Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) to debrief and look forward.First to speak was Marquez. “The target this weekend is to be at the top of the podium or be on the podium, that’s the main target, then try and fight for the top step. Last weekend was hard for us all weekend but in the end we did it, finished at the top and took 25 points in the Championship, and increased the gap between me and Dovi. We try to enjoy every race and why not here. The layout I like, it won’t be a nice and easy weekend, it will be tough but I hope it will be a nice weekend.
“The target is the same like in the first race of the season. Try to be on the podium from here until the end of the season. This was the target in the first race, we’ll continue with the same mentality try to approach the race weekends in the same way and give 100% in practice and in races, it doesn’t matter who is there or which circuit, but we’ll try to fight for the victory.”
Next, we heard from Dovizioso, who had a tougher Misano considering he won there last year – but thinks MotorLand may be chance to bounce back. “It was a bit difficult, but after the test we knew it was impossible to fight for the victory or podium like the year before. But we were focused on what we could do and practice by practice we improved, were on the second row…in the end I’m not happy about the sixth place because I was able, with my speed, to fight for fourth, but everyone was struggling with the front and nobody was able to try to brake one metre later because everybody locked the front. But apart from that the gap to Marc and Quartararo was big, so we can’t be happy about that. But we found strange conditions in Misano compared to last year and we suffered a lot.
“Here in Aragon it is not the best track for us, but last year we had a really good battle with Marc and the Suzuki so I think we can be more competitive than Misano. We want to get back on the podium but we know how tough it is, the competitors are stronger and stronger, also the Yamaha riders in the last few races, and especially in Misano, were fast. So, like always, we will be a big group and we have to work in the right way like there. They were fast, like always we’ll be a big group and try and work in the right way.”
The Italian was also asked how it feels facing a 93-point deficit in the Championship. Is it now a fight for second? He says so. “I think this mentality started already some races ago, because yes we had some bad luck in some races and it wasn’t our fault, but at the end every race Marc fights for the victory and he´s the only rider able to do that. So if we want to fight for the Championship we have to do something more than what we did; that is clear. So we have to improve our situation. For sure the second position in the Championship is very important and we will try until the end. But we know Yamaha and especially Rins can be really strong until the end of the season. So we have to be careful about that, take points, and work for the future. It´s the best thing we can do, and this is the mentality.”
Rins was the next man on the mic, and for him? You can’t really get more of a home race, as he hails from very close to the track. But first on the agenda; debriefing Misano. “The GP in Misano was a little bit difficult. The tarmac changed a lot since year, I think everyone said something about that. Anyway, I was struggle to overtake Pol, the whole race, then when I finally overtook him, I made a small mistake and crashed. It was completely my fault but anyway, we are ready to fight again here. This is my home GP, so I will try to give my maximum to do the best.
“For sure, every time we go on track, I try to give my maximum, to put my Suzuki on the top and last year we did a fantastic race, the whole race, until two or three laps until the end, with the front group, fighting with Iannone, Dovi, with Marc. So, I will try this year to improve this result. As Dovi said it will be difficult because year by year everyone is getting closer, all the manufacturers, all the riders, like Fabio, he’s super fast, so we will try to finish on the top.”
Another key threat could prove Maverick Viñales, and he took the mic next. “Yes for sure Misano was a really good race for us. Despite two or three laps we were in a good rhythm, really good, recovering something at the end. For us it means a lot for us, it means the bike is improving, I am improving with the bike and we want to keep the momentum. Aragon is a good track for me, I really like it. Some years ago I was always fighting for the victory or the podium. So it’s a track where I will give my maximum and for sure I will do that this time.
And has the number 12 sized up Quartararo? “Normally, I don’t know, there is like, corner 8-9 where he is faster than us, but we are faster in 11-12, so it’s like this. We are battling tenth by tenth always and that is very nice because it motivates us to go faster and brings Yamaha to the top. Every time we fight to be a bit faster together we increase the level and we reached at Silverstone and now at Misano to fight for the win.”
Speaking of Quartararo, the Frenchman was up next. “For sure Misano has been the best race so far during my career and coming into this race it´s a track that we saw the Yamaha in the past, like Maverick in 2017 on pole position, also Valentino was on the front row, so looks the bike is going well. It´s a track that I like so like always we will give one hundred percent, and yes I hope to fight in a good position.
“From the beginning of the year the goal was to be Rookie of the Year because last year was not an easy year for us and even in the Sepang test Bagnaia was second, more than a second faster than us. And we stayed calm, worked step by step with the team, finally we arrived in Qatar and we were ready and from there we make every time step by step, improving, learning from the top riders. And I never expected to make already pole position, front rows and four podiums, so now I want to keep going on podiums but we need to stay calm because we are rookies and every time we going to a track that is new for us. So I keep working and learning every time.”
Finally, Moto2™ rider Alex Marquez spoke. Like his brother, he’s leading his Championship – and it’s also a good venue for him. But first up, debriefing Misano: “It’s true that after practice I expected to finish a bit closer but we weren’t so far. In Sector 1 I was suffering a lot and during the race it was not easy. But we know our problems now a bit. In the coming races it could be a little bit better but my target is to be in every condition, on every lap, stronger and stronger, trying to improve some points, but we still have a good gap from second. We need to push. I know that this will be long but if we want to win this Championship, we need to go race by race and try to get the maximum points that we can in every one.”
And now it’s Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox P 40) on the chase, is that something surprising? It would seem not. “I already expected it. From the beginning of the year he was really strong, he had some problems after Argentina. But I only focus on me and try to improve my points. I know this will be long, with 6 races to go, there can be a lot of changes in the championship, there is a lot of up and down from everybody. I’m happy because from Argentina we are battling for the podium in every race and this consistency can give us the podium, so we need to keep the level like this, try to be strong in every condition and we’ll see. The season has been really good but we need to keep pushing like this.”
The field start pushing again in practice on Friday, with the MotoGP™ race at the slightly earlier time of 13:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday.
Top photo L-R: A Marquez, Viñales, Dovizioso, Marquez, Rins, Quartararo