Formalities for the Gran Premio bwin de España got underway on Thursday afternoon at the Jerez Circuit, where reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo was joined by early Championship leader Casey Stoner, Marco Simoncelli, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi at the official press conference.
Stoner, who has just a single podium finish in the premier class at the circuit from 2009, was the first to speak as he emphasized his anticipation for the first European GP of the 2011 campaign having gotten off to a winning start in Qatar.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda MotoGP) says: “It was good to get the first race done, and I think at this track we will get a clearer idea for the rest of the season. We’ve had the best possible start to the season, but I’m now very excited to start the European Grands Prix.
“Jerez is definitely a circuit I haven’t gone too well at in the past, but there’s always time to turn that around. It motivates me and I’m hopeful after this start (to the season). I am confident in the bike and want to continue getting good results and keep in touch with the Championship.”
Lorenzo won last year’s race at this venue and has winning form from his 250 days as well, but the Factory Yamaha Racing rider knows that will count for little when the weekend’s proceedings get underway with Friday morning’s practice session.
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1) says: “I do have lots of experience at this track, but this is another Championship with different circumstances. I come here happy after Qatar but we’ll see tomorrow how the bike is really working.”
A constant desire for Lorenzo from his M1 since the latter half of last season has been improvements in power, and with the Honda’s step up in pre-season and at Qatar the Spaniard is still aiming for more.
Jorge Lorenzo says: “Let’s try to improve the bike. It can be improved a lot, and that’s our goal. Everything is possible. I think at Estoril we could have something to try, but maybe it will be later, around the fifth or sixth race.”
It was confirmed earlier in the day that following this race to try and finally correct the issue still hanging over from his collarbone injury, sustained last October at Motegi.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda MotoGP) says: “We finally found out what was wrong, and I’ll have the operation on Monday or Tuesday. We’ll do the best we possibly can to finally fix the problem with the doctors, and then try to recover as fully as possible before Estoril.”
Focusing on the race, in which Pedrosa has always finished inside the top two when riding in the premier class, he added: “Jerez is always special. I won’t think about this injury and will try to do the best possible. I’ve had good races here in the past, the crowd is always great with their support, and I hope for a good weekend and result.”
Valentino Rossi is the most successful rider at the circuit having won six times in the premier class at Jerez but he is another rider also dealing with physical issues, his being a recovering shoulder.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team MotoGP) says: “It’s a difficult moment because we have different problems, the first is me and I need time to be at 100%, the second is the bike. I need to be in a better condition and to ride the Desmosedici in the best possible way. On the other side many of the other bikes, especially Honda, have taken a big step and we need to take that same step.”
Asked whether his switch to the Ducati was proving to be the biggest challenge of his career, Rossi added: “Yamaha was also a great challenge. Now I think it’s a bit more difficult because the level is higher and also because of my condition. I need more time.”
Looking ahead to the weekend, he concluded: “I like this track, love the area of Andalucia, and there are always a lot of people here. Here we will try to improve on the Qatar result of seventh.”
Completing the premier class line-up was Simoncelli, and the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider was open in his aims for the weekend.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini MotoGP) says: “The start to this season is completely different to that of last year. I was happy with the first race. I’m confident here, like the track, and on Sunday I hope to do well. The target will be to have a good race, stay close to the front and if possible take a podium.”
Earlier in the day Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar), Toni Elías (LCR Honda) and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) sampled a taste of some real Spanish culture in Andalucia when they travelled to Fuente Rey, close to the Jerez circuit in southern Spain, to meet Fermin Bohórquez at his farm where the famed mounted bullfighter breeds fighting bulls. Also present to greet the riders was 2010’s number one bullfighter David Fandila, otherwise known by his alias ‘El Fandi’.
After coming face to face with a field full of fighting bulls where the riders posed for photographs alongside the two bullfighters, the focus shifted to an indoor bullfighting ring where ‘El Fandi’ and then Borhórquez – on a horse – put on a display of their skills by taking on a one-year-old heifer.
It was then the turn of the riders, and whilst Edwards opted against trying his luck inside the ring this time around, both Barberá and Elías did so, gaining confidence as ‘El Fandi’ talked them through each move before leaving them to try a few on their own.
Following the spectacle the trio of riders posed for photos with Bohórquez and his father, also named Fermín, who preceded him as a famous mounted bullfighter before his retirement.