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“It’s a pleasure to have this pressure”: a pivotal weekend begins at Sepang

"it's A Pleasure To Have This Pressure": A Pivotal Weekend Begins At SepangHear from Bagnaia, Martin, Bezzecchi and Binder as the final triple header begins

Three weekends, 111 points and it all starts here at Sepang for the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia. Before the bikes get out on track, it was time to hear from Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), closest challenger Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing), final rider in contention Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) on the tails of a stunning Thai GP.

FRANCESCO BAGNAIA: “This is one of my favourite tracks. I always love being here. I have good memories from all the categories and I’m always very happy to be here. So we have to see and we have to have a bit of luck with the weather forecast. But I think we can be competitive in any situation. Some parts of the track have been resurfaced, so I think it will be great.”

Can you solve quali woes this weekend?
“I think so, for sure at this track it will be different because I think the race tyre will be the medium, that will be the ‘soft’ here, so maybe yes, last time we were here was the test in February and everything went perfectly. So let’s see. It will be interesting for sure because the level at this track is always really high across the board, not just us, so it would be nice to have a great battle, but I hope to start more at the front to not have some kind of battle like this.” (referencing Marc vs Aleix being shown on screen)

Do you feel pressure?
“I think it’s a pleasure to have this kind of pressure. We are fighting for the title and without pressure it means you don’t care too much about what you’re doing. So I think the pressure is normal. It’s a great fuel from my point of view, so we have to use this to improve on our side and to feel the hunger of being champion again.”

Will last year’s experience benefit this year?
“I don’t know, honestly. I remember last year there was a lot of pressure here and I won the race. Every person and every rider has a different feeling with the pressure. In my case it can affect me, but it’s always a motivation. I don’t know about Jorge, but for sure the experience of last year maybe can help me in some situations, but it’s totally different compared to the last year.”

JORGE MARTIN: “After the last race I was super happy. I think I did an amazing weekend and as you said a fourth double win of the year was great. I decided to stay here because normally I struggle with the jet lag so I thought it would be a good option to stay here and get used to the conditions and train in the heat. I’m happy, I think this week off I had too much time to think about everything, I prefer to race straight away because I had the feeling. Back in Malaysia and looking forward to race!”

What about that gesture on the podium in Thailand?
“It wasn’t on purpose, I don’t know why I did it. It was quite similar but more for the grandstand. Anyways, it’s not bad, some spicy moments, I didn’t want to make a funny thing or something like this, it just came naturally. You just have this impulse that sometimes happen, but I was so happy for the moment and I went to the podium and no one was shouting, so I was like ‘come on guys!’ After two bad results, and really unlucky situations we finally did a great job so I was super happy and proud.”

Is this a revenge mission after Malaysia 2022?
“Yeah I’m missing that victory, I felt I could make it. Maybe two or three more laps and I was able to make the gap but I couldn’t because I crashed. I think with the new asphalt we can improve because it seems the bumps are less so the turns could be faster and for the race, let’s see, maybe it’s not the best strategy to pull away.”

Are you feeling the pressure, how different was Buriram feeling?
“I feel it out of the races, for example when I was in Bali because you have time to think about winning or losing a big thing, but when I’m at the race track I’m just focused onr acing. Today I was relaxed and feel confident that it can go well.”

And what about those rumours of the factory seat?
“I can’t say a lot. I would be proud to continue with Pramac next season but if Ducati want to join on the red bike next year, I would be super happy also.”

MARCO BEZZECCHI: “It was an intense triple header for me. Unfortunately, my physical condition wasn’t very good. It was important to go back home. I didn’t really rest, but I tried to recover as much as I could with the shoulder and continue to train to be able to arrive to the final part of the season. As ready as possible. Yeah, I can’t complain. I feel a bit better still. For sure it will be painful, but overall I have to say that my condition is surprising me a little bit.”

Did you go have time to go the ranch?
“I don’t want to see the ranch for many months! I didn’t ride the bike, I thought it was better to rest my body from motorbikes, especially because MotoGP is very stressful and I have to arrive in a good shape. I’m still not 100% for sure because as soon as I put some stress on the shoulder then all my neck in all my shoulder and my back starts to create a lot of problems for me, but at least I’ve recovered a little bit and I will try to be strong.”

Do you feel that you’re going to be more in the game to fight for victory this weekend?
“Yeah, in Thailand I was really fast but unfortunately in the race I made a few mistakes and then I lost too much time to be able to recover. But I was consistent and I was very quick and I think that here I can try to make the same and try to be fast and more consistent. Of course the weather conditions will be a key for the weekend because it might be a little bit crazy. But I will try my best to be strong.”

And the Championship?
“Yeah, well, it’s still possible. Of course. It’s really tough because you know, they are very quick and I’m still not fully fit. So it will be tough, but if I get a good result, I will go on the podium like this. Yeah, I will try… they are very strong, but I will give my best.”

BRAD BINDER: “The plan is to pick up where we left off last time, stay among the top bunch and try and fight it out till the last lap again but hopefully get it right! That would be nice! Yeah, I have some good memories here for sure, it’s a track I really enjoy. It’s going to be interesting for me because Testing we had a lot of issues and the guys have done a great job throughout the season on the bike. Things are completely different now, it’s going to be interesting to see how big the step is that we’ve made.”

Improvements since the Test?
“The biggest thing is when we were here in February is we were trying to decide which direction we needed to go in. I don’t think I did more than two exits with the same bike and played with all sorts of parameters. Oh yeah now if we look at where we were and where we are now things are completely different, where the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to is just riding this track comfortably. That should be fun.”

3 chances to win a race, where does Sepang sit in terms of those chances?
“If I look back at my last two races, I felt like Australia I messed up and last time I really wanted to give it a go and put myself on the green. I haven’t really been able to put it together. I feel like we’ve been fast over the last five or six tracks, and I’d love nothing more than to finally get a win for my team. Yeah, we’ve won two Sprints, but a main race is the goal.”

Now you’re the South African with most podiums, do you hope that can inspire more riders?
“It’s a really cool stat. It’s quite different. Nowadays we have 21 races and back then they had less than half so it’s not quite fair! It’s super cool anyways and awesome to know. For me it’s great to see how MotoGP is growing back in South Africa. Every time I go home it seems more and more people are enjoying the racing as much as I do. Who knows? The better things go here, the better they can go back home too!”

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