The summer break is almost upon us, but there are still two intriguing weekends of action ahead before the MotoGP™ riders can enjoy some fun in the sun. It means two more races to bank crucial points and put themselves in the best possible position for a shot at World Championship glory in the second half of the season.
Ahead of Free Practice for the Liqui Moly Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, we hear from four of the riders who are hoping to stand on the top step of the podium this Sunday at the Sachsenring.
Can Espargaro and Bagnaia close the gap?
After scoring 45 points in the most recent double-header, at Mugello and Catalunya, 2021 World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) has firmly established himself as the man to beat in 2022. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) remains his nearest rival but has seen the gap between them grow to 22 points, while last year’s World Championship runner-up Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) is 66 points behind the Frenchman after he was taken out at the first corner of the Catalan Grand Prix. Do they think they can make up ground on Quartararo at the Sachsenring and on the following weekend at the TT Circuit Assen?
A. Espargaro: “I have the feeling these two races are very, very important. Now I have more than 30 points to third in the Championship but Fabio has 22 more than me. I hope in these two races I can achieve a good amount of points to go into the summer break. Anyway, the first 10 races have been like a dream for me. I will try to fight for the podium here and in Assen to have a good summer break, but I believe I deserve a good holiday anyway!”
Bagnaia: “If last year, the mission was to win the Championship, to recover 70 points in five races, now this year I have 11. The ambition is high, I know what the potential is like. Fabio, at the moment, is the greatest on-track, I think, because he is riding his bike perfectly. I think we can be a great opponent to him, and recovering 66 points at the moment is not easy, but we still have the possibility.”
Liqui Moly Motorrad German GP: Pre-Event Press Conference
Quartararo’s mental switch pays off
You can never count Quartararo out, but there is also no doubt that the Frenchman has stepped up another gear since the opening races of the 2022 MotoGP™ season. Yamaha’s technical whizzes are, of course, constantly tweaking and searching for any improvement in the YZR-M1 package, but what has ‘El Diablo’ done to better himself?
Quartararo: “In the beginning of the year, I was not really on it, because in Qatar and Argentina especially, I would say I was complaining too much and in my head always was the fact that the top speed is much slower than the others. But in Austin, I decided to really stop with this mentality because I will have the same bike all year, and just do the best with what you have. It’s basically really similar to last year, and we could achieve really great races, and I think the step I did mentally in Austin brings me not more motivated, but more focused.”
Jack Miller has been in the headlines lately, with confirmation that he is on the way to Red Bull KTM Factory Racing next year. The Australian is obviously determined to deliver in his final 11 races for the Ducati Lenovo Team, but what was it like to break the news to his racing family of the past nearly five years now?
Miller: “Before the announcement came out and everything like that, you know, I went round to all the management staff and even to Pecco and just had my little words with them and told them basically about what was going to happen and where we were at. I mean, it’s already been a little bit emotional. Also, wearing this Ducati red is something that I wanted for so long and to get it, and then to go away from it, is emotional. But, we’ve got some exciting times ahead of us, and I still get to be a factory Ducati rider for another 11 races.”
Will Espargaro or Bagnaia be able to catch up to Quartararo? Can Miller and Ducati give each other a parting gift? MotoGP™ FP1 starts on Friday at 09:55 local time (GMT +2). – www.motogp.com