The pre-event Press Conference gets us revved up to go racing on the Riviera di Rimini.
It’s that time of week again… Press Conference time! Ahead of the Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was joined by second overall Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), nine-time World Champion and hometown hero Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), winner last time out Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), the returning Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Moto2™ Championship leader Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) to talk business ahead of the upcoming weekend.
Here are the key quotes from those present, with Quartararo up first:
FABIO QUARTARARO: “Honestly it’s still difficult to believe that after three bad races we’re still leading the Championship. It’s crazy. But really happy to be here in Misano, last year was really positive, we have been testing in 2019 two days before. Last year everything was really good, pace was good and fighting for the win until the last lap but let’s see this year. I’m confident because it’s a track that I like, I feel comfortable, let’s see. But for sure I will give my maximum to fight for victory and the podium.
“[We had] many troubles in Austria. We struggled a lot but let’s see. We will have these problems but this track suits the bike better than Austria. So, we will need to adapt quickly and see what is the best way to ride without these problems. We need to make changes on the electronics, but let’s see what we can do. I’m confident because it’s a track that I like and last year was really positive for us.”
And what about the nine races in 11 weeks coming up now?
“Honestly, I like it. Two weeks at home, the second week I was a little bit bored to not be on the bike. It will be tough, 9 races in 11 weeks, I think it’s the first time that we will do it but yes, I’m looking forward to it. Try not to be injured because it will be a short time!”
The next man to speak agrees…
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO: “For me it’s fine, it’s not a big problem. Four days between races is enough to recover for the next round so, it’s different.”
And what about Misano?
“Everybody is working on that but still nobody is able to be consistent. A lot of things have happened in five races. There is new asphalt so that will create completely different situations with the new tyres so I don’t know how I think it will be better than last year for us. Last year we struggled from the first lap from the test we realised our speed was very low. I expect it to be more competitive but, as you know, this year every time is different. I’m really happy to be close to the first practice to know how it will be.”
The same first question – about the schedule – was then asked of Rossi.
VALENTINO ROSSI: “It will be very busy for sure. But first of all we will always race in Europe so you can go home for some days, you don’t have to fight with the long flight and the jetlag, so it’s easier. With a lot of races like this you need to have a lot of attention, you also have to be lucky because you have a lot races in a row. But it’s doesn’t change a lot. It’s strange to make two races in the same track but for the rest, nine races or seven races in 11 weeks it’s more or less the same.”
This weekend is the first of two on home turf for the number 46 too…
“It’s always special to race in Misano because for a lot of riders and for me it’s the home GP, I live 10km from here and I grew up on this track. The track changed a lot, but it will be special because it will be the first race with fans around. I think that’s a small step but in a good way, we hope normality comes back as soon as possible. We come from Austria, it’s not our best track. Misano on paper, we can be more competitive because last year the Yamahas were strong so we can be fast, and we have to fight for the podium and for the top positions.”
Next up was Oliveira. So how does it feel to arrive as a premier class winner?
MIGUEL OLIVEIRA: “It feels nice, for sure, I think it’s more of a mental step or click you get from a win the motivation is very high for sure. It lifted a weight from the team’s shoulders. Everyone was feeling a little bit tense because from a few races back we had shown a lot of potential but never making it to the end with the result we thought we could achieve and to do it with the win, not even the podium, was fantastic.
They also arrive armed with some knowledge from testing…
“I would not say it is a big advantage, but we have done our homework. We took advantage of the tools we have to work here which was testing in June and also two weeks ago. The work is done now we need to start the weekend. The asphalt will feel a little different from three months ago and we need to start the weekend and be prepared for the challenges.”
Bagnaia then took the mic, as he returns to action from injury. Still with a crutch, but fit to race and bike ready.
FRANCESCO BAGNAIA: “I was every day very nervous, angry… and seeing the other riders racing has been very difficult, but I took a lot of time to go to the gym, to prepare, to go to the physio to make it possible to be here with good potential. I’m not 100% but I’m quite good. Tomorrow morning will be very important to understand my condition. I think it can be a positive weekend, for our bike it’s a good track, also the conditions are better because the new tarmac is much better than the old one so let’s see what will happen but I think we can make a really good weekend.”
The Italian also spoke about the future, as he’s set to stay with Ducati, but the team remains to be determined…
“I’m very happy to stay with Ducati for two more years. But let’s see which team. For sure Pramac is a very good team, I have the maximum from Ducati so my bike is the same of the factory bike so in any case, I’m with the best bike that I can have so I am happy. But for sure my ambition, and the ambition for every rider, is to arrive to a factory team. If I have the possibility, I will be very happy because it’s my ambition but let’s wait to see the decision of Ducati!”
Finally, it was time to hear from the intermediate class points leader – Marini. Does that change how it feels on the way in?
LUCA MARINI: “The feeling is the same when you arrive at the circuit. I’m really focused, today was a good day to work with the data and the crew I think we prepared very well the bike for tomorrow. I hope I can be fast from the beginning of FP1. This year you have to choose the correct tyre at the front from the beginning. You do a plan for the next days. We will see in the morning, and I think the first position in the championship it doesn’t change my approach.”
“In Moto2 every year it’s the same; a lot of riders are so fast and the level is very high and the gap between one another is tight. I’m really sorry for him it’s a pity because I think he was really fast in this period, he is one of the fastest in Moto2 and it is great to have battles with him. I hope to beat him in the track and not like this. I hope he comes back soon to fight with him in the next race in Misano or Barcelona, wherever it will be!”
That’s a wrap from Thursday at the San Marino GP! Tune in for FP1 at 9:55 (GMT +2) on Friday before the race starts on Sunday at 14:00. With some fans in the stands and the sun set to shine!