2014 Circuit of the Americas MotoGP Pre-Race Press Conference
The second round of the 2014 MotoGP Championship began Thursday with the traditional press conference at Circuit of the Americas.
Speaking at the Austin MotoGP pre-race press conference were three Americans – Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards and Moto2’s Josh Herrin – along with Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith.
The top news was the retirement of Edwards, who has been racing professionally for 22 years and garnered 12 MotoGP podiums. He arrived in MotoGP in 2003 following eight years in World Superbike where he earned the 2000 and 2002 titles for Honda.
The 40-year-old Texan currently pilots an NGM Forward Racing Yamaha, and will retire at the conclusion of the 2014 season.
“In testing this year I could see that I need to change my riding style and it is against my instinct to ride differently so that has had an effect. I want to spend more time with my wife and my children and of course I want to say thanks to Yamaha and everyone who has helped me in my career.”
The reigning MotoGP Champion Marquez had three weeks of downtime between winning the opening round at Qatar and traveling to America for Austin MotoGP. Though the Repsol Honda rider broke his leg only six weeks ahead of the Qatar round, he was able to pull off the win by 0.59 of a second ahead of Rossi.
Marquez spoke highly of Circuit of the Americas; it is the track where he earned his first premier-class victory last season.
“I have great memories from 2013 here with my first pole and first victory in MotoGP. My fibula is a little bit better, not perfect but it has improved. I rode in Qatar with painkillers and I will try to ride without them here,” Marquez says.
Though Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Rossi arrives in Austin following a second-place at the opening round, he expressed his concerns about the long 3.426-mile circuit featuring 20 corners.
“I was very happy with Qatar but here last year was one of my most difficult races. We need to ride at the maximum. The track is long and very difficult,” Rossi says.
The 2006 MotoGP Champion Hayden has struggled with speed aboard his Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R throughout the preseason and opening round, but is looking forward to Austin MotoGP.
“We were in the top ten in Qatar but a lot of riders fell off. It is something special here with the home fans and we hope it gives us a boost,” Hayden says. “This is an amazing facility and Americans should be proud of it. I think there is more of a buzz here this year.”
The sophomore pilot Smith learned much at the opening round in Qatar, though he crashed out. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha pilot will search to get even with the other Yamahas on the grid at COTA.
“Actually Qatar was great for me for the 18 laps that I stayed on the bike. I learned a lot. Austin is going to be difficult for me I know that, but I have a great package with Tech3 so my goal this weekend is to be as close as possible to the factory Yamaha riders,” Smith says.
The only American in 2014 Moto2 – AirAsia Caterham’s Josh Herrin – also suffered a crash at Qatar, but he is eager to entertain the American fans at COTA.
“To be the only American in Moto2 and to ride here in front of the home crowd is really exciting for me. I need to put Qatar behind me and leave here with a good result. COTA have been great to me giving me plenty of passes for friends and family so I know I’ll have great support,” Herrin says.
At the end, many riders also commented on Edwards’ retirement announcement.
“I am very sad about the news of Colin’s retirement as he is one of my best friends in the paddock. He is a great guy and a great rider,” Rossi says.
“Colin started riding at the top when I was just two years old. I hope I can ride for as long as he has and I think he can be really proud of his career,” Marquez says.
“I always look at Colin and admire the energy he has with so many miles and so many years behind him. It’s a shame to be losing a fellow American from the sport. I hope he takes it easy for the rest of the year and takes it easy on the rest of us,” Hayden says.
Free Practice for the second of 18 rounds in 2014 MotoGP gets underway Friday at Circuit of the Americas. MotoGP begins at 11:55 ET. Stay clicked to Ultimate MotorCycling for practice results.
Photos by Ara Ashjian