The second round of 2015 MotoGP officially got underway Thursday at Circuit of the Americas just outside of Austin, Texas, with the tradition pre-race conference.

Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Nicky Hayden, Bradley Smith and Andrea Iannone were present during the conference ahead of the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.

Repsol Honda’s Marquez got a bad start to the season, clashing with Alvaro Bautista and running wide. He dropped back to last place, but was able to battle his way to a fifth at Qatar. But things can turn positive very quickly. The two-time MotoGP Champion has been untouchable since the track’s inception on MotoGP in 2013; Marquez won both races from the pole, and holds all circuit records.

“I like it here in Austin and the rest of the US tracks. It is good for the bike and for my riding style, as it’s more of a “stop and go” track, unlike Qatar which is all about corner speed.”

The Spaniard said he didn’t have any input on who would substitute for his injured teammate Dani Pedrosa, and Repsol Honda picked official Team HRC test rider Hiroshi Aoyama over Casey Stoner.

Marquez also said he made up with Bautista: “I spoke to Alvaro and we are fine, I sent him a WhatsApp.”

As for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Rossi, the Italian is set to challenge Marquez, though he knows it’s going to be tough considering Marquez’s record at the track. Rossi won the opening round at Qatar, and has the points lead.

“On this track Marc is always very strong. Not only does the track suit the Honda, but especially it suits Marc,” Rossi says.

He also commented on rumors of him and teammate Jorge Lorenzo racing the Suzuka 8 Hour: “I would love to race with Jorge, and also it would be great to get on the new R1, but I don’t know the date of the race and in the past it was a big effort to get there (2000 & 20001) so this year maybe not, but maybe in the future.”

Ducati Team’s Iannone, who finished third at Qatar behind teammate Andrea Dovizioso, has confidence once again in the GP15.

“Here, everything is different, the track is not so easy and it is a completely different design, very technical,” Iannone says. “The GP15 is a surprise this year as it is very fast and the performance is already high, so I am really happy as we are only just starting its development.”

Lorenzo once again addressed his helmet issue at Qatar, which he says caused him a fourth-place finish.

“It was human error and these things happen. I made a mistake last year but we are a team, and the whole team can make a mistake, this time it was HJC. Now it has happened, and we are over it. I was frustrated after the race but I have to accept that mistakes can happen.”

Lorenzo then discussed how he can beat Marquez: “We have to go for the win. In the past it was hard to win and obviously the past two years have been very difficult, but we have different tires and a different bike and the Yamaha is more competitive than last year. My goal is to do better than 2013 when I finished third.”

The only satellite rider present was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith, who finished eighth at Qatar, 0.5 of a second behind teammate Pol Espargaro.

“As satellite riders we have the hardest job because as you saw in Qatar, I had to go through Q1 which was hard due to the softer tires lots of the riders were using. But myself and Pol are happy with the new M1 from Yamaha, and we can certainly do a good job like Valentino and Jorge did in Qatar,” Bradley says.

The sole America in all of Grand Prix racing was also on hand – Aspar MotoGP Team Honda’s Nicky Hayden. The Open Class pilot of Kentucky will be starting his 200th premier-class race Sunday before his home crowd.

“It doesn’t feel like 200, it’s been a long time and I don’t want to play it up too much, as I haven’t won as many as I would have liked. That said I have had a lot of great support, and I am still here trying to tread water,” Hayden says.

Hayden, who received a special cake by his parents, also discussed how much better the RCV1000R is over last year’s bike: “The engine is better and the bike is more powerful, although this makes the electronics more important. We need to focus on this to get the most out of the extra power available on the bike.”

Rossi had the room roaring when asked if he had watched the race in Qatar on TV: “At least ten times, although while watching it again was good, it was more fun actually being on the bike during those last two laps with Dovizioso.”

The 24-ride grid (lacking the injured Pedrosa) will be on Circuit of the Americas Friday for the first free practice, which begins at 9:55 CT.

For a preview, visit 2015 Austin MotoGP Preview | Rossi’s Many Challenges.

Photography by Ara Ashjian