With the heat cranking outside, the traditional pre-race press conference got underway Thursday at Sepang International Circuit for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Present at the conference ahead of the penultimate round of 2014 MotoGP were MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, Bradley Smith, Cal Crutchlow, Moto2’s Tito Rabat and Moto3’s Alex Marquez.
The questioning began with Marc Marquez. With a win at Sepang MotoGP, the Repsol Honda RC213V pilot could tie Mick Doohan’s 1997 record for most premier-class wins in a single season.
Marquez, who clinched the title at Motegi two weeks ago, crashed out of last weekend’s round in Phillip Island MotoGP. Sepang is the final of three back-to-back races, and Marquez wants to put his crash behind him.
“It is time to try and be on the top again as I have not won since Silverstone. We will try to be ready to fight for victory on Sunday if it is dry, if it is wet we will see. It will be difficult because everyone has a lot of testing experience from this track,” Marquez says.
“I was trying to ride a different kind of race in Australia, to be strong from the beginning and make a gap. I thought riding without pressure it was time to ride a special way but it just didn’t work on Sunday. Anyway I expect Vale, Jorge and Dani to be strong here in Malaysia.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Rossi has delivered strong results, including his win at Phillip Island last week. The victory was the Italian’s 82nd in the premier class, and his second of 2014 MotoGP.
“It has been a good season for me from the beginning, but in the last four races Yamaha has won and it looks like we are closer to the Hondas so we can fight harder,” Rossi says.
“I like Sepang it is one of my favorite tracks. It is the most difficult race for the riders because of the heat. You are on the limit physically and you have to be fit and to keep your concentration.”
The other Yamaha rider present was Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Smith. The Brit took his first premier-class podium last weekend in Australia.
“It has been a great week for me, I have finally achieved one of the dreams and goals that I had in MotoGP. But now we need to look ahead and focus on this weekend in Sepang,” Smith says.
“This is a track I like and I had a half decent result here last year. I am close to the top six in the standings so I will keep pushing for that, it is a realistic objective.”
As for Crutchlow, he has shown strength on the updated Ducati GP14.2, but had bad luck at Phillip Island. The Brit crashed out with a half of lap remaining while running second.
“I believe we have really turned the season around but in the last two races we have not finished. You have to finish the race. This is racing, this is life. We had a not so bad test here at Sepang at the beginning of the year and hopefully we will start the weekend strong,” Crutchlow says.
Marc VDS Racing’s Esteve Rabat was present. The Spaniard has a chance to clinch the Moto2 title this weekend from his teammate Mika Kallio.
“It is the second chance, but I will focus on the race. We need to make a good practice and then in the true moment in the race we need to do it like we have in the practices. Last year here was unbelievable and I made a really good job. I know the track, we have the setting from last year, so let’s see!,” Rabat says.
In Moto3, Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Marquez – the younger brother of Marc – has a chance to clinch the title. He will have much work ahead, though, considering title contender Jack Miller (Red Bull Ajo KTM) has been on a tear.
“We need to work a lot in free practice and QP to have good race pace. I have to stay focused with the team like all races. My objective is to win the race on Sunday,” Marquez says.
“Maybe we will have another big battle like in Australia, we enjoy it a lot. In Moto3 it is always like this, with a small difference you can win the race or finish fifth. I want to enjoy my last two races in the category and be competitive.”
Earlier in the day a group of riders from all three World Championship categories put their courage to the test once again in a Mini Bikes race at the Sepang International Go-Kart Circuit. The race was won by Moto2’s Luis Salom, followed by Danny Kent and Maverick Viñales also on the podium, MotoGP says.
Free practice begins Friday. For a preview, visit 2014 Sepang MotoGP Preview.