Before bikes on track it's always time to talk about the weekend ahead, and on Thursday at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya it was a packed pre-event Press Conference featuring no less than seven riders: Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined by Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati), Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Moto3™ Championship leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team).
Marquez was first to speak. "Of course I'm happy to arrive in this way to our home GP and yeah after Mugello, you know we arrive in a great moment because normally in Mugello we struggle, this year we struggled but we were there so we’ll see here. In the last years Ducati were very fast, so they will be fast again this year! But we’ll try to do our best and the target is try to work in our garage and on Sunday try to be on the podium. If we have a small chance at the victory we’ll try.
“For me, both the Ducati riders are contenders in the Championship, strong and good opponents, Dovizioso is only 12 points behind me, Danilo 33, everything is very tight, including Rins. We need to keep going try to push and work in the same way as this first part of the season because I feel really good and really confident.”
Next came Dovizioso, who won at the venue two years ago and is, as Marquez says, just 12 points behind him. "For sure 12 points behind Marc at this moment is really positive, we have more points than last year, we’ve been consistent, but we want to get back to winning because if you want to fight with Marc you have to win some races. He’s always there and on a bay day he’s still on the podium and he's able to try and win the race.
“We are there, we are close but we want something more and we're working really hard. I’m happy to be here in Montmelo, it’s a really nice track and I think we can be competitive, but as in other years the temperature on the ground and the tyres have more effect than other places, so we will see. The tyres are bit different to the past and I'm confident but we'll see.”
Rins, as third in the Championship, spoke next. "Well for sure we had an incredible race. When I finished I was very…I thought I was able to win! I fought with all the Ducatis and Hondas but we already knew we would suffer. Positive is we finished less than one second off the win, I enjoyed it a lot, overtaking these guys a lot and it was very fun."
The man who did eventually take the win in Mugello, however, was Danilo Petrucci, who first talked through the incredible weekend there.
"Fortunately, the celebrating has been not so crazy. I was sleeping at my mothers house so it was important to come back on Sunday in a conscious way! It’s been very nice to win in Mugello after a good race. I wasn’t 100%, this was more special but yeah, the feeling after on Monday on Tuesday was to try again because the feeling after crossing the finish line was amazing. I just started to think that Mugello was the first of good racing. The last three races we always fought for the podium and we want to continue like this. I think here will be more difficult than Mugello, we are four maybe six riders who can fight for the win every race."
Next, the Italian also clarified some of his post-race comments about helping his teammate to win the title.
"As always the media just took the second part of my thoughts. I already say Andrea give me a lot of help in the winter, especially on the mental side. I want to put in a nice level, helping one another in competition in training and at home. We speak a lot, if I have the chance to win I will try, there are no team orders, but I can maybe give to Andrea a better version of me, be calmer and more relaxed. This was the meaning of helping Andrea. Be there fighting for the podium, two Ducatis, will be very important for me."
Viñales took over from there; honest ahead of track action although also optimistic. “It’s the same problems. In practice we can show our speed and potential, like in Mugello, then in races sometimes we lost more than a second. It’s frustrating because we prepare the bike well and at race time it changes so much, but I hope for good grip here in Montmelo. It’s a track I really like and last year wasn’t too bad actually and I think this year we have a bit more potential, so I will try and give my best as always, cross our fingers to have good grip in the race and to be able to show our potential. If we can achieve a good result for us it’s important. As an objective, it’s to improve on Mugello.”
He also spoke about his experience at the pre-event, riding a 1970s two-stroke Yamaha up Tibidabo. “It was a different experience, it was a really long time since I rode a two-stroke and I stalled it first time! The bike was strange to ride, skinny and long, so very different to what we’re riding now but it was a great experience. So thanks to MotoGP for the opportunity!”
It was Aleix Espargaro who spoke next, at a true home Grand Prix for the Granollers-born rider. “Pol and myself were born just 5km from here, so it’s always great to come to our home track. I hope we can enjoy a good weekend, the weather looks fine and the track will be full with the crowd. We’re aiming for a good weekend, trying to be a bit closer to the top guys because we’ve been struggling at the start of the season but I hope the positive vibes of the home crowd will help a little bit.
“It’s not enough, my 100%, but it’s the maximum I can do. I try to give everything I have from FP1 to the end of the race but this year it’s not enough, to get in the top ten is very difficult. We need help from Aprilia but I know in Noale they are working hard, so I need to be patient, do my part the best possible, and work hard and wait for new parts to come to improve the bike.”
Finally, Canet took to the mic. Heading into his second home GP of the season he's three points clear in the Championship, so it's as close as ever in the lightweight class. "It’s a really difficult fight for Championship, the gap is small with Dalla Porta but we’ll try to do our best possible to fight for the victory this weekend. It’s difficult because young riders, on every lap we fight for the lead, and that’s more difficult. Normally I like to stay at the rear of the group, but in Mugello for example for me it was really difficult to follow the pace of those guys and in the end the position was positive but we need to improve a bit this weekend.”
That's it from Thursday at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, exactly 70 years since the Championship began. Tune in for the rest of the weekend with track action beginning on Friday morning and lights out for the MotoGP™ race on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +2).
Top photo L-R: Espargaro, Petrucci, Dovizioso, Marquez, Rins, Viñales, Canet