MotoGP: The last showdown of the season awaits before the lights go out in Valencia
After a pre-event that saw some riders face down a new challenge with some local flavor – a visit to the Pelayo trinquet – later on Thursday it was time for the pre-event Press Conference. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) headlined and was joined by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) and Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) as he returns from injury. With rain coming down throughout the day and that seemingly set to appear more throughout the weekend, that was a key talking point – as was debriefing Sepang and the Malaysian GP.
Reigning Champion Marquez was the first to speak. “We are coming here with good feelings because everything is done but we also won the last race which was very tough, but we achieved our goal to try and finish in the front in Malaysia. It’s a track where in the past we’ve struggled a bit now we’re here in Valencia and it looks like the forecast isn’t the best which is a shame because we prefer dry conditions. But we’ll try and approach the weekend in the best way. You never know, you have to be ready for all conditions.”
Next, he was asked about his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was earlier named a MotoGP™ Legend and retires after this race weekend.
“With Dani we’ve shared many, many good moments, from the start he was my teammate and we’ve fought on the track but off track we’ve had a lot of respect. I’ve learnt a lot from him and it will be a special moment for all his team, and for Honda and Repsol because he’s a special legend for them. Then from Monday it’s a new teammate with a new character and new riding style. But I’ll concentrate on myself and my riding style, and then look at preparing 2019 in the best way.”
The man Marquez beat in Sepang was next on the mic. Rossi, whose laptimes showed incredible consistency before a crash out the lead, was positive about Malaysia despite his result – and wants to reconfirm positives ahead of winter.
“Malaysia was very emotional, a long day,” begins the ‘Doctor’. “At the end I was very tired! From Moto3 we had Bezzecchi fighting for the Championship and then the great race in Moto2 which was a great emotion for me and the team because it’s the first time we’ve won the Championship, and for Pecco, and for Luca who won his first race. And my race was very good, for me the best race of the season, where I was strongest from the beginning. Unfortunately it wasn’t a good end for me but it remains a good race and it’s important to understand if here in Valencia we’re competitive and we’ve found something, because it’s one of the toughest tracks of the year and the conditions could be difficult. The forecast is very bad but we’ll try and be ready in all conditions.
“From Thailand we’ve improved our speed a bit and we’re a bit more competitive, Maverick won in Phillip Island, I was competitive in Sepang so it’s good to understand if we’re also strong here in Valencia but we have a lot of work to do in winter. We always try to push at the maximum to have something new to try and the next few months will be important to be able to understand if next season we can be more competitive.”
More competitive is something that perfectly describes Rins’ second half of the season. The Spaniard has been incredibly consistent of late, and took another podium at Sepang.
“Sincerely, before starting the season I was thinking that maybe we could be very strong with the Suzuki with some podiums and good races but the important thing is that since Misano we’ve been very consistent and always in the top six and this is very good for us, for me and the Suzuki, we’re on a good level and fighting with the top guys,” says the number 42. “We need to keep working like that for next year. The first part of the season was a bit irregular for us with a lot of crashes but I learned how to finish the race. I think now we’re in a good way.
“There are a lot of races during the season, but for example in my case when I’m on the podium or finishing near the top, I don’t want that to end so for me we can do three or four more races now! We need holidays and to rest but it wouldn’t be a problem for me!”
The man he pipped to second on the podium spoke next: Johann Zarco. The Frenchman was back on the rostrum for the first time since Jerez and confirmed some more difficult races were starting to look up again. Now ahead in the Independent Team rider standings too, that’s a title the double Moto2™ World Champion is gunning for.
“I had some rest, the week after Malaysia and it has been so good to have this podium, to feel some good confidence,” smiles Zarco. “As a rider when you always give your best and try to give your maximum and it’s not working well…but since Thailand for us with Tech 3 it was a track where we did a test in the winter with exactly the same bike, so if it wasn’t working it was the rider. But I had a good result in Thailand so I’ll try and keep that in Valencia. It was a huge crash in Australia but in Malaysia I think I learned good things behind Vale at the start of the race and that helped me to have good pace and take the podium at the end. So I’m happy but even if I was struggling in the middle of the season, to be here fighting for the top five in the Championship and for top independent Team rider could mean it’s a great season.
“I’m so happy to have been with a French team for the first time, I didn’t have to go and see them to talk to them, I was in my own world! Being in a 100% French team in the paddock helped me, I’m not so sad to leave them though because they’re also changing to KTM and I think we’ll still have a close relationship.”
Then it was Lorenzo’s turn. The five-time World Champion tried to come back from injury at Sepang but was ultimately unable to race, but now – at a track where he’s had some incredible results – he’s back and ready to fight it out for the last time in red.
“I will be riding on Sunday, I think I’m quite well to be able to ride, in Sepang I wasn’t or I wasn’t able to fight for anything important; the top ten or even top 15. I was too slow,” explains Lorenzo. “But the injury has improved a lot in the last ten days so now I feel good enough to try and achieve the best result possible for the team. It will be an emotional race because it will close an important chapter in my career. Maybe the rain will help me a bit to not stress the injury too much in the recovery too. I’m looking forward to getting on the bike.
“The first person I had to demonstrate something to was myself, but not even that because I always believed I can go fast on any bike it’s just a question of time. We’ve seen changing bikes in MotoGP is very difficult, the level is so high and every small bit of time is so important. In tenths you go from winning to losing ten positions. It was just a matter of time and with that time I showed I was competitive enough to win races. Not fighting for the target I wanted to achieve at Ducati, but here the good moments were very good and I want to give them the last present of a good race on Sunday.”
Another facing a final chapter this weekend is Bautista, who will move to WorldSBK in 2019. Ahead of the event, the Spaniard is aiming to go out with a bang.
“My feeling is that it could be another ten or twenty races now because it’s a good moment,” begins the 2006 125 World Champion. “In the last races we were quite competitive with the independent bikes and the factory bikes so I will miss this feeling but I will try and end the season and my motogp career with the best result possible and try to enjoy it with the fans, the team and these guys on track. The only bad thing is the weather but we can’t do anything about that so I’ll try and enjoy this weekend as much as possible to finish my time in MotoGP.
“It’s difficult to choose one moment,” he continues when asked for his favourite moment in this paddock. “I have good memories like the World Championship in 125s, the podiums in MotoGP, I have good memories. But I also think it’s important to have bad moments because you learn a lot in how to come back stronger. For me both the good and bad are important. To be a rider and live on my bike is the biggest prize so it’s hard to choose one moment. All the moments are important, I try to enjoy the good and recover from the bad, there’s no one thing. Altogether it makes me happy to be here and to be a MotoGP rider.”
The lights end an era for some and begin a new one for others on Sunday in the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, tune in from 14:00 (GMT +1) to watch the season finale.