Before track action begins at the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina, there’s always time to talk a little about the weekend ahead and in the pre-event Press Conference this season, Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was joined by reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), 2018 Argentina GP winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati Team). The key points? As always in unpredictable Argentina, talk centered around the conditions and the weather.
First off though, the Italian put to rest the maelstrom of talk following the Qatar GP and subsequent protests – as well as affirming how he’d felt on the bike.
“The victory was the victory. We had a really good weekend and I feel really good about how we finished the weekend. I’m so happy, and happy to back with a good feeling on the bike like I did during the weekend.”
From Qatar, a track that suits rider and machine, it’s now the new challenge of Termas de Rio Hondo – and one that’s traditionally been a bit more of an uphill for Dovizioso. It’s all still positive though.
“I expect to be more competitive this year than last year because last year I struggled a lot, but Argentina is a strange race. We have to see the conditions tomorrow. Normally it’s hard to work during the practice, with the conditions, the tyres, with the lines, it was difficult to setup. We’ll see, but it’s still too early to understand how the Championship will be, a lot of competitors are in a good situation, anything can happen. I don’t think Argentina will show the reality of the season but I expect Suzuki and Honda to be fast here, and Yamaha. It will be difficult to get the result, but our goal is the points and to bring the maximum.”
Next up was Marquez, who was, once again, incredible close to taking the first win of the year – but it wasn’t to be. He first spoke about the good omen of his Qatar pace, and then looked ahead to Termas de Rio Hondo, where his pace is traditionally the fastest.
“In Qatar we started well at a track where normally I struggle, and second there is important for us. Argentina normally is a circuit that suits my riding style, but we’ll see during the weekend. And the weather, all those things…but we’ll try and focus and try and be there on Sunday. Last year the speed was there, we’ll see this year with this new bike and try to give 100%.
“I will try to be ready in all conditions, that’s our mentality.”
So far it seems that may be needed, with forecasts for Sunday looking…interesting. And that was also true of the unforgettably dramatic 2018 event at Termas de Rio Hondo, which was won by none other than the next man to speak – Cal Crutchlow.
“It was a great weekend in Qatar for the whole team and Honda, I think they did a great job in the winter regarding the engine. I felt great going home from Qatar obviously but you already start to think ahead, and then two weekends off felt too long and I’ve never said that before in my life! So to come back here where I won last year, I’m excited to come back.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a circuit that’s one of my favourites but I always seem to go quite well here, I have no idea why. I think with the Honda we take advantage of the long braking zone into Turn 6 and the last sector but I don’t know why I’ve had a great relationship with the track. We always have a lot of fans come out here and I hope we can put on a good show for them. Last year wasn’t a big battle like Qatar and it would be good if we could have another ten man battle here!”
It would indeed, and Alex Rins would most probably agree. Close to the podium in Qatar and on the pace, the Suzuki rider is ready to return and race at the venue where he took his first ever premier class podium in 2018.
“I think Qatar was a positive race, fourth was very nice and during the race I was fighting with Dovi and Marc at the front. Then I made a mistake at the first corner and ran out a bit, and Crutchlow overtook me. But anyway, I feel ready and I think our bike is going really good. We arrive here with a lot of enthusiasm, and we got our first podium here last year. We need to check the weather but everything else, ok!
“I have more experience than last year and the bike is faster and stronger than last year, but we need to check if the track will give us a good result. But for sure I’ll give 100% to try and be there fighting at the front.”
Fighting at the front was something that, on Saturday evening in Qatar, looked like it may elude Valentino Rossi. But the ‘Doctor’ bounced back with a ride through the pack on Sunday in classic comeback style, just off the podium by the end of the race. He’s positive about that, but explained a little what they’re looking to improve in Argentina – and again, the weather was a talking point.
“The race in Qatar was good for me, coming from behind, and my pace was not so bad. I felt good with the bike and in the last laps I was quite strong. But we suffered too much in the practice and I had to start from behind so we have to try and work in a better way in this point of view, but track by track from one to the other is always…Argentina is a particular track for the layout, the asphalt and the weather, looks like the forecast is difficult this year like last year. We hope we can be lucky with a dry race…but we’ll see!”
He also got a good look at his competitors in Qatar and says that’s interesting, but kept his cards pretty close to his chest.
“It was interesting because I followed a lot of different bikes. We have to work because we’re not strong like we want, we have to work hard to improve in general, it’s the package. We’ll see. We hope to have some good time during the practice here to understand the potential.”
Finally, Danilo Petrucci took to the mic. Again, the Italian began with Qatar before moving on to talk a little about Argentina – and set out one concrete goal at least.
“I was quite disappointed after the race in Qatar because I was fast during the test and weekend but unfortunately I made two big mistakes for the race. One was the choice of the front tyre, I felt fast with it but we understood that the race wasn’t so fast so it was better to be more comfortable instead of being fast. But for me it was impossible or difficult to pass and defend my position, and then I had a very bad start, I was in difficulty with braking hard. And in trying to make a recovery I had to use too much rear tyre. The result wasn’t so satisfying. But anyway, we were there all weekend, at the end I was more motivated to race here and I want to look forward at what we have.
“Argentina is a track I like, but I’ve never scored so many points here. Some bad luck, some mistakes but my target this year is to always fight with Dovi, stay around the top five, top six is good but I want to be faster. But here in Argentina it’s impossible to predict because we have to see how the asphalt is and the weather – and Honda will be very, very fast.”
Will they? Track records say they could be the factory to beat – but as the past has shown, it’s never a simple task in Argentina. See how the weather lottery falls in 2019 as track action starts on Friday for the 15:00 (GMT -3) showdown on Sunday at Termas de Rio Hondo.
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