After three rounds that took riders from the sandy region of Qatar to the warm climates of the Americas, the 2016 MotoGP Championship heads this weekend to Europe. Heading into The Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, round four of 18, only two riders have been victorious – the reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo, who won the season opener in Qatar aboard his Movistar Yamaha YZR-M1, and Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, who won back-to-back rounds in Argentina and Texas.These two champions were present Thursday during the traditional pre-race press conference, along with Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Vinales and Octo Pramak Yakhnich Ducati’s Scott Redding.
And due to the biggest news of the week – Lorenzo signing with Ducati for 2017/2018 MotoGP – Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis was present to discuss Yamaha’s future.The rumors of Lorenzo joining Ducati began early in the season. Unfortunately, due to contract language, Lorenzo can’t comment on the specifics of the deal. But the three-time MotoGP Champion, who spent nine years with Yamaha, says “Yeah for sure it has been one of the most important and difficult decisions of my life and my career. But for this moment it’s still far away, very far away.”Jarvis was more vocal; he and Lorenzo had celebrated at Circuit of the Americas two weeks ago where Lorenzo earned his 99th career-class podium – all of them on Yamaha machinery.Jarvis says “It’s like going to discotec and asking a girl to dance and she chooses the guy next to you. Of course we would have preferred for Jorge to stay there’s no doubt about that, hopefully we can finish this season off in the style we ran the whole eight years together. This is our ninth season together, we’ve had a really good run. I was very involved when Jorge came to Yamaha so of course when you get to the end of an era, to a period, it’s a sad moment for sure.”But Jarvis looks ahead, and confirmed that Yamaha is looking at Vinales to ride next to nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, who extended his contract with Yamaha through 2018: “We are looking at some people and Maverick has proven that he’s one of the new future talents of the MotoGP. I think he has a very good chance to be World Champion in the future and he’s an attractive rider. There are other options that we have as well, other riders with different profiles. Things are never as straight forward and simple as they seem.”As for Lorenzo, he also looked ahead. After three of 18 rounds, he trails points leader Marquez by 21 points.Lorenzo says “Still 15 races remaining so at this moment I have all my attention in the present and in this championship I really want to fight in this championship and fight my hardest for my fourth MotoGP world title. At this moment I just think in blue and try to get the best results I can with this team.“We started in the best way in the Qatar race but things got complicated by my crash in Argentina. It was really a pity to lose so many points in this race. But luckily in Austin, which is normally a difficult Grand Prix for me, we solved the situation in the best way.“We couldn’t win, we couldn’t beat Marc, we finished second in a race that a lot of riders and favorites crashed. So we’re second in the championship and we have a high chance to fight for it. We’re 21 points behind, last year we were 29 and now I feel we have a higher potential than last year to win races.”The series leader, Marquez, has three-consecutive podiums, including his two victories. Like Lorenzo, Jerez is a home race, so his fans will surely be cheering as he chases a third MotoGP title.“We’ll try to continue the same way but now we come to Europe so that means European style tracks. They’re a little different compared to American, Argentina and Qatar. Here they are more narrow and we’ll see how we can manage this and how the setup is on these kind of tracks. Anyway, I’m happy because it looks like we’re better each time and the feeling with the bike is better.”Marquez had equaled 52 career GP wins in Austin, equaling him with Phil Read. But he knows win #53 may be tough in Jerez: “Here’s a track where Jorge is usually pretty strong so we’ll see. We did a test in November but from then till now you can imagine how many changes there have been on the bike. We’ll see how the tyres work on this track and with this kind of asphalt.”Next to speak was Ducati GP16 pilot Dovizioso, who was in podium contention in the past two rounds but was taken out by other riders, including his teammate Andrea Iannone in Argentina.“We did a great start in Qatar with a good result. The reality was we had the speed in the first three races and we had the chances to finish all three races in the podium so we have to look at that as that’s the reality. Unfortunately in the championship we are quite far but the speed is there and the bike is feeling good. When you don’t make a mistake it’s not a big problem. The problem is the points in the championship but it’s not our fault. It’s bad for the championship but about me I was lucky in the crash in Austin.”The question remains – will Dovi join Lorenzo with Ducati next season? He doesn’t have an answer, but knows the bike is stronger: “Now Ducati become strong, I’m really happy about that because it means in the last four years we did a great job and Ducati have a chance to bring a world champion into Ducati next year and this is really positive for Ducati.“Like I said already in some interviews I’m quite relaxed, the results were there, the speed was there this season and it’s completely different this year. The bike is good, the relationship with Ducati is good, they know very well what I did for them in these four years. I’m relaxed about that, like I did in the first three races I’m focusing on the results. This is the most important thing.”Vinales enters Jerez MotoGP with two top-five finishes for the Suzuki GSX-RR in its second year of returning to the premier class after a three-year hiatus.“I feel really good. When two big factories like Yamaha and Suzuki want you it means you work really hard and you have enough riding style and can be fast enough to ride those bikes. Anyway, right now I’m focused on this Grand Prix as I think it’s very important for us to achieve our best results in these next races as we have a lot of potential and we need to work harder on the Friday. I think in Austin that if I had a better start it was maybe possible to fight for the podium again, Vinales says.“For sure if last year when I ended in Valencia, when I ended so far from the top, if someone told me that I would make this step I wouldn’t believe them! But they work so hard and every weekend we improve. We’ve shown we can be on the level, maybe not now but in the next races.”Redding was the final rider to speak, the Brit continually improving as the year goes on.“In Qatar it was a good race but we just didn’t have the package together and then in Argentina we had some difficulties with the tyre on Saturday and then in the race it wasn’t so bad but again a small problem so we didn’t finish. Then in America we got the small things in together. The race wasn’t so bad, just with the soft option front we had to try our best to save the tyre. Just improve step by step and get closer and closer to the front guys over race distance.“I’m more relaxed and I’m having fun on the bike again. I want to go out and ride and that’s the main thing, I start to enjoy it and I can be myself like I was in the past and that’s what makes a good rider. Now I’m just rebuilding my confidence and enthusiasm.”The 21-rider grid begins free practice on Friday at Jerez. 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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!