Before go-time for the GoPro British Grand Prix, we had a full house of seven riders in the pre-event Press Conference, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) joined by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and the returning Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team). The new surface, the competitive field and what to expect in the weekend ahead meant there was plenty to talk about.
Marquez spoke first. "Yeah of course, looking forward to the Silverstone GP and this weekend because as you know I have some good luck, and I was unlucky some years. Anyway, we’ve had great races, it’s a circuit I like, one of our weak points on this race track was the bumps but looks like they’ve resurfaced in a good way, it looks nice from a bicycle! But tomorrow we will check on the bike and yeah apart from that try to concentrate, stay focused and try to fight on Sunday for the best position."
And is the number 93 expecting tough competition? Most definitely. "Especially here, we saw last year in practice Viñales was fast, all the Yamaha riders were fast, but we weren’t far away. I think this year with the new surface it will be different, we need to understand the tyres, the grip, the level of our bike…we have a better engine this year and here it will be a small help. Of course Dovi will be there, he’s second in the Championship and will try to push, but our target is to finish on the podium and get points for the championship. The forecast looks nice so we’ll keep going!"
Dovizioso was next on the mic, with the Italian actually the most recent winner at Silverstone given his victory in 2017. And he's the most recent winner overall after that stunner in Spielberg.
"Yes for sure the last race was amazing, a really nice battle from the first lap to the end with Marc, so we are so happy about that, we needed that victory. I’m happy to be here, I think it’s one of the best races in the Championship, the track is really nice. Hopefully without bumps it will be even nicer so I’m excited to try the new asphalt."
So is it the British weather that Dovizioso has had on his side in the UK? His first premier class win came at Donington and since he's had a fair few successes...
"I don’t like the weather so much! But I have always had good luck in this country, I’ve been pretty fast in England most of the time, I don’t know why. Donington was a special track and a special first victory but in Silverstone I’ve always felt good, it’s a really difficult track but I enjoy riding here."
Rossi is another of the long list of previous winners at Silverstone. Incidentally, he also took his first premier class win in the UK at Donington as well, and after a tougher run of things in 2019, the 'Doctor' seems to be back on track.
"Yeah for us in the last two races from Brno we start in a better way. After we did another step, we worked well and we were quite competitive in the race. Considering Austria on paper is one of the worst tracks for us, it was quite good. We arrive here, hope to continue in that way because anyway Austria was not so bad, but I wasn’t fast enough to find the podium so we need to continue to work. Silverstone is a fantastic track. It’s great track, it’s a big track, everything is very fast and technical. Everybody is waiting for the asphalt tomorrow. If they've done a good job with less bumps and good grip, it will be very fun to ride here. And also we wait for the weather because in 2017 it was a fantastic weekend, a great weekend. Last year, unfortunately, it was a lot more difficult. We hope it’s similar to 2017!
"In the past I had good races and arrived on the podium, so this is the target. About the top speed we know we’re not fantastic but on paper in Austria it’s more important than here. The important thing is to find a good feeling with the bike, a good balance, and be ready for Sunday.”
Rookie Fabio Quartararo, meanwhile, also showed there's more to Austria than just being the fastest in a straight line. After his podium there, the vibes are good on the way into Silverstone.
"I'm really happy about arriving here at a track that I really like. Like Valentino said, I think everybody is waiting for the new tarmac, I think it should be a good track for us. Suits us better than Austria so I can’t wait for tomorrow.
"The goal is to be top Rookie, we’re leading but the Championship isn’t over. Now we’re improving every race, we’re learning, so that’s still the main goal for this year. But in Austria the goal was to be in front but we didn’t expect to be on the podium, so if we have the opportunity to be on the podium we’ll fight for it."
Quartararo is top rookie and he's also leading the Independent Team rider standings at the moment, ahead of the next man to talk: Jack Miller. The Australian spoke about the weekend ahead, and how it feels to arrive with a new contract in his pocket.
"I'm definitely coming into this weekend with a different mindset that’s for sure. This Thursday has been easier, let’s just say that. It’s been nice you know, the Day of Champions has been really nice to see all the fans but no it’s good to be back, like you say I had a chance to make it back to back podiums last weekend, I had really strong pace all weekend but threw it away a bit too early. Had a good feeling this weekend last year, hopefully this year is a lot better and as the boys said the asphalt should be amazing, we’ve heard some decent reviews about the asphalt so I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and I think it’s shaping up to be a great weekend."
It has sometimes been a more difficult track for the Australian, however, including a high-profile crash with then-teammate Cal Crutchlow a few years ago. But this year Miller is positive ahead of the weekend.
"As long as I don’t have any British road blocks in my way I should be alright! It’s not the best track for me to be honest, I always hated it until last year, with the new asphalt it was like a different track and I loved it. And I’m looking forward to it now with the reviews it’s had, I can’t wait to get out there. Should be a good weekend."
Home hero Crutchlow was the next man on the mic, and the weekend is a fitting landmark: it'll be his 150th Grand Prix start on Sunday.
"I only got told at the last race that it would be my 150th Grand Prix start – I didn’t think I’d done 150 Grands Prix and I definitely haven’t finished 150! I’m looking forward to it, Silverstone is a good race for me, I’ll give my all for the 20-lap race."
Crutchlow was also asked about the visit he paid to Chelsea F.C. on Wednesday, and dabbled a bit in the beautiful game before.
"It was was good! I’ve been to a few football stadiums in my time so to go back when I wasn’t playing or watching a game…it was nice to go round Stamford Bridge and get taken round by Kepa…he’s a big MotoGP fan, obviously he supports the Spaniards but it was a really good day."
Finally, it was time to welcome back Jorge Lorenzo. After a long period of recovery after his crash in which he cracked vertebrae and got sidelined, he's ready to race.
"I'm happy to be back. Finally, after long time. A very long time, no? I’ve never spent so long out of racing competition for about the 17 years I’ve been here. I’m back. What was very difficult at the beginning, the first two weeks was very difficult, I wasn’t recovering fast, it was slow. Luckily after three weeks the recovery has been faster, I have been able to do some physical training again. With some pain after the work during the night, every time the pain was less and less. I think this is the right moment to come back to the bike because you can lose a lot of speed, a lot of pace if you stay so much time out of competition.
"Honestly with my injury theoretically you need three months to recover completely, I’m about two months on now from the crash and obviously I still have some pain, but I feel ready to ride again and to try. I’m not here to fight for the win or podium or top five, but as soon as I go on the bike I want to start getting the pace I need to get good performances again, like I started to show before the crash."
That he did, and it's a good venue for the number 99 to return to. He's got three wins at Silverstone and was on pole last season, and although it's about getting back up to speed, the venue is certainly one the five-time World Champion knows his way around.
Lorenzo rejoins the field on track from Friday morning, with the race on Sunday at 13:00 (GMT +1).
Top photo L-R: Crutchlow, Quartararo, Dovizioso, Marquez, Rossi, Miller, Lorenzo