Undisputed King of the Ring is the favourite heading into the German GP, but the resurgent Yamahas and the COTA calamity looms
Kicking us off for the HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland was undisputed King of the Ring Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the Championship leader was joined by Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Dutch GP winner Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha STR) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in the pre-event Press Conference to preview three days at the Sachsenring.
Nine poles, nine races, nine victories. That’s Marquez’ Sachsenring record and coming into this weekend, the reigning World Champion is the underlying favourite. However, he was also the heavy favourite at the Americas GP and we all know how that ended. So, Marquez isn’t taking anything for granted this weekend as he aims to build on his 44-point overall standings lead ahead of the summer break.
“Yeah I feel good, I feel good because we are in a very good position in the championship,” began the number 93. “We’re in good form. Of course in Assen we did a really good weekend. It was one of our worst during practice but in the race we take 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.”
One of those opponents looks set to be Viñales. The Spaniard finished P3 at the Sachsenring last year behind teammate Valentino Rossi and less than a week after his win at the Cathedral of Speed, he and Yamaha will still be riding that Netherlands wave. How does he see the German GP going?
“I think Honda and Marc are the favourites, they are the ones to beat,” admitted Viñales, who goes on to say that he will be aiming to repeat the work his side of the garage was doing in Barcelona and Assen.
“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 in 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.”
A “nothing to lose” attitude seemed to work wonders in Assen, and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director Massimo Meregalli was in an upbeat mood when speaking to motogp.com commentator Matt Birt and motogp.com Moto2™ and Moto3™ pitlane reporter Amy Dargan before the Press Conference.
“We could have done very well in Barcelona but the race finished too early,” said Meregalli. “The speed we showed during the practices, and all the sessions, gave us a lot of confidence that we could do quite well. I cannot say Assen was a surprise because of the way that we started, before the season, we knew it was possible. As a team manager, for me, it was incredible. It had been a long time since I saw Maverick so aggressive. In Barcelona, he really stepped up his confidence, after Jerez. Now he reminds me of the beginning of 2017 when he first jumped on our bike.
“The corner is working very very well,” continued Meregalli, talking about Viñales’ side of the garage. “Also Julito joined us as well. They’re a really good group and they work very well together. The way that he’s behaving is very different, compared to last year. He has more trust. He is calmer. The way he’s trying to react when things are not going well is completely different to before and I think that the group is working very well.”
But the Yamaha challenge doesn’t just sit on Viñales’ shoulders. Quartararo’s brave ride to a second consecutive podium finish last time out in Assen was another sign that the rookie is a serious threat every weekend. Due to the demanding nature of the TT Circuit Assen, Quartararo felt the effects of his recent arm pump surgery, but he’s confident he’ll be feeling better at the Sachsenring.
“First of all its good to be back on a race weekend. Assen was really positive for us,” commented Quartararo. “I struggle from mid-race to the end on my arm and for sure, to have back-to-back races isn’t the best for recovering but here almost all the corners are left. In Assen we take a rest from these type of corners, we will need to check in the first practice how the arm is but I think we will be ok.”
Morbidelli, a Moto2™ winner at the Sachsenring in 2017, will also be aiming for another top-five result as he tackles the German GP for the first time on a MotoGP™ bike. Injury forced him out last year, but with the Yamaha traditionally going well at the venue, Morbidelli is looking forward to the action getting underway.
“Yes. Sachsenring is a track that 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 I Yamaha works pretty well here so I am curious to see how the bike will react and how I will go at the track.”