The Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana is set in motion as Mir faces down a chance at the crown.
There’s a lot on the line in the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, not least the MotoGP™ World Championship as Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) arrives with his first shot at the crown, 37 points clear and looking to wrap it up at the venue that just hosted his first premier class victory. Ahead of track action, he was joined by closest challenger Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), third overall Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – although he’s equal on points with Quartararo – Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in the pre-event Press Conference to talk about the weekend ahead.
Here are a few key quotes!
JOAN MIR: “I feel great, it’s a special weekend because we have a chance at match point so it means we did a great job during the season, like you said we have a good advantage in points but for sure it’s not done, there’s still a lot of work to do in the second race, for sure a lot of riders will improve performance because it’s the second weekend at the same track so a lot of people will improve. I also hope to improve. I think we have a bit of margin, and well… let’s see.”
And what about Suzuki’s incredible season, with the Triple Crown in sight?
“For sure I didn’t expect it, I think it’s not work from this year it’s work from all the years that we’ve been doing, and the bike is getting better and better, this means that the work from last year and the work in the previous years was super good, it’s this. A competitive MotoGP bike is not made in one year. It’s a lot of effort, work and information and at the end, in my case I didn’t expect this potential of the bike at the start of the year. I felt great and in the tests in preseason, I could see the performance, but you know these results are super good and competitive, consistent. We have a great team.”
FABIO QUARTARARO: “It was tough times like you said but I think we need to enjoy it, that’s the most important thing because when you enjoy it everything comes easier. The last few races were more about struggles, so I think it’s important to have a good mindset, think about Sunday and qualifying better, and fight for the victory, if we want to take it to Portimao it’s the only solution.”
What is lacking for Yamaha?
“I think the grip is something important for us and we can see in qualifying when we put in a new tyre everything comes easier. The best example of that is in Aragon where I was struggling all weekend, I put in a new tyre and I found two seconds. It looks like the competitors are much less affected, so the grip is important. The consistency too. When the bike is good, we’re fighting for victories but it’s all or nothing. We need to find something in the middle where we can fight every race, maybe not all the time for the win but for good results. I think consistency and something about finding a good way to be there in every race, something Suzuki has and it’s a key for them to be on top. It’s been a strange year for everybody, but we need to use this year to learn for next year.”
ALEX RINS: “For sure if we want to reduce the advantage to Joan, I think the only thing is to get first position. He has demonstrated he’s very consistent, let’s see. First of all let’s try to improve my setup, we were struggling a bit in the last part of the race. And then let’s try to enjoy it, try to do a great race.”
Rins also talked about the incredible season for Suzuki:
“The work we did in the past, these previous years means a lot now, it looks like we’re taking the fruit from the tree and that’s very nice. To get the triple crown in the standings, for Suzuki for us would be super nice. Let’s try to get it, to work for that, and for sure we are also waiting for the time to go Japan and celebrate with all the team in Suzuki headquarters.”
MAVERICK VIÑALES: “I think that the most positive thing from the race was that I had a clear answer to the guys of where we need to improve, that was the clear thing from the weekend. In the wet you can’t see a lot of things on the bike, so it was very important to concentrate during the race on where we need to improve and riding on my own, I was able to understand everything clearly. We have some direction now.
“For sure, the Championship is now won. Joan only needs a few points and for sure he will do it. Right now, our mindset is on improving for next year, because we can’t continue with these irregularities on the bike. One weekend with grip we win, the next we struggle a lot, so it’s important for us to improve that. We have two races at two different tracks, so I think it’s a good opportunity to make an improvement and with it being race time it’s the best time to improve and test, it’s not like at a test when the grip is high and everything is working well. We always see that when the Yamahas have grip it’s hard to beat us but without grip, we struggle a lot, more than our competitors, so we need to focus this weekend and try to find these improvements. These two races will be without grip for various reasons so it’s crucial for us to stay focused and work hard.”
And what has been the key issue for Yamaha?
“I’ve been facing these adversities for many years. It’s not that we want to change it in just one race, we need to understand things. We still haven’t found the correct point. We need to learn and explore areas and see if we can find it. We won’t find it in one day, we need laps. Unfortunately, we can’t change the engine next year which would help a lot but we can touch in other areas that I think can still make an improvement.”
POL ESPARGARO: “My target is to beat Taka in the Championship, and Honda before I go there! (laughs) But honestly talking, we are really strong in the second race, after Misano we struggled a lot and in the second one we were on the podium. In Aragon we struggled a lot and in the second one we were close to the podium. I don’t know what’s going to happen here, normally in the back-to-back races we struggle and then improve, but this is a different situation. We were good behind the Suzukis, on the limit but good behind them. The situation is much different but we need to improve, the improvement isn’t very big but I don’t feel we have a huge margin, let’s say it like that. we are seventh in the Championship, super close to Taka and I feel Taka is going to be very fast this weekend. Let’s see if we can beat him and keep going up in the Championship which is very good at the end of the year.”
And what about looking for that first win, before saying goodbye to KTM?
“About the victory, I’m not really super nervous to get it. In the Czech Republic before Johann took us out, I was there for the victory. In Styria I was there until the last corner fighting with Jack and in the first Austria race I was running away before the red flag. We had a lot of match points but for one reason or the other, we couldn’t get it. But we could, that’s what I know inside me. For sure I want this victory, 100%, but I have a feeling we haven’t had the easy chance like we did in the Czech Republic, that we had a really clear advantage on the bike – setting, tyres, whatever was working. And also in Austria. Here, last weekend, I was really on the limit behind the Suzukis, and I never had that feeling I could win the race – I always had the feeling they had something else. When they were pushing I was really on the limit to follow them, I had no chance to overtake them. Having said that, I will try. This weekend and next weekend in Portimao, it’s not going to be easy. And from leaving KTM for Honda, that was a choice before the start of the season and I took it, because I knew it was a great opportunity. Most of the guys in the paddock want that opportunity. I saw the opportunity in front of me, I couldn’t say no. I’m really looking forward to finishing this year in the best shape possible, but also to start the next one beside the best rider in the world, riding the best level on for me, the best if not one of the best over the past years. It will be a pleasure for me to see me in the mirror dressed with a Honda jersey, so lets finish this year with good results and lets see how we can face the next one and if we can adapt fast, see the results coming as fast as I want.”
TAKAAKI NAKAGAMI: “Normally this season in back to back races we’re able to improve from the first to the second weekend so the strategy we don’t need to change. Try to start in FP1 with the race bike from last Sunday, as always try to understand the conditions and how I feel on this bike, and then try to, session by session, develop the bike and setup. Last Sunday was not enough dry sessions for everyone, we struggled and I was taking too much care of the tyre life because the last six or seven laps to go I realised I had a lot of grip to close the gap, I was really fast at the end of the race but that’s a key point to bring forward to this weekend.
“For us the first priority is to finish the race and if I have the opportunity to win the race, of course, but if not then the podium. That’s the first priority and the second is in the Championship. If I can beat Pol we are more than happy but first priority for me is if we can win the race.”
And what’s the secret to his impressive step forward this season?
“We had a bad race in Jerez 1 and after the first race, I was thinking this is really bad… I need to change for the second race, and then I thought ok I need to check Marc’s data because Marc’s always able to adapt, I don’t know how but he gets the maximum performance from this bike, and the first time I read it it was difficult to understand how he rides this bike, but I had to change my style and step by step we tried, and even now, we try to always look at his data, I try to compare to his data from last season because we use the same bike so this is the key point, to try to improve myself. Then the first moment I felt it was much better the feeling on the bike and I’m able to bring the performance easier… then after that I thought this is the way to improve the result with this. And as you can see on TV I have great support from HRC and the engineers, and they are also always trying to improve, after the session they’re always by my side with some tips and that’s it. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a podium but definitely we’re improving from last season or even during the season, for the progress I’m quite happy but we’re missing something for a podium. This is racing sometimes, but we never give up, always some bad results or luck, we are always looking to the next one and this is the key.”
That’s a wrap from the Press Conference. Now all that remains in Valencia is to race – with everything on the line. Tune in on Sunday as the MotoGP™ class do battle at 14:00 (GMT +1)!