MotoGP: Final showdown in Valencia as Marquez and Dovizioso stand on the verge of glory
Thursday, 09 November 2017-After 17 rounds, the final countdown is on to the #FinalShowdown – but before the Press Conference proper at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, there was a start to the show with a difference for the Valencia GP as Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) interrupted proceedings early to pay tribute to MotoGP™ commentary legend Nick Harris. Inviting the voice of the Championship to take a seat with the riders, a special video tribute was then played with contributions from paddock legends past and present ahead of Harris’ retirement at the end of the season.
There was also another special extra for the occasion, with the riders present given a copy of the ‘Racing Together’ book, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the collaboration between the FIM, IRTA, the MSMA and Dorna – with the book set to be launched on Thursday evening, ahead of a special screening of the documentary celebrating the same.
Then it was down to business, with Rossi joined by points leader and reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), his teammate Dani Pedrosa, Championship challenger Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo – as well as top Independent Team rider and Rookie of the Year Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3).
First to speak was Championship leader Marquez, who arrives as the favourite with a 21-point lead: “It has been a tough season, and one race decides everything. We’ll see, we’ll try to approach the weekend the same as always and give 100% in the practices but of course you feel it and feel it’s a special race. But we’ll try and enjoy the party at 2pm and it will be a special race in front of my fans at a circuit I like. In motorsport, anything can happen. To finish the race is the most important thing. It’s not the first time I’ve fought for the Championship here and it’s difficult but I’ll try to manage it the best I can. I’ll push like always throughout the weekend, then after Warm Up we will see. I will go out, try to find the feeling with the bike and try to enjoy the race.”
Then the mic passed to Dovizioso, as he faces down his final challenge of the year – and it’s a race he must win to stand a chance at the Championship: “I wouldn’t have believed I’d be in this situation, and no one watching expected it. That’s why I’m so happy and proud of what we’ve achieved in this Championship. From Mugello on we’ve become very competitive. Some ups and downs but we’ve been able to arrive at the last round fighting for the Championship. We will see…21 points is a lot and very difficult, but it’s still open. We have to focus. We have to win the race, which will be difficult, but we have good speed now. Let’s see what we can do in the race. We have one strategy: try to win. I don’t feel much pressure because I know what we’ve done this season and I’m so happy about the results up to now.”
Next up it was Rossi taking over once more, this time to talk about racing: “We have been struggling a little bit, but in Sepang and Australia in the dry we were ok. And here the weather forecast is good for the weekend and that’s important, so we have to wait and see.” Asked about his opinion on the title fight, the Italian was pragmatic. “Dovizioso has just one way he can do it: trying to win the race. But Marquez, he can control the situation. But then you have to wait and see, wait for Sunday and understand your level.”
Dani Pedrosa, meanwhile, arrives with the best record of the lot and could have a big role to play this weekend. He also called out the weather forecast as a positive, and will be looking to end the season on a high: “This is a track I like, here with the support of the fans it makes it even more special. And it’s the last race and it’s always good to finish strong. Last year wasn’t positive, but I hope this time we can start in a better position. The weather looks more stable than in the last races, it’s going to be helpful for practice and you can get into a rhythm and try more things on the bike.”
Whilst Pedrosa counts six victories at Valencia, Lorenzo is the next man in the record books and has the most premier class wins – and first rode the Ducati at the track last season. “I have good memories at this track, especially in MotoGP. It has been one of my best tracks, unfortunately for the bike it may not be one of the best. It’s a slow track with narrow corners. But I think our bike has improved a lot in this area, I feel more and more comfortable and I think we’ve understood some things that could be helpful here.” The five-time World Champion also weighed in on the title fight, saying he will help his teammate if necessary: “The situation is better for Marc and not so simple for Dovi, but I will check – if I’m fighting at the front, I’ll check my pitboard and dashboard.”
Zarco, finally, weighed in on his incredible rookie season that has seen him take both the Rookie of the Year crown and the award of top Independent Team rider for the season. “I’ve enjoyed this year it a lot, I’ve done better than what I expected at the start of the year and I’m very happy about that. You race to win, so this year has been a good year to improve and it has given me hope. Like in Malaysia I could think about the win, and it wasn’t a crazy target!” It certainly wasn’t, and the Frenchman says he’ll be trying to aim for the front once more this weekend.
The front is the place Dovizioso has to be. 21 points down, the throne is only within the Italian’s grasp if he wins the race. He’ll be pushing to do just that, and waiting see how the dice fall for Marquez. The lights go out for the race at 2pm (GMT +1), with preparations and practice beginning on Friday.