Kicking off the fifth round of the MotoGP™ World Championship was Thursday’s pre-race press conference at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya, which saw championship leader Jorge Lorenzo joined by Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Stefan Bradl and Yonny Hernández.
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo, fresh from a dominant victory in the wet at Le Mans, leads the championship standings by eight points at present. The Catalunya circuit has yielded success for the Spaniard in the past, where he has recorded one win and two second-place finishes in the last three years. He commented: “I’m arriving in a good state. I’m very happy, very motivated. It’s my home race. I’m from Mallorca, but have lived in Barcelona for a long time. It’s also a track where I’ve had great results in the past. I think for the 1000cc Yamaha it could be a good track. I hope we have a weekend with good conditions, but if it rains we’ll be ok as well.
“It’s [the season] been very tough with a lot of competition, especially in the front group with Casey [Stoner] and Dani. The races have a very high pace and are physically demanding. To be at the front you can’t stop concentrating, you have to be at the limit all the time, and of course not crash. To do this is always difficult, but I’m a little bit older and more experienced than the pervious years, so this can make it a bit easier.”
Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa, who missed last year’s round with a broken collarbone, will be looking to close the gap to his teammate Casey Stoner and Lorenzo with a victory in front of his home crowd. He said: “I’m happy to be here. It’s been a great start to the season, although last race wasn’t so good. Last year I missed this one and had to watch it on the TV, which is not the greatest feeling. I have won here in the three classes and I aim to get a good result this time. It’s a hard track, especially for the bike and the tyres; you have to have a good set-up on the bike here. As Jorge says, it’s important to keep the pace up and be on the limit all the time.”
Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi, fresh from a private test at Mugello, stated that finding pace in the dry was the main aim for the Italian outfit this weekend: “We were in Mugello last week and we were lucky with the weather. We could try some new stuff to try to improve our speed and performance in the dry. We tried a different swingarm and some improvements in the electronics system under acceleration. To understand if we have made a step we will have to wait until tomorrow. We know that in the rain we’re fast, but our target is to be faster in the dry. It’s [Catalunya] one of my three favourite tracks of the season. I love to race here and I love the atmosphere with the fans.
LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, who recorded his best result in fifth last time out is looking to not get carried away this weekend and keep progressing as he has been: “When we come to a track where we haven’t tested, Friday is always really tough for me because I only have the reference from last year in Moto2™. I need to adapt little things and try and get it together, but this track I really like. It’s a really good one for a MotoGP bike. We hope to have some good weather this weekend.”
Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernández, who is the first ever Columbian rider to record points in the MotoGP class, is aiming to put in a solid performance on his team’s home ground: “For me it is like home because my team is from here. I feel very good on this track and I expect to have a good race and get a good result for me, my team and for my family. I’ll try to do my best. To share the track with Valentino, Lorenzo and Pedrosa is like a dream for me.”
Towards the end of the press conference, when both Lorenzo and Pedrosa were prompted about their now seemingly friendly relationship, which was far from that in the past, Lorenzo joked: “In 2003 we were enemies, in 2005 more, and then in 2008 even more. Now we can have a hug [after Qatar race]….maybe in three years we can get married.”
Earlier in the day, some of the MotoGP contingent took a trip to the local town of Granollers to not only experience the hustle and bustle of a typical market, but also to get hands on in the kitchen with some Catalan specialities. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró, Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s Pol Espargaró, Mapfre Aspar Team’s Toni Elías, Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding, Italtrans Racing Team’s Claudio Corti and Racing Team Germany’s Louis Rossi were thrown head first into the local market “La Porxada” to buy all their ingredients to prepare their Catalan dishes. After haggling with some tough vendors and dodging some enthusiastic locals, the riders made their way to “La Fonda Europa”.
The popular restaurant was kind enough to lend the riders their kitchen and cooking expertise, to see if they were just as good at the stove as they are on track. A hearty meal in Catalunya does however not start without “pa amb tomàquet”, which is bread with tomato, garlic, oil and salt. The Espargaró brothers and Elías, all local to the area, led the way showing the out-of-towners how to prepare the dish, before being ushered into the kitchen to prepare “botifarra amb mongetes”, meaning Catalan sausage and beans. All riders proved a deft hand at the stove, yet it was only the Espargaró brothers who walked away with a big plate full, as the others chose to finish off the leftover bread.