The first pre-event Press Conference of the 2019 season got underway on Thursday at the VisitQatar Grand Prix and joining reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to face the media was 2018 runner-up Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team), Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SIC).
All the riders were eager and excited to finally get the season underway this weekend but one thing that was heavily mentioned? The competitiveness of the 2019 grid. Marquez was the first to speak and looking at preseason, the seven-time Champion feels all the manufacturers have taken a step forward ahead of the new campaign.
“Since 2017 I’m looking at everybody. I’m looking at all my opponents in the same way because for example in 2017, we were here and not a lot of people spoke about Dovizioso and he was the man to beat,” explained the number 93.
“This preseason it was interesting to see how Yamaha improved, Ducati improved, Suzuki improved with Rins and yeah, let’s see how we start this season. But of course, we will be very fast because we tested here, but the season is 19 races and we must be focused on our work, focused on ourselves and try and do what we know. Then we will see at the end of the season.”
Fellow multiple World Champion Rossi agreed with his counterparts’ comments. ‘The Doctor’ suggesting seven or eight riders are likely to be scrapping it out for a place on the Qatar podium come Sunday evening.
“It’s difficult to say because like you said, in the last years here I did good results. Apart from one victory I was on the podium a lot of times, so we have to try,” said Rossi, when asked if he thinks Yamaha are arriving in better shape than they did in 2018.
“But if I have to think now, maybe we have seven or eight riders ready for the podium. I don’t know if we are stronger here than last year because anyway it was a good race. But we’ll see, we have to try. Also try to understand the conditions, with the grip, with the wind, we’ll see.”
Teammate Viñales mirrored the Italian’s comments by saying “for sure our competitors are strong right now but we are closing the gap little by little,” suggesting Yamaha can be in the fight for the win on race day. And if preseason test times is anything to go by, the Spaniard isn’t wrong.
Dovizioso also suggested that “everyone will be strong here” because of the test, with Rins complimenting Suzuki’s work over the winter after a great end to the 2018 season.
“This preseason I was trying to be strong. I was trying to improve our Suzuki bike a little bit because the setup from last year was very nice. But we improve a little bit on the braking area, a little bit on the top speed area so this means Suzuki have worked very hard during the winter.”
So, with the riders all expecting a close tussle at the top, and every manufacturer improving during the winter, it looks like we could be in for an incredible opening race weekend of 2019. Make sure you don’t miss a single bit of action throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday as MotoGP™ fires into life under the lights at the Losail International Circuit.