Catalan GP: Podium finishers discuss emotional weekend

A great battle took place on track at the seventh round of the MotoGP for the Catalan GP in memory of Luis Salom. After being forced to retire from the previous round at his home GP, Rossi fought on track to take his first win here since 2009, read what he and the podium finishers have to say.

Catalan GP: Podium finishers discuss emotional weekend
Podium finishers pay tribute to Luis Salom after Catal GP -

After a disastrous sixth round at his home GP in Mugello, Italy where his M1 engine blew up due to (over-revving and ECU problems) Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) was hoping to make it up to his team at the seventh round at the Circuit de Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain.

What started as a positive weekend for Rossi soon became more difficult. Unfortunately during the second Free Practice session for the Moto2 class on day one the meeting in Spain, Luis Salom lost his life following an incident at turn twelve of the circuit. A Safety Commission meeting followed on the same day and riders and officials decided to change the layout to ensure rider safety; the ‘Formula 1’ layout was to be used.

Changes prove difficult for Yamaha

This change made things very difficult for the Yamahas as reflected in the results during the extended practice session that followed the next day; riders have fifteen extra minutes on track to adapt to the modifications to turn ten and the new chicane that was added to bypass the ‘old’ turn twelve. The issue for the M1 was with the new chicane and turn ten where the riders would have to use very low gears which they struggled with and so Rossi  only managed to finish fourth fastest, and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) was sixth during FP3. The last Free Practice session before Qualifying Rossi was only seventh and Lorenzo an unusual fourteenth, however they managed to turn it around during qualifying and ahead of the race Lorenzo claimed second on the grid and Rossi fifth.

Difficult start for Rossi

Rossi had a difficult start and was immediately swallowed up by three Ducatis and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales; who will partner up with him at Yamaha for the 2017 season. Rossi soon fought back though and eventually made his was up to the front. He led after overtaking Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) who was not willing to give up on top spot that easily. The two battled like the ‘old days’ and both took the lead until near the end of the race when Marquez was forced to back off and settle for second after having to rescue the bike from crashing out during the added chicane.

Continuing drama from previous season comes to and end

It was an emotional weekend and a wakening for the duo who have been rivals since Sepang GP 2015. The meeting resulted in Rossi being penalised after a racing incident which meant he had to start the final race of the season from the back of the grid. This meant his teammate Lorenzo was in a way handed the championship as he needed to finish ahead of him but could not manage any more than fourth.; Lorenzo won the championship and the feud continued between Rossi and Marquez who failed to associate in any way, until now.

The passing of fellow competitor Salom seemed to open the eyes of Rossi and Lorenzo, and when in parc ferme after the race the two appeared to end the feud with a hand shake. The two congratulated each other after a brilliant battle on track which in turn received a huge applause from the crowds. The two then were seen conversing afterwards and when asked if this was the end of the troubles during the press conference Rossi responded with a simple “Yes!” and then Marquez patted him on the shoulder in response and they both giggled.

Rossi celebrates first victory in Barcelona since 2009 -
Rossi celebrates first victory in Barcelona since 2009 -

Rossi describes his success in Spain

Discussing race day Rossi described it as “a perfect Sunday” after he managed to improve the bike setting which in turn improved his confidence and he said, “The race was great!” He felt the “start was not fantastic” however he felt “strong enough to come back” and after he completed some “good overtaking” he “arrived in front”. When in the lead he said he “tried to push at 100 percent to go away alone” however he said he “wasn’t fast enough to pull away from Marquez”. Rossi said, “I tried to stay quiet and ride well, because I felt I had a good pace and felt good with the bike. At the end I was ready for the battle, which was a good one, with a lot of overtaking and I was ready to give it a try.”

Claiming, “You can’t wish for a better race!” Rossi said that the Circuit de Catalunya was one of his “favourite tracks” and he was extra pleased after not winning here since 2009. Rossi was determined to improve in Spain on his last result in Italy where his engine blew and forced him to retire without any points towards the championship, after feeling upset as he was “ready to fight for the victory there” he tried to repeat this ahead of the seventh round and he feels, “Together with my team we did a great job and I think this is the best way to forget about the zero points in Mugello.”

Great battle on track between Rossi and Marquez -
Great battle on track between Rossi and Marquez -

Marquez says Catalan GP was a great tribute to Salom

Marquez finished behind Rossi in second place claiming twenty championship points in what he described as, “A hard weekend for all the riders” as he referred to the passing of Salom. However he felt that the performances during the race on Sunday meant, “Together we paid tribute to Luis Salom with the Sunday that he deserved.”

Speaking about the race he claimed to be “suffering a little with the increase in temperature” as this meant he was “never completely comfortable”, this he feels is what led to him being “unable to try overtaking at the right time”. Marquez has a very unique style and after having “a couple of scares” his attention turned to the championship and he calculated where he would be standing had he settled for second place with Lorenzo crashing out. The Spaniard said, “A podium finish is a very positive result for the Championship.”

Referring to the ‘end of the feud’ between him and Rossi Marquez finished by saying, “Another thing that’s important for motorcycle racing is that Valentino and I shook hands; it was probably the weekend and the right situation to do so."

Pedrosa happy after a positive race

Pedrosa finished third at his home GP in Spain, a well-deserved position as his consistency paid off. Previously he has been disappointed finishing on the podium as he has felt this was not deserved considering his performance, as if other riders had not crashed out or been taken out, he would have not been there. Pedrosa described the Catalan GP as a “positive race” having “opted for the intermediate rear tyre” after he felt much more comfortable with it. He decided to air with caution in the opening laps in an attempt to reduce the amount of wear on the tyre “so as to keep it in good condition for the final stretch of the race”.

Lorenzo went backwards as Pedrosa and Vinales stole positions and points from him -
Lorenzo went backwards as Pedrosa and Vinales stole positions and points from him -

Viñales ran a good race, making many overtakes and pushing his way to the front; he finished in fourth position after an extraordinary ride. At one point he and Pedrosa battled which the Repsol Honda rider felt meant he “lost contact with the front group”, however despite this he “managed to set a good pace and push a little more”.  Unfortunately though he felt that in the final laps, “the rear tyre had degraded quite a lot and there was nothing more I could do”.

Pedrosa said he was “happy to get back at the front and return to the podium”, it was extra special for the Spaniard “to do so at home”. Describing the weekend’s tragic events though he said, “It’s been a difficult weekend for what has happened”. Following Salom’s death he talked about how, “Luis’s family wanted us to continue, and we gave our all for him and for them.” As a paddock the MotoGP completed tributes together for the fallen rider and their own individual ones. Describing the tributes Pedrosa said, “The minute’s silence, with all the riders and the whole MotoGP family, was really emotional.”

Pol Espargaro the top independent rider

Pol Espargaro (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) finished in fifth behind Vinales as the highest placed independent rider. The Spaniard said, “Even though I am really pleased with my performance today, I have to say that it was a hard weekend and the race was especially challenging but my main target was to finish the GP for Luis so I put in 200% effort and achieved it.”

Before the race as the MotoGP field sat on the grid he was “a bit unsure about what rear tyre to run”. Having “used the medium compound all weekend long” he was in doubt as the “majority of the grid was going for another option” and he was one of only three who choice the medium. After the race he said, “Now I believe it was definitely the right choice, especially because we were able to be strong in the opening laps after a good start.” Throughout the race he worked to keep “the distance from Cal and pushed until the chequered flag”.

Pol Espargaro's tribute to Salom after the race, he left the board with #39 at the twelve corner where he passed away -
Pol Espargaro's tribute to Salom after the race, he left the board with #39 at the twelve corner where he passed away -

Espargaro was very moved by the tributes that followed his friend Salom’s death and said he believes “it was the right choice to continue the event”. Discussing the tributes and events that followed he said, “In our sport we showed that we are a big family, and even if all of us didn’t know Luis, we gave our respect to him, with the three best riders in the race demonstrating this by putting on the memorial shirts as well as all the riders running Luis’ number.”

Discussing the Safety Commission meeting that took place after the incident during Free Practice he spoke of how they “had to make some important decisions” which he felt allowed them to “show the world that we care and that we are united”. Remembering Salom he said, “He will always be in our thoughts and the best way to remember him is to continue showing our love as a family.”

How the championship looks

Following the results from the seventh round of the MotoGP season Marquez now leads the championship with 125 points and has a ten point lead now on Lorenzo who has remains with 115 points after failing to collect any at his home GP. Rossi is third in the championship with 103 points and Pedrosa (82) and Vinales (72) are behind him. Pol Espargaro (59) is in sixth as the highest placed independent rider, he is ahead of his broth Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and independent rider Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati) is the highest placed Ducati rider with 48 points, just above Factory Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone who complete the top ten.