After a week off to recover from demanding back-to-back rounds at Indianapolis and Misano the MotoGP riders are steeling themselves for Round 14 of the 2011 campaign this weekend, the Gran Premio de Aragón which takes place at the impressive MotorLand facility in north eastern Spain.
Casey Stoner, who won last year at Aragon, may have seen his Championship lead cut down by nine points at Misano where he finished third and closest rival Jorge Lorenzo first, but the Repsol Honda rider still has a substantial 35-point advantage over the defending World Champion going into the weekend. However, Stoner knows his title lead remains under pressure with five races still to go.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “It’s still going to be very tight. Every time we talk about the Championship I say there’s no way Jorge is going to give up, and he’ll take every point he can.
“We have to be ready again this weekend, last weekend we definitely had the package to run with Jorge and I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to because of myself. This weekend we feel a lot better and stronger and I’m ready for it.”
A week off to rest and train has placed Stoner in confident mood, and he added: “It’s been nice to have a small break after the race in Misano. We had a pretty successful weekend last year and hopefully we can get the Honda working around here a little bit earlier than at some of the other tracks this year. It looks like it will be hot this weekend so I think it’ll be a lot of hard work.”
Yamaha Factory Racing rider Lorenzo took great confidence from his third victory of the season last time out, and while the gap to Stoner remains significant the Spaniard remains focused; last round’s win at Misano was his 38th career-GP victory.
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: “Misano was a fantastic victory for us and very important, we had a good package there and we will start with the same package here. Aragón is a very modern track with great facilities, and it’s good to be here where the people are very warm.
“The Championship is difficult from the beginning of the season, even in pre-season, we always know this. We made some mistakes, had some great victories, have been quite consistent apart from these crashes, and now we are 35 points behind Casey. It’s not easy to fight with him but we will try and I think we have a good package and we will fight.”
Valentino Rossi’s 2011 season continues to provide the nine-time World Champion and his Ducati Team with huge challenges, but the Italian is approaching this weekend with renewed enthusiasm. A Test at Mugello last week on Ducati’s evolving 2012 machine has given Rossi an insight into what can be expected next season and he discussed some of the aspects of the developing machine.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: “We tried something different in the bike to improve the front feeling and turning, I was a bit faster than the last time but especially the feeling is quite good. So we are looking forward.”
Asked about the possibility of an aluminum frame being introduced next season, as speculated upon, Rossi clarified.
Valentino Rossi says: “It’s not a frame. The philosophy of Ducati remains the same. The front part of the bike is a bit different and is aluminum and not carbon fibre like it was before, it’s a question of time with regards to the material. We have to work, to try to understand, and with aluminum we need a lot less time than the carbon. It’s just the first step, we’ll keep working and we’ll try to come back and fight for the front positions.”
Rossi also confirmed his presence at next month’s Grand Prix of Japan after delaying a decision on whether he would go.
Valentino Rossi says: “I will go to Japan for the race. All the tests are negative, it looks quite safe so yes, I will go to race at Motegi.”
Spaniards Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) were also present and will be amongst those battling for a result to be proud of in front of their home crowd.
Hector Barbera (Mapfre Aspar Ducati MotoGP) says: “This is a very important home race and of course I want to do well. At the moment my manager is speaking with the team, I want to stay with this team but at the moment I don’t know. I want to stay with Aspar because for two years we’ve worked well together and the team has worked hard for me.”
Bautista continues to grow in confidence and expectations on the GSV-R, and said: “The bike is now a lot more competitive, I have more confidence with it and I can ride how I want. For sure our bike is not like the Honda or Yamaha, we are one or two steps behind, but we are working very hard and I hope our level will be impressive for the last few races.”
On his own potential destination for 2012, which still depends on whether Suzuki run a 1000cc machine, Bautista says: “I have some offers but for sure I’m very comfortable with Suzuki, we’re working very well together, so I am waiting for them. I would definitely like to race on a 1000 bike next year.”
Earlier in the day at the circuit Pit Lane reverberated to the sound of a noise other than that of engines, as premier class riders Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team), Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Rossi and Spanish Moto2 talents Pol Espargaró (HP Tuenti Speed Up) and Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX) bore witness to a special drumming exhibition.
Fifty drummers from the Ruta del Tambor y el Bombo group dressed in traditional local costumes marched down Pit Lane playing the ‘bombos’, a local drum typical to the region as MotorLand Aragón CEO Antonio Gasión and President of the Ruta del Tambor, Segundo Bordonaba, also enjoyed the fantastic display of local culture.
Stopping outside each rider’s team garage the riders themselves emerged to observe the spectacle, and everyone except Rossi tested out whether they had any rhythm by playing a special drum presented to them as a gift by the group.