Two rounds of the MotoGP™ have produced five different podium finishers, now the Championship arrives in Austin where Marquez has never lost
After an exciting two part race in Argentina, the MotoGP™ World Championship arrives in Austin for the first back-to-back races of 2016. There’s no rest for the best in the world as they prepare for round three of the 2016 season. Argentina race winner and championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined in the pre-race press conference by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) who are both looking to turn their fortunes around in Austin, a track they’ve classically had troubles at. Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) both arrive in Austin looking to make up for their DNFs in Argentina whereas Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) is eager to carry on as in Argentina.
Marc Marquez leads the championship with 41 points and arrives at one of his favourite tracks on the calendar. On each of his three visits to the Circuit of The Americas, Marquez has won from pole position: “Yeah Austin is a circuit that in the past has been really good for me. We’ll see this year, honestly the other years we arrived here with a really strong feeling. The feeling is really good now on the bike but here we have many accelerations and at the moment it’s where we lose the most. We’re trying to find the best way to improve the acceleration. Honda and my team are working a lot so I believe that step by step we will improve in that point and I’m really happy to be here. It looks like the US is a good country for me!”
Few expected neither Marquez nor Repsol Honda to be leading the championship after their troubled pre-season and difficult start to the Qatar GP. But hard work has seen Marquez as the only rider able to finish on the podium in both races: “The pre-season has been really really hard. The feeling wasn’t there and we were losing a lot and in the positions we were far from the top guys. In Qatar in FP1 we were eighth or ninth I don’t remember. But always we believe in our potential and we worked hard to find a good base, it looks like that base was working in Argentina. I hope that it will work here so we will see.”
Argentina saw Valentino Rossi take to the second step of the podium for the 50th time in the premier class, highlighting his long and proud career in MotoGP™. Free Practice 1 in Austin will also mark exactly 15 years since Rossi won the opening race of the 2001 500cc championship: “In Qatar, was a quite good race but I arrived just fourth. In Argentina was a difficult race for everyone, especially because there are a lot of problems with the rear tyre during the weekend and they decided to make the race in two parts. I feel very good on the first part but unfortunately with the second bike I wasn’t strong enough and I was lucky to arrive on the podium.”
Tyres will as ever play a major role in the weekend and Rossi is waiting for Friday to determine if the new Michelins will solve his historic front end problems at the track: “This track is very difficult, so long and so technical and you have all different things from the beginning to the end In the last years it wasn’t the best track for us. Usually we suffered a lot with the front here but now we have to understand if we’ll have the same problem with these tyres. We have to try to be ready and see what happens during practice.”
Jorge Lorenzo suffered his first DNF since the 2015 San Marino GP in Argentina, his opening two rounds of the season offering the highest of highs in Qatar and the lowest of lows in Argentina. The Majorcan now arrives at COTA looking to make up lost ground: “For sure normally I’m a quite safe rider. Obviously in Argentina the conditions of the track were really complicated for everyone but some of them stayed on their bike and I made a mistake. I didn’t feel great on the bike in the first laps and I lost a lot of meters with the first group and instead of having patience to improve the feeling little by little and wait for the second bike, maybe I could have been faster on the second bike. I just pushed too much in this first corner, which had a lot of wet patches and I crashed. Nobody is perfect and I made this mistake and I try to learn from it in the future. I try to forget this race and I think we have a good potential in normal conditions with normal tarmac and normal conditions.”
As was the case in the previous two rounds, Lorenzo’s future was a hot topic of conversation but he remained as tight lipped as ever: “I cannot tell you anything more than in Argentina. When my decision is made in the future you will all know.”
It was a thrilling weekend for Eugene Laverty who achieved his best ever MotoGP™ finish with a stellar fourth place. The Irishman is in the midst of an intense battle to secure the spot of top Independent Team rider in the standing, currently eighth overall and three points shy of Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in sixth: “Yeah, it was a bit of a crazy race let’s say. When we started 17th on the grid I didn’t expect to end up fourth, not even at the start of the race nor at the start of the last lap when I was in eighth place. I crossed the line and I had no idea where I was, it wasn’t until I rounded Turn 1 and I looked up on the tower and saw ‘Lav’ next to P4 that was a great moment!”
Much like Marquez, Laverty and his team struggled throughout pre-season testing, crashes and injuries limiting his progress significantly: “It was one of the roughest pre-seasons I’ve had. I finished the last test in hospital and I came back and Day 1, then the throttle stuck. I though OK ‘I’ve survived that’ and then an hour later the brakes didn’t work so it was really a crazy period and I wondered when my lucky was gonna change and finally I was in the right place at the right time. It looks like the luck of the Irish has worked out this time!”
Despite also crashing out of the race, there was no regret for Maverick Viñales. The young Suzuki rider proved to both himself and the world that he has podium potential: “For sure it was disappointing as I was there. I had the podium in my hand and I made a mistake and I can’t accept that I made this mistake when I had the podium there. Always it would have been great to bring Suzuki to the podium because it has been a lot of years that the bike isn’t at the top. But anyway, I feel confident that I can try to do it again. For sure I learned a lot. When I was riding behind Vale, Iannone and Dovi I learned a lot what our bike needs so for sure it will be helpful.”
Austin has always been a special track for Viñales who took his first Moto2™win at the track: “For sure, always when I come to Austin it’s a really good track. I like it a lot; it’s one of the special tracks for me where I can use my riding style better. Last year was difficult, it was only the second race of the first year in MotoGP and the bike still wasn’t like now. I’m quite confident for this Grand Prix and for sure we will work hard and for sure we’ll try to repeat as we were doing in Argentina.”
The Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas offers a chance of redemption for Andrea Iannone too, the Italian having ended the race in Argentina with an overly ambitious pass on his teammate. Due to the move, Race Direction awarded him a three-place grid penalty for Austin and a penalty point: “Yes, it’s a very bad start to the season. The first race was so bad it’s incredible. I think the best way is to look forward and focus at 100% to improve the situation. It’s very important for us after the second race as it’s my mistake and it’s difficult because it’s my teammate and we went down. It’s difficult for me especially. But OK.”
He also explained the incident in more depth, revealing that he was not attempting to overtake his teammate: “For me it’s very important to stay on the podium and I had the position and after the first race this would have been really good. But I know I had Vale on the rear and I thought Vale would try to pass me on the last corner so I tried to stay more inside on the corner but I touched the dirty part of the track so it’s difficult because I closed the front then I crashed. Unfortunately also Dovi. A very difficult moment for us but for sure we want to improve.