2014 Qatar MotoGP Pre-Race Press Conference
The first pre-race press conference of 2014 MotoGP got underway Wednesday at Qatar’s Losail International Raceway.
Six of MotoGP’s top stars were present – Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team’s Cal Crutchlow and NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro.
As expected, all attention was immediately focused on the reigning MotoGP Champion, Marquez. Following a record-breaking run during the first Sepang preseason MotoGP test, the 21-year-old Spaniard broke his leg in a dirt-training accident.
He was forced to miss the remaining preseason tests so he could fully recover for this week’s Qatar MotoGP round.
“It’s getting better but we won’t see my level until I get on the bike. It might take some time to get on the pace. It’s difficult because I’ve lost over a month of training and five days ago I couldn’t even walk. I can walk now and I think if I can do that I should be ok on the bike,” Marquez says.
“It was difficult to be at home whilst everyone else was testing. Anyway I feel ok now and I’m looking forward to the start of the season. I’m not sure the objective is to fight for victory here, though I will need to see how my foot is over the course of the weekend.”
Ahead of the press conference, Yamaha’s Lorenzo and Rossi unveiled the new livery of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1 prototypes. The riders then took a ride down Losail’s start/finish straight to show off the graphics highlighted by Movistar, which signed a five-year deal with Yamaha as the title sponsor.
“It’s great news that Movistar have joined our team and we are really excited to go racing,” Lorenzo says. “Physically I am close to 100 percent but I have had three operations over the winter and I’ve had to work really hard to get my fitness back. The first race is crucial, you don’t want to make a mistake here and crash out, it’s so important to be on the podium at least.”
Pedrosa’s view was a bit different: “The first race is key of course but the championship is long and you have 18 rounds to prove you are the best. Of course I want to make the best start possible but so does everyone else!”
The 34-year-old Italian Rossi enters his 19th year of World Championship racing in 2014, again making him the most seasoned veteran in GP racing. He immediately discussed what needs to be done.
“We need to try and see level this year once the races start as we have been more competitive in testing. I believe Aleix (Espargaro) and the Ducati riders will be strong both in terms of lap times and their race pace. The races could be different to last year especially at the start and in the first part of each race,” Rossi says.
The British rider Crutchlow makes his debut with Ducati this year. He knows there is much work to be completed on the Desmosedici GP14, which will run under the open-class rules.
“I’m trying to learn a new bike and I’m having to adapt my riding style,” Crutchlow says. “I have to stop and turn more than carrying the corner speed and we’re making progress. Andrea Dovizioso showed the competitiveness of our bike over one lap in Sepang testing so let’s see if we can do it in a race.
“Aleix (Espargaro) has shown how competitiveness he can be with the Open. I don’t think the softer tire is an advantage at all, but let’s see what happens.”
Espargaro, who has been the top Open-class rider, is looking forward to positive results on the Yamaha.
“I have a very competitive package and I’m really excited to start racing,” the Spaniard says. “The million dollar question is whether we can show our good pace in testing over race distance. Our race simulations have shown the we can. The end of last year was hard for me, I lost some focus and it was a hard decision to change team. But I’m very happy now with the decision I made!”
The riders then offer thoughts on the new Factory and Open classes.
“In an ideal world we would have 10 or 15 riders competing to win the title in one class and that is the goal,” Lorenzo says.
Espargaro also commented: “We are racing for the fans and we have to put on a good show. It would be great to see more bikes being competitive and hopefully that’s what we will see.”
Free practice begins Thursday at Losail for 2014 Qatar MotoGP. Stay clicked to Ultimate MotorCycling for results.