Hear from Bagnaia, Martin, Bezzecchi, Tardozzi, Borsoi, Nieto, Acosta, Arbolino and Chantra.
Here we go! It’s time to take on Buriram and ahead of track action at the OR Thailand Grand Prix, three press conferences covered the key talking points. The first saw Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) joined by closest challenger Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing), looking to bounce back at Buriram, and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) as he remains in contention but looks for more this weekend.
Then, it was time to hear from the teams behind the top three in the title fight: Davide Tardozzi; Ducati Lenovo Team Manager, Gino Borsoi; Prima Pramac Racing Team Manager, and Pablo Nieto; Mooney VR46 Racing Team Manager.
From there, Moto2™ took the spotlight as Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) faces his first match point this weekend. The number 37 was joined by sole remaining challenger Tony Arbolino (Elf MarcVDS Racing Team) and home hero Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) ahead of a pivotal weekend.
Here are some quotes and talking points from Thursday!
LINE UP 1: BAGNAIA – MARTIN – BEZZECCHI
FRANCESCO BAGNAIA: “First of all, I’m happy to be here because it’s one of the tracks where I have always been competitive. We’ve moved from Japan and Mandalika and Australia, which are tracks where I’ve never been very good on a single lap. I’ve always done a good job but I’ve always struggled there. Now we’re moving to tracks that I really like. We have a lot of hard-braking corners. Last year I was very competitive so I’m very happy to be here.”
Is there anything about these final four races that worries you?
“Let’s see because it’s good for me, but it’s also good for the other Ducati riders. Jorge and Bez last year were very competitive just like in Malaysia, so let’s see we just have to see if we can have some advantage in terms of feeling. I’m quite sure that this track will help me a lot compared to Phillip Island, but let’s see it’s always difficult to predict a weekend. First goal will to not be in Q1 so let’s see.”
Can you give us an insight into your mindset this late in the season?
“Obviously I have to push, right now there’s 37 points each weekend, so there’s no time to think about the championship. I want to continue doing what I’m doing pushing all weekend to get a good feeling for the race and but it’s not time to think about the championship. I think we can start considering it after Qatar when we can clearly see and understand the championship situation.”
Will the world championship be decided in Valencia?
“Yeah it could be. I’ve lost many points from many mistakes I’ve done. I’ve also had bad luck but I’ve lost points. Its true that in the last couple of weekends I’ve been able to do a very good job in the race and open the gap back up again, but 27 points is not enough to be relaxed so let’s see. I know perfectly well how tough it is to arrive in Valencia, but it could happen.”
JORGE MARTIN: “It was really painful the last two weekends. Leading a lot of laps and then one crash and in the other I took the wrong tyre but you know, I was fast. This is the thing that keeps me alive, that I know I have the speed. You never know when you arrive to a new track but last season I was strong and I am confident that with this new bike I can be fast also and hopefully we can… my mentality is to attack and win both races.”
Is it difficult to not think about what could have been?
“It’s the first time I’m watching the race from Phillip Island (images on screen) so imagine, it was tough. I was convinced I made the right choice, but the last four laps were a nightmare. I was trying to put my all my skills to try not crash and be fast with those tyres and not overcomplicate it, but it is what it is. I move on and I will try again this weekend.”
Time to be safer and less risks?
“Sometimes when you are fast with both tyres it is difficult to understand. I thought the use of the tyre was similar in Phillip Island, both were over 100% so I took the gamble. For me it wasn’t a gamble as I thought it was the right choice. We spoke, and you know, we have to make the same as my opponents at least.”
On the social media post with the text “No risk, no story”:
“I was in Bondi Beach and I saw this mural that was painted by a lot of artists and I said it was my place so I took the photo! It’s a bit of my mentality, my way of riding but for sure I won’t risk much in the next races with the tyres.”
MARCO BEZZECCHI “Well I can’t complain overall. I’ve removed the stitches so that’s a big step for me because my skin isn’t tight anymore, I feel better and I’m very proud of my scar. I had an extra day to rest to do therapy twice a day or even three times a day. Whenever I had nothing to do, I tried to help the shoulder and the arm recover. The arm was causing me many problems in Australia. Overall I’m very happy to finally be back on the bike and try to see how I feel.”
Do you expect to feel a lot better than Phillip Island given it’s only been six days…
“Well, in Indonesia, there was a lot of pain because the surgery was done five days before. There was pain on the bone and everywhere around that area. In Australia, it was more the fatigue. The pain was less, but the fatigue with more. I expected to struggle less, but unfortunately I didn’t. Here I really don’t know. I hope to be stronger and to be in better shape, but of course I know that I’ll have to suffer so my mentality is already ready for this. I can handle the pain and I can suffer so I hope it goes well.”
What is it about this track that makes you so strong?
“Yeah it’s a track that I really like, last year I was fast had my first pole position so it was a wonderful moment. I like hard braking zones, it’s a part of riding that gives me a lot of emotions so I enjoy tracks where you have to brake quite strong. Having said that, this track is very particular because you also have a very flowing part of it as well. It’s something that I really like having a mixed track and I think this year I’ve made a further step in braking so I’m curious to see how I will ride, but first of all I need to see how I feel physically and then from that point we can start to work on that.”
What about the championship?
“Well, I have to say that at the moment, it’s tough. I’m a little bit too far away in Jorge and Pecco are currently a bit stronger than me. My aim when I returned and Indonesia when I to came back very early after injury wasn’t to recover. It was just to survive and try to stay on the bike because I saw from Enea, Miguel, and Marc that the more time you stay away the more time you need to recover, so as soon as I saw a small possibility I said okay, I have to go and ride the bike, try to stay on it and try not to lose this momentum. Brad, for example is not too close. I was able to manage that gap quite well but from then it’s very difficult to not lose any points. I will fight until the end and if I have a possibility for sure I will give it my all.”
Bagnaia, Martin and Bezzecchi all predicted the pole lap with MotoGP™ Predictor – who will be closest?
LINE UP 2: TARDOZZI – BORSOI – NIETO
DAVIDE TARDOZZI: “I guess that Pecco has done a fantastic job this year but obviously it is not enough as Jorge is there just 27 points behind and Marco is 73 but is still there with the possibility to win the Championship. Pecco has done a fantastic job but it isn’t enough with four races to go. It will be very important to maintain a very high mental aptitude, you know. I think the mentality will be key for the end of the Championship.”
Pecco has been here before, how much will experience count?
“Slightly different last year when he was behind Fabio but I think it’s true, it helps to have the experience of last year and he proved that managing the last two races when he was in a bit of trouble on Friday and Saturday, but performed well on Sunday.”
How different is Pecco in 2023 to 2022?
“It’s true he has made mistake, but he has grown. He knows why he has made those mistakes, he has made four. He puts more consideration into himself, he trusts his capabilities and what I see is his relationship with engineers is very close, and that is one of the key points from what he shows between Saturdays and Sundays. I think he proved he can change mentality, attitude and speed from one day to another and that’s something that belongs only to Champions.”
Jorge Martin’s challenge.. do you agree with independent team assessment?
“It’s something well known. When you sit in the seat of a factory team, your only goal is to win the Championship. Jorge is a fast rider anyways, and he has direct contact with Ducati, so, it’s true that he has less pressure but it is not his attitude to be second. It’s true what Pecco said, there is more pressure on the factory team, but in the end he is able to manage it so we trust Pecco and that he will be able to fight until the end.”
Will the title be decided in Valencia?
“Unless something bad happens, and that can happen, then I think it will be decided in Valencia. The three guys are very fast. It is true Marco is 73 behind but never say never but if he come back like I think, then he will be a contender. Jorge is very, very fast. We the team and Pecco have to put all the strength on the table to try keep those guys behind as much as possible but yeah, it will be Valencia.”
Do you feel Jorge is ready to take this opportunity?
GINO BORSOI: “For sure, I think he will be ready to fight. We are ready to fight. Actually we know where we’ve missed some opportunity like the last couple of races, so we need to improve some small things that can help us to fight from now until the end of the season. We have everything the rider is there the bike is there. We receive help from Ducati all the time so we don’t need anything more. We just need to find a way to fight the factory to Ducati guys.”
Have you talked about being more conservative?
“Yeah for sure we’ve already spoken about that. I can’t say that it was the wrong decision. It was our decision between us. We tried to do our best all the time in our decisions and what we decided was to pick the soft tyre and to make a break from the group because you know when you’re fighting in the group sometimes you lose the chance to get the best results, so this was one of this is one of the reasons. Let’s say it was an unlucky decision because we lost the race eight corners to go so just half this track, but what happened has already happened and we have to understand and study even better our possibility to be ready.”
Do you think that Jorge not joining the factory team is something he has used as a big motivation this year?
“For sure now he has something extra to fight for. He’s not in the factory team but he has an incredible team. He can say we are almost like the factory team. We’re not red but we’re close to red. Anyway we don’t miss anything. The motivation is there and I think if anything it’s even more than last season because we needs to show that the rider is fast and the team is good enough.”
Must be a very special time to be a part of the team. How special will it be if you won in the championship?
For sure it’s something that sometimes is even difficult for me to understand where we are right now. It’s like an incredible dream, sooner or later maybe I’ll wake up and really understand what we’re able to achieve but until now so far it’s been an incredible season. We’ve had a lot of podiums, we’ve put both our riders on the top step of the podium which is something incredible because the difference between the teams right now is really small so I can’t say anything more, I’m really happy about that and I’m really happy to be part of this incredible programme in this incredible team. I need to put all my effort to finish in the best way and we will try to fight for it for sure.
What are Marco’s chances?
PABLO NIETO: “In the end you never know. There are still eight races because with the Sprints there are so many points. We have to try to fight until the end and we will see. The good thing is now we are here and this is important. We are fighting against two factory teams and this is important for us.”
Is Marco ahead of expectations?
“If you saw the first year he had in MotoGP, he had an amazing season. He won rookie of the year. He made podiums, a pole position here, so I think we did a fantastic job. It’s true it’s hard to fight against factory bikes and teams but we aren’t missing anything. We have a very good bike, the team is improving a lot and we still have room to improve. In the end you never know.”
Where has Bez taken the step in 2023?
“I think the step I saw in him was in Moto2. He was fighting for the Moto2 Championship and then we came to MotoGP with a new team, we made a fantastic job. He believes in himself a lot and this is the main point. He always makes the best of a race, we saw him do an amazing job in India, Le Mans and Argentina and we are still here so we have to keep pushing.”
How can you get closer to the factory Ducatis in 2024?
“Next year will be difficult. When you start a season it’s always hard but we have the experience to try make good races from the start. The beginning of the season is important to make good races because they have the factory bikes and the factory bikes in the first races are always in a little bit more trouble let’s say, so we have to try to profit because in the end we are fighting against these bikes so we will try make our best.”
And the chances of a last round showdown?
“I would love to have the pressure that Davide doesn’t want! I would love to have that pressure to fight for the Championship in Valencia. It’s true we’re a little far but you never know so we will keep pushing!”
LINE UP 3: ACOSTA – ARBOLINO – CHANTRA
PEDRO ACOSTA: “I’m so happy to have my first match point here, in the end we are in a good shape. It’s true that we are doing a good season after the mistake of Le Mans. But anyway, we have to be calm and try not to think so much about this feeling that I had in the past in Moto3. Let’s see, let’s enjoy the battle.”
How difficult is it to just treat it like another weekend?
“It’s not so difficult, but the problem is when you’re in a good feeling you arrive to moment where you feel like a super hero and then life starts to hit you and you start to remember that it’s not so easy. We saw after the crash in FP1 in Indonesia and not a very good weekend in Australia that we are human so we have to be focussed and try to make sure we focus on our job and on our way and try to make sure we competitive on Sunday’s race.”
What has the team told you?
“In the end, I’ve learnt from Aki that we have to be as cold as ice in the end. Everyone knows how Aki is and I learnt this from him. It’s true that we are in a very comfortable moment in the championship and we’re not in a moment of stress, we have to be calm. We have to work well before the race and for sure the results will come.”
What will your number the next season?
“I can’t tell you at the moment, not at the moment maybe at the end of the season I can tell you!”
TONY ARBOLINO: “I’m not thinking about the Championship. I just want to do like the last race, beat everyone and win. I’m not focused on the Championship because I lost many points during the middle of the year. I know all about this, but I will try to not make life easy for Pedro and try and beat him and finish the season like this.”
Why have there been some second half struggles in 2023?
“We were trying to understand and work on it. The bike has always been the same so when we start to have problems, we touched the bike to try fix the problems but it wasn’t the right way so we went back to the old base and tried to push and put laps on there and that’s it. That’s what I’ll do, and that’s what we will do, try push the limit and try win races like last week.”
You get some incredible launches from the line, how do you do it?
While I’m on the grid and focused on the red light, I just want to beat everyone. I just want to win the race, even if I start last. I think this extra push gives me the confidence to pass everyone and make a good start. The thing of QP, the first part of the season I wasn’t starting on the front row but if I make a lap time in QP, I can produce it in the race again because that’s my bike and my feeling so I can keep the pace of the lap often. I know we have to work on that but I am focused on making good races now and that’s it.”
And your rivalry with Pedro?
“I think the first part we were both on the same level and then I had a small drop and that’s where he gained points on me and you learn from that. That’s where I made a mistake, we had a drop in the middle of the season and that wasn’t expected so we were in a panic to fix the problems, but we were rushing that so yeah, that’s it. I learned from that. I want to be competitive for the last part of the season, that’s the target and I don’t want to make life easy for him.”
SOMKIAT CHANTRA: “In the first day, when I arrived in Bangkok, I had a plan to go with the MotoGP riders. I went with Joan Mir also Fabio and Morbidelli. It was very nice and I enjoyed a lot riding with the MotoGP riders. Also in the afternoon it was very funny, and I enjoyed that a lot.”
There was also the very first Pad Thai Grand Prix… did you win?
“No, I was third. Morbidelli and Tatchakorn Buasri were ahead of me. My one wasn’t the best one because I think I put a lot of salt. I think when the people tasted it, they thought it was a little bit salty!”
You’re a superstar here, does that bring extra pressure?
“Yeah for me, I’m happy to see all the fans coming and supporting me, and also coming to support all the riders. I’m very happy to see them come here.”
It was a special moment here last year when you took pole position, how special will it be if you were to win your home Grand Prix here in Thailand?
“Yeah. And in Motegi it was an amazing week, from FP1 to the race was very good and now we were here back at my home Grand Prix. Yeah I will try to do my best because Pedro Acosta and also Tony are also very fast so yeah we’ll see this weekend what I can do.”
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