MEDIA RELEASE/MotoGP – Photo: supplied
The three fastest Moto2™ and Moto3™ riders in testing get ready for their season opener, and Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta sat down with the media.
After a long winter break, the time has finally come for the Moto2™ and Moto3™ classes to get back to the business of racing, and it’s Losail International Circuit that plays host as the QNB Grand Prix of Qatar gets in gear. The top three from each class on the combined Qatar Test timesheets were invited to speak, with Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up), Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) representing Moto2™ and Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team), Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) and Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) representing Moto3™.
First to talk was Jorge Navarro, who seems in good shape ahead of the first race of the year. “For sure last year was a good season for me, but this year the target is to make a step forward; to be fighting for the victory at every race and at the end be a title contender. The preseason was very good for us, we did a good job. We improved our weak points and maybe improved the strong points. We’re ready to start racing.”
The Spaniard was then asked if he’d been focusing on the start of the race – somewhere he admitted he needed to improve – and confirmed that, but said there was a more pressing issue for him and his Speed Up team.
“In this area for sure we’ve worked but the biggest area was in aero because we always lacked top speed and to fight in the races it’s difficult when you don’t have that. Everyone is aggressive at the start and if you can’t arrive at the braking point close to the rider in front of you it’s hard to overtake. This was our weakest point, I had to wait to make safe moves and always I arrived at the fight for victory too late. This year, with the new aero we have, it’ll be easy to overtake and therefore we won’t be in a rush for all of the race.”
Then it was the second Jorge present – Jorge Martin – who spoke, as he finished the test second. “The end of last season was so good, I was quite competitive. Then we changed the bike again. It was so difficult to at the beginning to understand the new bike, and I also had surgery 3 months ago, then I broke my foot again. So it was a hard preseason, but anyway, in Jerez I improved by best time, then again in Qatar. I’m still struggling to find a good feeling with the front, but I think it’s the same for everybody. Just trying to work hard and to understand every step or every move we make. Hopefully this weekend we will find the way to fight for the victory.
“Every season we start, I pray to not have injuries. Now, in Qatar, I am almost 100% fit but the preseason was hard. The surgery on my knee was really aggressive, so the recovery was hard. Also the ligaments on my foot… it was a bit complicated. Anyway, I’m here, happy to be here almost fit and I can be ready to fight.”
Finally, in Moto2™ terms, it was Remy Gardner’s turn on the mic. “We obviously want to be starting this season like we did last year, went off with a bang. Preseason testing has been quite good, just been working a lot with my new crew chief and things are quite positive. I really enjoyed the work we did in the preseason tests and yeah can’t wait to start.”
And what about his 2019 form, that started on the podium and then became a slightly tougher season? “I think it was more pressure on myself to be honest. We started very well and then it was kind of my first year being at the front. I was being dropped in the middle of the pool and I was kind of like a deer stuck in the headlights. I just wanted that victory and I wanted more podiums after Argentina. There were a few mistakes on my behalf and some bad luck unfortunately but I’m hoping to learn from those and putting in a positive year.”
Then it was time to hear from the Moto3™ guys, with Filip Salač the fastest man in the desert so far and therefore up first. “It’s a really nice feeling to end preseason like this. I want to say thanks for the opportunity to move from KTM to Honda too, I’ve adapted well. It was a big step at first, it’s a totally different bike and it was hard. At the Jerez test I did a good lap after changing. My strategy was doing the laps by myself, then I ended the Qatar Test first and I think we’re ready for the first race.”
After the big step up then, what’s the target? “Last year my goal was to get some points and this year I want to get podiums, not just one. I have a good team, for me the best in Moto3, I have a good teammate so I think if we help each other it’ll be a good year for both of us.”
Ai Ogura, meanwhile, was another who seems to have made a key step so far in 2020. The Japanese rider was equally positive and upbeat looking at the year ahead. “I’m very happy to finish in the top three during testing in Jerez and Qatar. I didn’t expect to finish there so I am really happy.
“During the test we made some changes and I’m adjusting really well so I’m really happy about that. Normally we struggle in these high speed circuits but we could keep the speed so yeah, we are really happy. I think we are ready.”
Now he’s no longer a rookie means he’s also going in to each race weekend with a little less pressure, too. “I feel like more relaxed for this year because I know almost every circuit. I think it’s really good to fight throughout the Championship.”
Finally, Tony Arbolino rounded out the session. After his stellar 2019 season and having been the first to become a repeat winner last year, there’s an air of expectation already…
“For sure it’s never easy but last year was an incredible year. Seven podiums, four in a row, and many poles. This year we have a good base so we did many laps with a good pace in pre-season, so we’ve made a step there. For sure, it’ll be a good year as the bike hasn’t changed too much. We need to be more prepared for the race and get ready to fight at the end of the race but I’m ready.”
And what about his teammate’s pace?
“I’m a little surprised, yeah, but last year when the team manager spoke to me about a teammate I said I wanted a strong and fast rider so I knew Filip had the pace. Together I think we can do a good job because in Moto3 the slipstream is important, especially here in Qatar, so we must work together.”
Their first race weekend sessions as teammates begin with FP1 and FP2 on Friday, before the lights go out for Moto3™ 16:20 LT on Sunday. After that, Moto2™ take over as they race at 18:00 LT.
Statement: Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta:
Ahead of the pre-event Press Conference for the QNB Grand Prix of Qatar, Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta made a statement to and answered questions from the press following the publication of an updated 2020 calendar. On the agenda was, of course, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the knock-on effect for MotoGP™ and the countermeasures being put in place to ensure to minimum disruption.
“There have been many questions from many journalists, so we decided to have a Press Conference to make a statement about where we are and what’s happened up to now, and what we plan to do from now until the end of the season. The collaboration with the Qatar authorities has really been very good. When this all started, the situation was changing day by day, we tried to accommodate ourselves with the agreement with everyone in the paddock to do all we can. Last Saturday we started to see some problems with some nationalities coming to Qatar. Then we started to consider that. We are lucky that the Moto2 and Moto3 test was the week before, so everyone was here. This made it easy to have the two races we will have here. This is something that that we decided from the beginning with the Losail International Circuit, the Qatari Federation and the government of Qatar to do the Moto2 and Moto3 races, with Asia Talent Cup, also.
“Later we were discussing day by day, and there were a large number of conversations between Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. We were discussing different possibilities and until Sunday morning everything was more or less okay, people from Italy were able to arrive in Doha during the day, then suddenly in the middle of the day, and because the situation in Europe changed, that changed the situation here. We heard that people from Italy or other countries would have to be quarantined here in Qatar, obviously this is difficult and we could not do it, so we started to think of other possibilities.
“One of these things was to organise a charter for all the people living in Italy, a flight, from France, to bring the minimum number of people needed to participate. Even talking with some people that if one team or manufacturer is obliged to have a maximum number, to agree with the other team to have the same maximum number with the other teams. On the Saturday afternoon we had that agreement. Then what we said was for everyone to act as soon as possible, but then on the early Sunday afternoon, a flight coming from Rome was forbidden to enter here, with the possibilities just going back to Rome or being quarantined here for 14 days. We were trying, then, to organise a flight from Nice to then organise some positions for the MotoGP community; mechanics, engineers or riders, to be allocated in one place, come for the race and go back. But we say that this on Sunday after was not possible. It’s important to say the collaboration with the Qatar authorities; I was talking with the Minister of Sport and the Minister of Health, we were trying – and Qatar also – to have the race. This is the situation right now.”
“What will happen in the future? This is something we can’t prevent. The situation keeps changing around the world, every day. The only thing I can say is that we will try to do everything possible; postpone or whatever. Our aim today is to work together, as we’ve been doing all this time, to try to make the Championship. In the best possible conditions, but to try to maintain the Championship with the maximum number of races we can. We are prepared to do that.
“This is the position. The next race? The United States. We don’t know anything, we are waiting to send all the material until the last moment. If the situation changes between now and that moment, we will make that decision. It’s true that we tried to move United States to the end of the year, changing for some of the Spanish races. It’s easy to say but to make those changes in the short time we have, to do these races at the end of March, it’s impossible for a circuit to organise a MotoGP race between now and the end of March. We announced today the change of the date of Thailand, thanks to the Aragon government to make the race a week early, and a week later we’ll have Thailand.
“We have a lot of possibilities as we are considering everything but the main aim of FIM, IRTA and Dorna is to maintain the Championship. Second, to all the MotoGP community, don’t pay attention to the rumours, please, because we are together. We are talking to all the people around the world. We will try to do the Championship and we are strong enough to try to do it. The first article we have in any agreement with the promoters is we need to respect the laws of the country. If a law is in place, we can’t do anything. Until a law forbids us to go anywhere, we will continue. When the law says at that moment, we will think in the future.
“Our aim; FIM, IRTA and Dorna, is maintain the Championship with the maximum number of races. The rest, we will take measures. There have been some put in place here with the Losail International Circuit regarding the spectators not being allowed into the paddock, regarding the possibilities if something happened in the MotoGP community if there is a case, we are prepared with special equipment to deal with that. And we’ve shared between the Moto2 and Moto3 teams some measure to ensure the situation gets better. We have the local authorities, the world health authorities all connected to try to do the maximum. We want to tell everybody that we want to do the Grands Prix and I am sure we can do it. Obviously it will not be a normal Championship and we’ll change things, whatever, always maintaining that the sporting side is equal for everybody and to be accommodating to the situation.
“Today both Americias and Argentina are ok. But I don’t know what is happening in the future, what I’m saying is we have enough opportunity to save the problems. After USA and Argentina, we will be in Europe. Then it depends what the situation is in Europe. This is the most critical thing. Today, authorities have banned number of spectators, the problem is number of spectators together and number of people in paddock of nationalities who have been forbidden. We are thinking solutions of both things. When any measure comes, we have some ideas to react.
“Everything is possible. The most important thing for us to have a solution that covers everything. We say always that Dorna, with the agreement with FIM and IRTA, is a company who makes races. And this is our obligation despite any other things. For us the most important, more than economy or whatever, is to make races. I can assure you with all the people of IRTA and all the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 managers, we will try to do as many races as we can. I will not say now that I am optimistic but the only thing I can promise to you is we will work hard for whatever solution has happened, to make the races. The 19 remaining races.”
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