Riders talk shop in the pre-event Press Conference in Germany, gearing up to take on Marquez.
It’s Thursday and, as always, that means it’s Press Conference day so ahead of track action at the HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined by Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), who recently re-signed with the Bologna factory squad, as well as rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Dutch TT winner Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
First on the agenda for Marquez, who spoke first, was the Championship – and he’s got a good points buffer coming into the last race before the summer break, as well as nine wins from pole in a row at the Sachsenring…
“I feel good, I feel good because we are in a very good position in the championship. We’re in good form. Of course in Assen we had a really good weekend. It was one of our worst during practice but in the race we took 20 important points. We will see during the weekend. The opponents will show us the level, the target is to work in the best way, try to be competitive from the beginning and then we will see. Everyone expects a victory. Austin is the worst part on the calendar in the first part… We will try to be focused.
“For me, our key point, the most import thing is consistency. To have a bike and setup that is working pretty much good at all tracks and this is how to win a championship. And it’s the way were working. Doesn’t mean some weekend arrives somebody… for me in all weekends we need to be fast enough to be on the podium. We are working in that way, in that way our strong points are a little bit weaker but our weak points are a bit stronger so we need to manage in a good way.
Next up was Petrucci, and for him it was a little more a longer term talking point than simply Sunday’s race, with the Italian having been announced as remaining at the factory Ducati Team. Naturally, that dominated the first part of what he talked about.
“For sure it was a thing that both parts wanted to continue, this adventure,” says the Mugello winner. “The first part of this season has been very, very good. Since the first interview, I’ve said my target was to stay in this team for as many years as possible. Now, in the next season, I have a big opportunity. Now everybody says I can race with less pressure but actually we’re fighting for the top three in the championship and both Andrea and I want to enjoy some better races than Assen. We have a very, very big challenge. We’re halfway through the season and I think we can now be more focused on the track than off the track.
“In Assen, it was one of the strangest weekends of the year because on Saturday morning the bike was perfect, I rode one of the best bikes I’ve ever ridden, but in the afternoon, it was the opposite. Just two hours later with the hot temperature. In the Sunday, we sorted our problem a little bit but for sure it was big gap to Maverick.
“We have to work on those conditions. For sure, we must work better with Andrea for a better strategy in qualifying, not the races because we’re free to do what we want. For sure, to be faster than our challengers is hard, the competition is really high.
Fabio Quartararo took to the mic next, and the Frenchman kept it short and sweet. Off the back of a second premier class podium and becoming the youngest ever rider to take back-to-back premier class poles, it’s all going well – despite his ongoing recovery from arm pump surgery.
“First of all its good to be back on a weekend,” he begins, with Germany arriving so soon after the Dutch TT. “Assen was really positive for us. We made really good pace in the first part of the race and for sure, here being at the new track for us on a MotoGP bike means I’m looking forward to it.”
So did he do some homework ahead of his Sachsenring debut? “Yeah! I looked at the last few races here in MotoGP and it looks like the Yamaha is working well at this track. At all the tracks the bike has been working well and I expect the same from this track.”
At Assen, especially, the Yamaha was working well, especially in the hands of eventual winner Maverick Viñales. On the top step for the first time this year for rider and manufacturer, was that win important? In a word, yes.
“It was very important. Especially to prove the work that we do on Friday and Saturday finally was then also done on Sunday. That was the most important, to keep working, keep fighting as always and prove we can be there fighting for the races.”
And at Germany? It’s a tall ask to beat the unbeaten, but history has shown no one is unbeatable. “I think Honda and Marc are the favourites, they are the ones to beat. We’ll try follow their speed, but it’ll be very difficult for sure. We’ll try and work in the same mentality as Montmelo and Assen, try be strong every session and then you never know. In the race you never know, we’ll prepare for the race the best we can and then let’s see. But the motivation is there, I feel really good, I have nothing to lose so I’ll push to maximum.”
Morbidelli shared some thoughts after his fellow Yamaha rider, after equalling his best premier class result last time out.
“Well…it’s been a good season so far. We were strong, we were having quite a good speed. Maybe we didn’t get what we were aiming for in some races due to crashes and mistakes. The speed is there, I’m having fun on the bike, of course there is always room to improve, there’s always room to improve, but its going well and I’m having fun.
“Sachsenring is a track where somehow I have always been fast from the first year I was here, I don’t know why. But that was Moto2. We will see what will happen in MotoGP, I didn’t ride last year due to injury. As Fabio said and as you know, the Yamaha works pretty well here so I am curious to see how the bike will react and how I will go at the track.”
Mir was the final man on the mic and he, of course, is also gearing up to ride the track for the first time on a premier class machine. After a tougher few races after a solid debut in Qatar, Assen saw him lead for the first time and get back in the mix.
“The truth is that during the first races I was struggling a little bit: bad luck, some mistakes; rookie mistakes sometimes. Now it looks like from Barcelona we’ve made a step every time. I’ve been stronger and can finish in good positions. It looks like we’re going in a good way, which I’m happy about. It’s my first time on a MotoGP bike here so it’ll be interesting to see how I react and how strong I can be. In past years we haven’t seen any good Suzuki results here, maybe we’ve struggled a bit, but this year we have a competitive bike at all tracks so let’s see.
“In the past, I have been quite strong here, winning some races. But also, this is MotoGP, it’s another story but I’m looking forward to it.”
Everyone is, although Marquez is on a roll at the ‘ring. Can the grid overhaul him in 2019? Or is the reigning Champion not infallible? Find out as track action begins on Friday morning, before lights out for the MotoGP™ race on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +2).