“Summer break was too long!”: MotoGP™ riders ready to take on the Red Bull Ring
The pre-event Press Conference kicks off the Michelin® Grand Prix of Styria – and the second half of the season
Thursday, 05 August 2021
Did you miss us? Fear not, for the countdown is almost over as the pre-event Press Conference got the Michelin® Grand Prix of Styria in gear at the Red Bull Ring, bringing summer break to an end.
Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was joined Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing); second in the standings, as well as reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), last year’s Styrian GP winner Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and the returning Cal Crutchlow (Petronas Yamaha SRT), the Brit on injury replacement duty.
Here are some key quotes:
Fabio Quartararo: “I enjoyed the break. It was a little bit too long! You know when you make your holidays the first week and then you know you have more than four weeks to wait, it was kind of a preseason, you have a month and yeah I had the time to train really well I feel in really great shape. I’m feeling well physically, mentally and ready to start the second part of the season. I’ve looked back at almost all the races of this first part of the Championship, I need to improve a few things so yeah I’m ready to start the second half and I know where I need to work on so I’m happy to be here.”
Johann Zarco: “Feeling happy because the break was long and as a racer, the good place to be is on the racetrack. Here in Austria, happy to be here because on the paper the Ducati is a great bike, some great results here. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy to fight with the top guys but at least you have a bit more of a chance. The great things I got on the first half give me this motivation to believe I can really catch even better for the second half so the mind is great and clearly when you go on the track you still have somewhere in the mind what happened last year, but I’ve been lucky that when it happened the next week I could race again, straight after the operation. I got some feeling; I was quite fast during the practice then I did the race. With the race just the next week it helped out a lot to forget what happened and it’s just that the past even if on the media on the social media we can see again a lot this accident from last year, fortunately, we didn’t get drama and now just look forward.”
Joan Mir: “The plan during the beginning of the season was to try to make a strong start to the season. It was not really strong but then to try to improve in the second part of the season to try to get good confidence and then and try to fight for the victory, it’s what I need to fight for the title in the end. At the moment, the first part I was not strong enough to be there but yeah, if we improve the bike a bit more like you said the holeshot device, it can be one thing to start at the same point as the others to try to see where we are. We have it. I think that we will use it so let’s see if it will be enough to get back good feelings and to try to fight the victory!”
Maverick Viñales: “Summer break has been fantastic as you said five weeks with the family we came from a good result that always is important so I enjoy a lot this summer. At the end of the summer break I start to train with the bikes so I had a good time. I think we come here with a good motivation. I want to take the chance to apologize to the fans because sometimes my attitude is not the best, but you know I’m dealing with a new situation. It’s difficult, I’m very frustrated, so sometimes I’m not good at communication but yeah I’m learning I’m trying to improve, I’m trying to give more information about what is going on and yeah Yamaha is a great team but right now for me. We didn’t have enough capacity to find my best performance and I think right now the most important thing is to be focused. For sure I’m really motivated, I will give my maximum, there is no doubt that I will give my maximum every race, every lap. About my future right now, I cannot tell because I’m concentrated on this race and I just want to take the chance on the summer to enjoy you know to release all the pressure and to keep working and keep improving.”
Miguel Oliveira: “Coming in as we finished the last four races on the first half of the season, for sure it is highly motivating for us. We are in a positive moment and we want to start the second half of the season on those high positive results. Last year I wasn’t the fastest, I wasn’t the most consistent, so there’s definitely some work I need to do here to be able to be a protagonist and tomorrow it starts the first practice. From the beginning we want to be there, we want to be competitive and we want to fight with the best so let’s see what the weekend brings for sure we would like to put a good performance for all the KTM and Red Bull fans here in this upcoming weekend.”
Cal Crutchlow: “I feel strange because I retired and then suddenly I’m back already! It was a joint decision between me, Yamaha and Petronas SRT team that I would come and race these three races. Unfortunately, Franco has got injured and we hope he comes back soon. There’s no doubt about that I hope he comes back soon, and basically, the situation was they asked me to ride in Assen but I was planning to go to some tests in Japan, unfortunately, they got cancelled, so this means too long off the bike… so I haven’t ridden at all, any bike, since April. I’ll ride here this weekend so if you see me stopped in the pit lane it’s ’cause I’ve stalled the bike! But yeah, I think it’s the best for all parties to be able to be on the grid with a good team and I look forward to being back out there and seeing how the weekend goes.
“Yeah I mean I’ve raced at Silverstone for many years, I’ve had some great results there, I’ve had some bad results there but being in front of the home crowd is always something special and they always support me on the race weekend. I’ve been very lucky that a lot of the times I’ve been the only British rider on the grid but when I wasn’t the support was equal. It was a great atmosphere, it’ll be good to go to Silverstone and see full stands that I think the sport deserves, Silverstone deserves and I’m sure Silverstone are very happy that it landed on there on a weekend that I do the three Grands Prix!”
That’s a wrap on Thursday! Free Practice begins on Friday morning, before MotoGP™ heads back out for battle on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +2).
Rossi retirement: the riders react
Fabio Quartararo: “It’s difficult to believe because you know he was already two time World Champion and I was still not born, and we are still racing with him and imagine that next year he will not be racing. It is kind of sad you know, he’s really the guy that makes me want to be a MotoGP rider. When I was a kid watching him, waiting hours in front of the hospitality to get the picture and then for me, yes, he’s the legend of the sport, he made an amazing career and I think that he’s a legend, still my idol and yeah I have no words to describe him.”
Johann Zarco: “It will be strange but thanks to Vale for what he gave because I think he changed the vision of the motorbike during the 2000s until now and when you speak about motorbike with someone that doesn’t know anything, he can just tell you Valentino Rossi so it really means something. We were expecting that there will be a day that he will say stop and it’s coming and it came. Just amazing because he stayed such a long time, we could watch him on TV and he became the idol and then we could race with him. I think there are not so many sportsmen like that. So thanks for what he gave, and I think the way he was racing will remain always his way, because it was always with a different approach I would say, more than most of the others.”
Joan Mir: “I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to race with Vale for this for two years, three. I probably was more nervous than him when he was given the news! It’s a difficult moment because it looks like this moment never arrives for a rider. I’m for sure he has everything to go and enjoy a lot the life and I’m so happy for him. There was a question that a journalist was asking him if he feels like Michael Jordan of the basketball and for sure he’s the Michael Jordan of the motorbikes. It will be difficult to repeat another Valentino Rossi in history, so wishing him a lot of luck I would hope to see him in the next seasons around the paddock.”
Maverick Viñales: “He was my point of reference when I was a kid. You know when I started to love that passion of motorcycle was, especially when I start to see Valentino with his celebration the way he win the races, so at the end, as a kid I grew up I had the opportunity to share the team with him, and for sure to be internally sharing the data, sharing comments everything and you know I had the chance to learn, this is the most important. Valentino is more than an icon more than a legend, my idol. He’s the point of reference since I was three years old now and yeah, it’s sad. We need to say thank you to him because he grew MotoGP a lot and also was an inspiration for me so in the end you know as I said I was very lucky to share the team with him for many years and also you know sometimes they fight against him, other times to enjoy the time with him and was a very enjoyable time. I remember Malaysia, Indonesia, these long events where we could talk a little bit more outside of the bikes. For me what it remains also is that outside of the bike he’s always a great person and I think as Joan said, he is the point of the bikes. We need to be very thankful to him.”
Miguel Oliveira: “It’s hard to add anything else but I think like many of us Valentino has been a reference since we were kids. It’s easy when we were kids to relate to Valentino because everyone wants to support the winner or who is winning, and I think really the turning point that makes him a sort of more of a legend was the turning point and after that those many titles 2009, 2010 when he moved to Ducati and when he came back to Yamaha, people still loved him even if it was not winning, even if the results weren’t great and I think only at that time we could see really the greatness of Valentino and the image power he had the influence he had on the MotoGP paddock. It was a privilege to share the race track with him.”
Cal Crutchlow: “I think coming back is a great story to be able to go into the Petronas SRT team as his teammate for the weekend he announces his retirement, but yeah as all of the guys said watching him, since even when I was young and I’m you know, he was racing Grand Prix, I was racing British championship but enjoying watching him. Then when I finally came to Yamaha he was in Yamaha and then went to Ducati and came back to Yamaha. I remember one night going to the motorhome one night he asked me if I was ready to battle next year, and we did. We battled in so many races that year in 2013 and it was good fun. He’s incredible, what he’s done for the sport, as Johann said, no matter where you are in the world, when you say motorbikes they just say Valentino Rossi. He is just one of those great sporting icons. I stopped at 35 years old, I could not go on for another 7 years, his motivation to be fast is incredible. He is going faster than he’s ever been before at a lot of these tracks, now to be able to do that is incredible, it just shows that physically wise he’s in great shape to be able to do it and also the mentality of being able to perform and keep going fast, he never stops learning. To be in the sport with him at the same time, being there at the same manufacturer and now a teammate at one of the races, it’s been good.”
Dani Pedrosa: “It’s sad, it’s something you never want to happen and especially when you’re on a high level like he has been for so long. Like in my case, it’s a sad day but it’s something you can’t stop… sooner or later it happens for everyone, but in his case it’s more special because of so many good memories with him. Personally I can only have huge respect because he was here before me, I tried to catch him, we battled for many years, I’d say in our prime, and then I retired and I see him still going! So huge respect, and I wish him the best in his retirement.”
Pedrosa gears up for his wildcard
Only the second MotoGP™ Legend to return to racing, Dani Pedrosa is set to saddle up during a Grand Prix weekend for the first time in a while at the Styrian GP. The Little Samurai is now a test rider for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and will appear as a wildcard, so on Thursday evening he sat down for a special pre-event Press Conference.
Dani Pedrosa: “It’s a pleasure to be here and I’d like to thank KTM for this opportunity. For sure it’s a bit like going back to the old style of training, I didn’t prepare physically like I would for a whole season, but it’s another challenge, more motivation, inside my current role with KTM. So far it’s a bit of a strange feeling today, coming back and doing media… seeing all the changes due to the Covid situation, and some other things different… but some things the same, like preparing with the team the plan for the weekend. Learning the new rules, in the riders’ meeting, to get a bit updated overall.
“Since the beginning, I could see there was a big will to make the bike better and to make up the gap they were facing at the time. So we’ve been working together really hard, I think we made good progress since I started working and I’m feeling happy and rewarded after the last two seasons where the riders have started to feel more in front, and feeling better with the bike. It’s been quite interesting to see the commitment they’ve had these years, and it’s good to see they still want more.
“I’m enjoying testing, because I still get to ride a very good bike, the feelings you get on a MotoGP bike. And at the same time I’m not exposed to that pressure, I have a different kind of pressure. But it’s always good to be back on track one or two times a month to ride the bike because it’s what I love most – to be on a bike. But at the same time you have to be focused, it’s changed a bit from when I was racing. Different meetings to before, but it’s a good thing.
“Expectations for this GP… it’s hard to say. Honestly we are here as a main target to learn about current MotoGP racing, because I sense it’s changing a bit and so far we made good progress but now riders are facing some situations in race conditions where for us, away from the race, it’s hard to replicate. Like they complain it’s hard to overtake in a race, so you have to qualify well, and we’re trying to understand that. So when I’m testing alone again, I can more or less try to face those problems and think a bit how they would think on a race weekend, get updated on that. And we have small parts on the bike to test, but expectations it’s hard to say.”
MotoGP™ remembers Hugo Millán
On Thursday, the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship paddock came together to observe a minute of silence in memory of European Talent Cup rider Hugo Millán, who sadly passed away at the MotorLand Aragón Round of the FIM CEV Repsol.
Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta joined the MotoGP™ riders in pitlane as everyone in the paddock paid their respects.