Bienvenue au Mans! The SHARK Grand Prix de France is ready to fire into action this weekend, and before track action gets underway it was time to talk shop.
The pre-event Press Conference saw Championship leader and home hero Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) joined by compatriot Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), second on points Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), Jerez winner Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as they looked ahead to another classic weekend of racing.
How was the event with PSG?
Fabio Quartararo: “It was already a really nice experience to be there this morning, to have the chance to ride the bike in the stadium and play with them. I think it was really great. Of course, it’s always super-special to be at a home GP, and I will give my best. Especially a home GP can make you more stressed and put more pressure on you, but I want to take this one like a normal one, enjoy the fans, and then enjoy the race.”
Do you think this will be a rematch with Bagnaia after your Jerez battle??
FQ20: “It’s difficult to know who’s going to be on top, fighting for the podium this weekend. It’s a different track to Jerez and the most important thing is to work as usual. We need to work well on Friday, try to already be secure for Q2, and find the great tyres for the race and our pace. Trying to have a good qualifying performance is super-important for us.”
Aleix Espargaro: “This first part of the season has been great. I’ve been enjoying a lot riding the bike and obviously the potential of the bike this year is clearly better than in the past years. We are just seven points behind Fabio. It’s difficult to predict how the bike will work here because especially in the last seasons it has been quite strange regarding the weather conditions. We don’t have a lot of information but so far the bike has been quite competitive at every single track so I will try to work hard from FP1 and prepare the bikes as well as possible.
On Aprilia progress:
AE41: “Lorenzo Savadori was riding at the last two races as a wildcard with a ‘lab bike’. It had a lot of different things. We tried a lot of new things at the Monday Test. A couple of new things I will use in Mugello but the clutch, a carbon clutch, I will use for the first time this weekend, which is quite a good improvement. It’s lighter and better for the start, so Aprilia is working hard to try and reduce the gap in the places where we can improve. The start was one of those places and they’ve done a good job.”
How confident are you of another run of fighting for victories after your Jerez win?
Francesco Bagnaia: “It would be good to have the same trend as last year, but it’s different, so let’s see this weekend. Last year at Le Mans, I wasn’t competitive in the dry, so let’s see. It looks like the whole weekend will be dry apart from two o’clock on Sunday, when we start to race, but let’s see. It’s a track that I like, it’s a track where I got my first podium, and I love this place, but let’s see this weekend. I’m sure that Yamaha always is very competitive here, Johann was very competitive here last year, and Jack is always very competitive at this track, so let’s see what will happen!”
Are you confident of being stronger than Indonesia if it’s wet?
FB63: “Indonesia was a strange situation for me. Normally in the wet, we are strong and fast, but not there. I was very slow, the feeling with the bike was a bit strange. But in Portimao in the wet, we were competitive, and last year I finished fourth with two long laps, and I was well behind. But, in any case, every year is different, we have to understand everything better, but it’s difficult to predict now. It’s easier to predict the weekend after the first session of the weekend.”
Johann Zarco: “I hope I will be able to use the bike well here. We should have some good sessions in the dry, so it will be great to find the right feeling early. After a disappointing race, the test was great to find something else and try to go faster. I hope this will continue here in Le Mans. There is the energy from the fan here. They’ve been waiting two years and both yesterday and today they are already here, ready to scream your name and that’s giving great energy. Let’s see then about the weather. It was planned to be fully dry for the weekend but maybe now it can change. So, we will adapt and see. All of them are pretty ready and strong to fight. Jack likes the track here and he will be there. I will do my job and see what I can do.
“I think to catch two podiums already this year was great, it was a good sign of good speed. Overall, because we had many different guys on the podium, to be one of them that could repeat it is a good sign. But the two crashes from Argentina and in Spain doesn’t help to be good in the championship, so let’s find this consistency to repeat some podiums. I’m still running after that first victory. I hope if I can catch it soon, it will help to find even more confidence and consistency.”
Did you and HRC find any breakthroughs in the Jerez post-race test?
Marc Marquez: “In the Jerez race, we did a small step in terms of performance, and we were able to be a little bit closer to the top guys, but not enough. Monday, I was able to test midday in a good way, and we tried a few things that were working not so bad. It’s true that there were some things we expected even more from but didn’t work like we thought. Let’s see here if all the new things we introduced helps a bit to be closer. I think they are not enough to fight for the victory, but the target is to improve every race.”
You have a great record here but is it hard to predict where you will be on Sunday?
MM93: “It’s impossible to predict, even for me. I don’t know what I can achieve on Sunday. For that reason, I start the weekend without any clear targets. I just want to try and understand on Friday how the bike is working, then on Saturday try to increase my speed a bit, and then on Sunday give everything. This was the strategy in Portimao, in Jerez, and it will be the same strategy here in Le Mans.”
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