It’s Thursday in Australia and that means one thing and one thing only: animals! But more on that later. First it’s time to hear a little from the riders in the pre-event Press Conference, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) joined by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Rookie of the Year Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), home hero Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), returning Johann Zarco (LCR Honda Idemitsu), newly-announced 2020 MotoGP™ rider Iker Lecuona and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who makes an incredible 400th Grand Prix start this weekend.
Marquez spoke first, and he says Phillip Island is all about feel. “We are coming from another great weekend in Japan a week ago and the target here on Sunday is to fight for victory. It’s a circuit you need to feel, you need to feel that you can because it has a lot of high speed corners, this means a lot of risk. It’s a circuit that if you don’t feel, you need to stay calm, try to finish on the podium or try to finish the race. Apart from that, today we have a summer day, tomorrow we might have a winter’s day – you never know. This is where we will try to work in a good way to try and fight against Yamaha and Suzuki, I think they have a bike that works very well here, very stable in the high speed corners. It will be tough to beat them but we will try.”
Next up was Dovizioso, who was asked if he’s optimistic returning to the Island after a solid event last season. Not quite, but almost. “Optimistic is a bit too much. Last year we did a really fast and good race, so I hope to be on the podium again. I think it will be hard because of course Marc and the Yamaha riders will be strong, Rins too, so it will be hard.
“In the last race at the end we were quite fast and we have to understand something about that because it’s happened too many times this season, I think there’s a technical reason. But here is a completely different track. Like Marc said, the conditions are always quite strange and it will affect everyone. The tyres but also the wind, which way it’s going. We’ll wake up tomorrow morning and see the conditions!”
Quartararo, meanwhile, arrives having already been crowned Rookie of the Year, and he’s now gunning for the honour of top Independent – against Jack Miller.
“I think the Yamaha suits this track really well but we will see about the conditions. Like Marc said, today we have nice weather but it looks like it will be quite tricky for the weekend.
“We don’t need focus a lot on the victory, just do the same work that we did from the beginning of the year, step by step, and feel the temperature of the tyres. It’s a track that I really like, fast corners, the Yamaha looks good, so we’ll do our best and our best will be good enough.”
Valentino Rossi, on the other side of the spectrum of experience, spoke next. 400 is quite a milestone, and ‘The Doctor’ thinks the place is a good one to play host. “It’s a long, long time; a long road. Like you said it’s good to hit the 400 here in Phillip Island. It’s an iconic place for MotoGP, all the riders love the circuit because it’s something special compared to the rest. So it’s one of the best places. We pray, everybody prays for a weekend here like this, the blue sky and the fantastic weather, but unfortunately the good weather arrived too much in anticipation so we will have to fight the weather in Phillip Island but anyway, it’s a pleasure.
Home hero Jack Miller agrees it’s a great place to ride – and says he’s lucky it’s his home race to boot.
“We’ll give it a go! It’s a place I love to ride at first of all, like everyone else. I think it’s one of the best circuits on the calendar and fortunately for me, it’s my home Grand Prix. I’m looking forward to getting out there. Like the boys said, the weather isn’t going to be ideal but for me here at Phillip Island there’s no point looking at the forecast. If the wind changes, we’ll have either beautiful sunshine or freezing cold. So, we’ll wait until the morning and make a plan from there. Feeling really good, it was a shame about the race in Japan, but we had good pace there. Looking forward to my weekend at home, I’m normally pretty strong and with the form we’ve had this year I think I’ve got a chance of taking it to these guys!”
These guys, this weekend, also includes a familiar face making a return: Zarco. The Frenchman makes the first of his three appearances replacing Takaaki Nakagami this weekend at the Island.
“The smile is there! It’s difficult to set a target. I want to clear all the feelings I got this year. I started well in MotoGP the first two years, but this year has been really complicated, so it seemed it was finished – my MotoGP story – but Lucio called me to take these three races, and yes I’m taking it because maybe it’s my last three races. I took a big risk this summer stopping my contract for 2020, and now I can realise that racing is what I want to do. I have a short future at the moment but I can live it with a lot of intensity and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Finally, Iker Lecuona spoke. He was confirmed earlier as riding in the premier class in Red Bull KTM Tech 3 colours next year, and that was, of course, the key talking point.
“For sure I’m very happy to have this opportunity. For me it’s crazy, to be here with Marc or Valentino. When I was a kid I saw everybody on TV and I wanted to ride with everyone on track, finally it’s possible. I want to thank KTM for this opportunity and Herve Poncharal for giving me this opportunity to ride in MotoGP.”
That’s it from the Press Conference, for more on the upcoming Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix head to motogp.com and tune in for another awesome race on Sunday 27th October at 15:00 (GMT +11).