Americans Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards and Josh Herrin were joined by European MotoGP™ trio Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith to preview the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas on Thursday, with Edwards taking the opportunity to announce his retirement at the end of 2014.
Edwards has been riding professionally for 22 years and has been in MotoGP™ since 2003, notching up 12 podiums along the way, having come into the World Championship as World Superbike champion. Announcing his decision in the Circuit of the Americas media centre the Texan native joked, “I’m still racing this year though!”
NGM Forward Racing's Edwards went on to explain, “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 affect. 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 World Championship leader and defending champion Marquez had been the first to speak to the press, returning to the track where he took his first premier class win last year.
The Repsol Honda rider reflected on that victory and on his 2014 season opening win at Qatar, before giving an update on his fitness having ridden to victory at Losail just over a fortnight ago still recovering from a fractured right leg.
Marquez commented: “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.”
On the back of his superb duel with Marquez at Losail Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Rossi was up next on the microphone, previewing round two by stating: “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.”
Meanwhile, former MotoGP World Champion Hayden is looking forward to his first race in the States with the Drive M7 Aspar team and he added, “We were in 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. This is an amazing facility and Americans should be proud of it. I think there is more of a buzz here this year.”
Sophomore MotoGP rider Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) notched up his first premier class points at COTA last season, so he aims for a strong performance on Sunday after he crashed out at the opening round of 2014 in Qatar.
Smith said, “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.”
AirAsia Caterham rider Herrin, added, “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.”
There were plaudits for the retiring Edwards from the other riders with Rossi admitting, “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.”
Marquez commented with a smile, “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.”
Edwards’ compatriot Hayden concluded “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!”
After the press conference Texas Tornado Edwards was joined by Hayden and Herrin to compete in COTA's Cowboy Challenge, which pitted the Americans against three riders from the old continent - Stefan Bradl, Tito Rabat and Niccolo Antonelli. The riders of Team USA and Team Europe competed in two cowboy challenges - cattle roping and horseshoes - with coaching and guidance from a real Texan cowboy, Keith Moon.
The Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas gets underway at 9am local time in Austin, Texas (GMT -5 hours) with FP1 for the Moto3™ riders. MotoGP FP1 follows at 9.55am, with the Moto2™ riders heading out on track at 10.55am for their first session of the weekend.