Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo could make it three wins from three this weekend, as the seventh round of the FIM MotoGP World Championship, the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya, brings to an end a run of three races on successive weekends.
Lorenzo took an emphatic victory in Assen last time out, backing up a win at Silverstone eight days earlier. The Spaniard currently leads the championship standings by 47 points over Dani Pedrosa, a margin he’ll be keen to extend further with a win in front of his home crowd this weekend.
Lorenzo was involved in one of the most thrilling battles of the modern era last season as he battled with Fiat Yamaha teammate, Valentino Rossi, for victory at the Barcelona circuit. The Mallorcan came off second best, after a last corner overtake from the reigning World Champion.
“I remember very well the race last year, especially the final corner,” said Lorenzo, during the pre-event press conference. “Nobody wants to lose a race, but I learnt an important lesson that day.”
This year there will be no Rossi, as the Italian is still recovering from his Mugello injury, leaving Lorenzo as the clear favourite this weekend.
“This race is very important for all the Spanish riders, but we got our home win in Jerez earlier in the season, so the pressure is off for us. Of course, it would be good to win, but most important is to finish.”
Despite his convincing lead in the standings, the Fiat Yamaha rider emphasised once again in the press conference that it’s individual races he’s focussed on now, not the championship title.
“This is a bit premature,” declared Lorenzo, when asked how it felt to be viewed as the champion elect so early in the season. “There are still a lot of races to go, so we’ll see where we are when the season is done.”
Also at the press conference was Dani Pedrosa, probably the biggest threat facing Lorenzo as he attempts to rack up his hat trick of wins this weekend. The Repsol Honda rider was second last time out in Assen, but has had an up and down season so far.
“I’ve had good races and I’ve had bad races this year,” said Pedrosa. “This unstable rhythm is not usual for me, so I hope we can have another good result this weekend.”
His results so far this season may have been inconsistent, but Pedrosa has an enviable record at the Catalunya circuit. Other than Rossi, the Spaniard is the only rider to have won in all three classes at this track, so he knows what it takes to win here.
“A good set-up that allows you to conserve the tyres will be critical here; the temperatures are set to be high this weekend and this is already a track that works the tyres, especially the right side, really hard.”
“With my family and friends living only 20km from the circuit, and all coming this weekend to support me, this is an important race for me,” concluded Pedrosa.
Casey Stoner secured his and Ducati’s first podium of the season with third place in Assen last weekend, and declared himself happy with the progress made with the Desmosedici. The Australian is another rider with a strong history at Catalunya, having won here in 2007 and backed that up with two podium finishes in 2008 and 2009. However, this weekend is something of a step into the unknown for Stoner, after the Ducati rider experienced arm pump at both Silverstone and Assen.
“I let the arms recover on Sunday after Assen and, since then, I’ve been having treatment and working on it, but it’s one of those things that’s not so easy to overcome. I guess we will find out how successful the treatment has been tomorrow when I get on the bike for the first time.”
“I like this circuit; it’s one of the first Grand Prix circuits I raced on back in 2001 and I’ve enjoyed racing here ever since. It’s good fun with plenty of spinning and sliding, which isn’t so great for the rider, but it definitely makes things exciting for the spectators.”
Ben Spies arrives in Barcelona off the back of his first MotoGP podium finish in Silverstone and a solid fourth place in Assen. The American admitted during the press conference that his expectations were maybe a little higher after two good results in a row, but Catalunya is another circuit at which Spies hasn’t raced at previously and must learn during free practice on Friday.
“After third at Silverstone and fourth at Assen the expectations are getting more and more! We’ll put in the maximum effort as usual and see what we can do,” said the American. “So far it’s been going good, I’ve been happy with my progress and we need to keep it going. Assen was good, and I was happier with how I was riding towards the end of the race. We’ll take it session by session here at Catalunya.”
Living less than 5km from the track, this truly is a home race for Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard has made steady progress with the Pramac Ducati in recent weeks, securing his best result of the season so far with eighth place in Mugello, a result he’ll be hoping to surpass this weekend in Catalunya.
“This race is so special for all the Spanish riders, but even more so for me because I live less than 5km from the circuit and all my family and friends will be here to support me and Pol. I hope their support will help us both to do something special for them in the races.”
“I made two mistakes in the first two races but in the last four races I have improved. I’m enjoying the Ducati more and more and am trying to close the gap to the top riders.”
Earlier in the day Jorge Lorenzo, Colin Edwards, Ben Spies and Nicky Hayden took time out to meet WWE star, Mark Henry. The wrestler and former Olympic weightlifter allowed the MotoGP riders to try his World Championship belt for size, which, unsurprisingly, was far too big for all of them!
The Catalunya paddock also saw the planting of trees by members of the MotoGP media this afternoon, as part of an initiative organised by the Repsol Foundation and supported by Dorna to promote the planting of trees in both Spain and Haiti.