Ahead of the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, the pre-event Press Conference brought Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), Valentino Rossi and teammate Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) together to talk about the weekend ahead – with both the MotoGP™ and Moto2™ titles in play for the first time.
First to speak was Marquez, as he arrives 33 points ahead of Dovizioso and has his first shot at the title: “One of the main targets is try to finish, and try to be on the same level with the same mentality but obviously you feel a little bit different and it’s a special weekend. But on the other hand, I have the same motivation and mentality and I’ll try to push in the practices to the maximum to prepare the race, and we’ll see how we can fight and finish on Sunday. A lot of riders are fast here, and we did a lot of laps here during the preseason test so it will be a tough weekend. Here in the past I’ve had some ups and downs, it’s not one of my best tracks. We will see where we can arrive this weekend. But I have a good advantage, there are two races remaining, and we’ll try to be on a good level and think about the Championship. But if I need to fight, I will fight.”
Andrea Dovizioso similarly had some fighting talk, saying he’ll try everything to try and keep the title open: “After a bad result at Phillip Island, I went to Langkawi for three days, and I enjoyed the weather and the beach to be ready for this weekend. We know it’s difficult but the Championship is open and we’ll try everything. We have to be ready in all conditions. Last year it was an amazing victory and battle with Valentino and Iannone. I have good memories and I really enjoy riding this track. In the past in the dry we’ve never been very competitive, but I expect it will be different this year. We’ll try and get the best result, and then we’ll see what happens with Marc and the other riders. Before we approached the weekend looking to win the race, and we won’t change that.”
With a two-horse race for the crown now, the pressure is off for Viñales. And after a big step forward at Phillip Island, the rider from Roses is confident ahead of Sepang – and could complicate matters at the front. “I enjoyed Phillip Island a lot. I didn’t expect to be on the podium because I lost some seconds when I had contact with Iannone but I pushed to the limit. But we recovered the feeling, especially with the front tyre, and that’s important for Sepang. Let’s see what we can do this weekend but I’m convinced we can do another great job. This is a track I really like, I’ve always been fast with good results, and also it’s good for Yamaha. And I feel good in the tough conditions. We were struggling all year in the wet and then in 20 minutes we found the key! Here there should be some rain so it will be good to prove we’ve made that step.”
A lot of the riders talked about the Australian GP and the incredible battle, and that included Rossi. The most successful rider at the venue with six wins, the Italian says he very much likes the track – but it’s the hardest weekend of the year: “It was a great pleasure to fight in that race at Phillip Island, it was very fun. And it was an important result, especially for me after injury, and for the team. We arrive here in good shape but here it’s completely different. I like this track a lot, I was on a 250 when we rode here for the first time and it’s a great pleasure to ride on a MotoGP bike. But It’s like the bad weather has followed us everywhere all season! We’ll try to be competitive in all conditions. In the wet this year I’m not as strong as last year, but we hope to be strong. This is the most demanding race of the season because it’s very hot.”
Johann Zarco, meanwhile, thinks the Australian GP marked an important step forward – and knows he arrives back in Malaysia with a lot more experience compared to testing: “When I watched Phillip Island, seeing all those overtakes…I’m happy I was part of them, fighting at the top level – and I’m happy with the weekend we had, we had a good improvement that I hope we can have here too. If I can find the same feeling, I would like to be part of the fight for the podium or even for victory. I keep some hope of being back here on Sunday! Being fast at Phillip Island was a special emotion, but here is a bit different because we tested here. And I can feel the experience I’ve gained from February to October.”
After Marquez and Dovizioso held court to begin the Press Conference, Franco Morbidelli was the final contributor in the first round of questions. Not quite with the same advantage as Marquez, it is still 29 points – and gives him a high chance of taking the title this weekend. Calm and collected as always, the Italian says he’ll try and keep it business as usual: “I will try to face this weekend as I usually do. I know it’s going to be hard and it won’t be a usual GP but I’ll try to stay calm, do my job and set up the bike to be as fast as possible. I really like Sepang, especially with the new surfaces with less bumps. It’s really nice to ride around here. Hopefully it will be dry or completely wet, I prefer clear conditions. In Australia both KTMs were really fast, I tried to get more points and battle with Binder but couldn’t beat him at the end. But third was good for the Championship.”
The Championship, in both MotoGP™ and Moto2™, is sure to remain the talk of the weekend. Now track action begins on Friday morning, before everything is on the line on Sunday.