It was a big day at the Pramac Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland on Thursday as Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) announced his retirement, and that dominated headlines as much as the upcoming race weekend. Ahead of the Press Conferences – both Pedrosa’s and the traditional Thursday affair, there was also an extra activity for some as Tom Lüthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing), Philipp Öttl (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing) and Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) swapped their racing gloves for pick-axes and hard hats to take a tour of the historic Oelsnitz / Erzgebirge coal mine, once an important economic cornerstone of Saxony. After the tour the riders also had some lunch and answered questions from the media.
The next to answer questions was then Pedrosa, whose Press Conference at 16:00 confirmed his retirement.
“Next year I won’t compete in the Championship, I’ll finish my career in MotoGP this season,” said the three-time World Champion. “It’s a decision I’ve thought about for a long time and it’s a hard decision because this is the sport I love but despite having good opportunities to keep racing, I feel like I don’t live racing with the same intensity as before and I now have different priorities in my life.
“I would like to express how fortunate I feel to have had this experience and these opportunities in my life, it’s been an amazing life to have been racing for such an important team and in front of all the fans. I achieved way more than I expected and I’m very, very proud of what I’ve done in the sport. I’ve fulfilled my dream of becoming a racer and that’s something that I didn’t expect when I was a kid watching TV, watching riders in the World Championship. I would like to take this time to say thanks to Dorna and to Honda for giving me this opportunity way back in 1999, and to all my sponsors who’ve been with me throughout my career. I would like also to say thanks to my family, and to all the fans who supported me throughout my career and through the thick and thin, who helped me sending so many messages to overcome difficult things in the past.”
It was also announced by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta that Pedrosa would be inducted into the MotoGP™ Legends Hall of Fame at the season finale in Valencia.
Then, it was time for the pre-event Press Conference, with reigning Champion and eight-in-a-row Sachsenring winner Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) joined by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), his teammate Maverick Viñales, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) and Assen podium finisher Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Marquez spoke first, explaining his feelings ahead of the race.
“Everyone’s talking about eight wins in a row but I feel less pressure after Assen,” says the number 93. “At Assen I was a bit worried because there we struggle a bit but this year was different, we were competitive from the beginning and we increased our lead in the Championship. We’ll see how it works over the weekend – the tyres and all these things – and of course the target is to win on Sunday but we need to think, and manage it. If for some reason that’s impossible, it’s time to take points and go into the summer break in a good way.”
Rossi, meanwhile, had a more difficult weekend at the track last season – and will be looking to change that. “The race in Assen was one of the best, it was a small shame to not be on the podium…it was good to be there and try to fight, and special to try and arrive on the podium but in a race like that everything can happen and with that amount of overtaking everyone gives the maximum corner by corner. It’s a shame about the podium but it was a great race. I’m second in the Championship but I’m already a bit far from Marc…but we have to concentrate race by race. Last year here it was a bad race for us and we struggled, so we have to give the maximum to be competitive.”
Teammate Viñales agrees it was good to be in the fight in the Dutch GP – and thinks this year’s visit to the Sachsenring could be a successful one: “It was nice to be back at the front and battling, I think the bike improved a lot, especially for my riding style, and here’s a good track for me. Last year here we struggled a bit but we came back from 11th to fourth so I think we can do a good job.”
For ‘DesmoDovi’ the story of the season has been a slightly different one. More competitive, he says, but with more hurdles. “This season is a completely different story to last year. We’re in a bit of a better situation than last year because we’re faster on almost every track – but unfortunately we’ve had too many zeros, which is bad. But before Assen I was confident and I am also confident here – it’s not the best track for us but I think we can be competitive, you can only understand what you can do during the weekend. I think we’re in a better situation than the past, so we have to keep working and improve a bit in how we manage the tyre because that’s not as good as last year, so we’ll focus on that.”
Miller, meanwhile, had been Mr Consistency over the first part of the season – before two DNFs. Back in the top ten at Assen, he’s optimistic for Germany: “To finish the race at Assen was good after Barcelona and Mugello…we started the season so well and it seemed it was going really well. So it was nice to cross the line but also a bit painful to watch that awesome battle going on ahead and to not be a part of it, like a carrot dangling in front. I’m looking forward to this weekend and I’ve gone well here in the past but on a MotoGP bike it’s a different story, it’s tight and technical and I’m looking forward to riding the Ducati here. We just have to attack it the right way.”
Attacking the right way was Rins’ modus operandi in the Dutch GP, and the Suzuki rider took his best result to date in second. Now, he just wants to repeat it – with a tougher start to the season than expected, but a very competitive machine: “We hope it will be more consistent in the second half of the season. We started the season with good performance, but since Qatar I’ve crashed a lot, but always fighting in the first or second group, which is important. I feel like our bike is very competitive and working well at the moment, the Suzuki guys want to win and I’ll try and do my best, and try to do a good race like two weeks ago.”
Can Rins – or anyone – defeat the King of the Sachsenring? Watch them try this weekend, with practice beginning from 9:00 (GMT +2) on Friday before lights out for the premier class at 14:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday.
Pedrosa retires, riders react
Marc Marquez: “Dani is one of the most important riders in MotoGP. I want to say thanks to him because he was one of the heroes for all the kids following our dreams, he was especially one of my references. I’ve shared the box with him and many good moments, and it’s always difficult to understand but everyone will arrive at that moment. So thanks, because I learned a lot from him and as Carmelo said, he will be a Legend and he deserves it, it’s a pleasure to be his teammate.”
Valentino Rossi: “It’s a great shame for MotoGP because our sport loses one of the best riders in the last few years, and it’s also a shame he never won a World Championship in MotoGP, I think he deserved minimum one. It’s quite early but it’s a personal choice, he thought a lot about it…but it’s a great shame for everyone.”
Maverick Viñales: “He was our reference when we were just kids, when I started with bikes he was starting to win in 125s. He was always a point of reference, I had a good relationship with him and it’s been a pleasure riding with him, with one of your idols. So I just wish the best to him, it will be a shame to not race him anymore because he was one of the best so I just congratulate him for his long career.”
Andrea Dovizioso: “For me he was always a strong rival, I arrived in the World Championship the year after him. I remember one race at Mugello in 2001, I was a wildcard, and it started to rain. We didn’t have any experience and we were together, last, like I said without experience…I remember that part of the race really well. And he was my teammate at HRC, and in 125s and 250s he was always a bit faster than me. I tried to study and learn a lot from him, from his talent, his way of working, and he was always a big reference for me for a long time.”
Jack Miller: “He is already a legend, a multiple World Champion in lighter classes and for what he has done in the premier class. It’s been a pleasure to ride behind him on track – I haven’t battled him so much because he’s usually too far in front! But he’s had an amazing career and I hope he finds something after racing that he can be so passionate about.”
Alex Rins: “I really appreciate what he’s done over his career and what he’s done in MotoGP, so many races…winning and being on the podium. It’s a pleasure to be on track with him, I hope all the best for him.”