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Jun 13, 2013

MotoGP Riders Play Soccer In Barcelona To Warm-Up For Gran Premi Aperol De Catalunya

MotoGP racers playing soccer at the Nou Camp, the home of the FC Barcelona soccer team. Photo courtesy of Dorna/Motogp.com.
Repsol Honda Team’s Championship leader Dani Pedrosa and his hard-charging rookie teammate Marc Marquez were joined by Yamaha Factory Racing duo Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, as well as Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro at the Thursday pre-race press conference for the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya, which was preceded by a rather special pre-event at the Barcelona Nou Camp.

Pedrosa, who came second to Lorenzo in the race last year, is looking to step back on the top step this weekend, as he also celebrates his 200th Grand Prix: “200 is quite a lot of GPs – it seems like I only started yesterday. When I race here I feel so comfortable with my family and friends and I’ll push very much to win. It’s still early in the championship, but it’s good to be leading.”

Lorenzo’s dominant victory in Mugello will have given the Spaniard confidence ahead of this round, though he is not getting carried away: “This track is good for Yamaha and my riding. For me [Mugello] was a very important race, as we wanted to throw out the bad feelings from the race before. Hopefully we can conserve this feeling and finish on the podium here.”

Marquez, whose crash-strewn weekend last time out will be one to forget, is hoping to put on a good show in front of his home fans: “I’m nearly 100%. I feel so good and I’m ready for the GP. Barcelona is one of the most difficult circuits so it will be really interesting. Coming here….Jerez is so special…but here is my home circuit, and it will be nice to be in front of the fans.”

Coming off a run of two successive podiums, Crutchlow is aiming for a repeat performance on his satellite Yamaha: “To make it three in a row would be great, but there are so many guys here that want to win. It will be a difficult Grand Prix. Yamaha have a great package for here and we’ll start with the base setting from Mugello and see from there.”

Rossi, who was involved in a crash in Mugello, will be hoping to turn his fortunes around at a track where he has enjoyed much success in the past: “I’m very well. Monday [after the crash] it was hard to wake up…just a pain in the backside [ed]”, he joked. “In the body and the head.”

“For me, this weekend is maybe one of the best. The track and the layout is fantastic. Mugello, apart from the race, was fantastic. Usually the M1 in Montmelo is good, but we need to take another step and go faster, especially on Saturday.” When prompted about whether he is ready for a repeat battle with Lorenzo such as in 2009, he joked once more: “If Jorge waits for me maybe…”

Espargaro, who has been on top form this year, taking the top CRT spot in the first five races, is not looking to break that habit any time soon: “It has been a good beginning to the season, and I feel very good on the bike. We still need more power, but are heading in the right direction. For me my target is to battle with the Ducatis.”

Earlier in the day, riders of all classes were treated to a rather special event in the heart of nearby Barcelona, as a team of select MotoGP™ riders played a shortened game of full-pitch football against a mixed Moto2™ and Moto3™ team at the infamous Nou Camp, the home of FC Barcelona football club. Amid glorious June conditions, the match consisted of two 25-minute halves and perhaps served as ideal training ahead of this weekend’s race.

Only two minutes in, Moto2’s Pol Espargaro scored in delightful fashion, only for Andrea Dovizioso to equalise for MotoGP just minutes later. The top class would soon take the lead thanks to Randy de Puniet, only for Sandro Cortese – captain for Moto2/Moto3 – to up the score to 2-2. Cheekily electing to convert his role of coach into that of player, Cal Crutchlow dramatically stormed the pitch to score the third goal for MotoGP before Stefan Bradl made it 4-2. A late first half comeback for the Moto2/Moto3 squad saw Xavier Simeon up the score to 4-3 before impressing in goal throughout the second half.