Austrian Grand Prix, pre-event MotoGP press conference
The pre-race press conference in Austria gathered some of the fastest in the MotoGP™ field ahead of the NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, with championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) joined by teammate Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow as the paddock touches down in Austria for the first time in nearly two decades – ready for the challenge of the Red Bull Ring’s new layout.
Championship leader Marquez was the first to speak on the new venue, although the Repsol Honda Team were not present at the recent test: “We’ll see this weekend how the new track is for everybody. I’ve done a few laps on the road bike to get to know the circuit and there are some parts where we could gain, and some parts where we could lose, so it will be interesting. We could have a base setting though, because LCR Honda and Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS tested here.”
Teammate Pedrosa equally hasn’t yet tried the track on the GP machine, but his first taste of the layout was a definite positive. “The first time it’s very impressive,” said the veteran rider. “The track has two parts to it almost and it’s a long time at full throttle – so the key will be to have a fast bike and keep the gas open as much as possible. It looks like there will also be a new tyre since the test, to improve durability, so we will have to see.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo comes back from the summer break with his focus on catching Marquez at the top, and did test – alongside teammate Valentino Rossi – at the Austrian venue.
“It’s important for me to come back strong,” said the reigning world champion. “So let’s see tomorrow if we can be closer to the Ducatis than we were in the test. However, we were able to improve at the end of the test in the last few hours, so let’s see if we can keep following that line and get closer to them.”
Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi is the only rider to have raced the venue at world level – back in 1996 – but there have been changes to the track since. “The layout is not so different,” said the Italian, although there have been modifications. “But the asphalt is different – it’s very flat with no bumps. I think it’s a particular track because it’s not similar to any of the others. And there’s a lot of time spent at full throttle – so maybe it will create a different kind of race.”
That time spent at full throttle could help Andrea Dovizioso, for whom the Austrian GP will prove his 250th. The Ducati Team saw their times at the test lay an incredible foundation ahead of the weekend, with the pressure starting to mount. “The track suits our bike a lot – our bike is very fast on the straight and strong in acceleration. We are confident for the weekend but the race is always different because you have to work on every detail to be fast over 28 laps. And the tyres will be different to the test – so we’ll have to try it to see how our speed is compared to the test.”
New father Cal Crutchlow, who was present at the test, is unsure if he can replicate his results from Sachsenring: “I think it could be a difficult weekend for us. We knew it would be so in the test we focused on working on the electronics and things like that – but then we also have strong points like in the braking zones. So we’ll see.”
Another talking point for the riders was the recent change to the width of Turn 10 – lowering the exit speed to improve the safety of the corners. Riders agreed it was a positive move, and that safety discussions would continue as each got more experience of the new track.
After the Press Conference had concluded, the 24 riders of the future in the Red Bull Rookies Cup then took to the Main Straight at the circuit to kick off celebrations ahead of the 400th GP of the new era in Brno – as the partnership between FIM, IRTA, MSMA and Dorna also reaches its milestone 25th year. Each Red Bull Rookie held a balloon for each of the winners in the last 24 years of the new era – and there was a helicopter fly over with a flag to commemorate the race as the 399th. The celebrations for the 400th GP will reach their crescendo and conclusion during the next race weekend at Brno, as the Czech venue has the honour of hosting the event.
The grid now get their first taste of the Red Bull Ring with the slight alterations to Turn 10 on Friday morning, as Moto3™ lead the charge from pitlane at 9:00 local time (GMT +2) – ahead of the MotoGP™ machines at 9:55.