Engines are ready to be started at Austin. As riders wait to head out on track, they took part in the traditional Thursday press conference. Maverick Vinales, the current championship leader, took to the stage.
The Spaniard is confident ahead of the American round: “This track really suits my style, there are various acceleration points and I'm sure that the Yamaha will be competitive - commented Maverick - we need to focus on braking but especially on the last ten laps, seeing as last year they proved particularly complicated”.
Marc Marquez remains the favourite this weekend: “He's impressive - said Vinales - but we know we're at a good level and, if we give 100%, we could fight for the win. I need to run an intelligent race - he added - as we need to pay attention to tyre management in the final stages”.
The M1 rider has clear ideas about what he needs to do: “The aim is to bring home the maximum, or rather the win. If that's not possible, second place would be positive. We have to avoid mistakes – he underlined - because the season's only just begun”. Since starting his Yamaha adventure, his life has changed: “Now I live more for the bike – revealed Maverick - I am training to be fast and competitive”.
To his right is Valentino Rossi: “Scoring points is always important at the start of the season – stated the Doctor - then comes Europe and some favourable tracks for me. I hope to get better tyre feedback than in Argentina – he added - though I'm satisfied with the base bike set-up”.
Back to the track, and Honda expects to fight back in America, particularly with Marc Marquez: “The season is long, I come to Texas feeling strong on the bike - commented # 93 – I'll definitely need to improve, but this is the perfect track to obtain my first positive result of 2017. I crashed in Argentina – he recalled - but am enthusiastic about the sensations I had that weekend. Reaching the podium here in American would be a great starting point”.
The five-time champion knows what he's up against: “Unfortunately we have to take too many risks in braking – he revealed - now but also last season. We changed the set-up from Qatar to Argentina and this affects the sensations that a rider has when seeking the limit. It's true that I crashed at Rio Hondo but when I crashed I was leading the race".
Despite having 37 points to make up, his mentality remains the same: “It should be similar to 2016 - underlined Marc - in the last race I took risks because I felt strong and could fight for the win. Perhaps we're not 100% ready to take certain risks – he added – but as I've already said the season is long and I prefer to remain positive. Perhaps one year ago I was more confident coming here but I still feel strong. The weather could also mix things up. We have to push from the start to reach the podium”.
The Honda rider takes the opportunity to talk about Vinales, the man to beat right now: “Maverick hasn't particularly surprised me, he's been impressive, I'll definitely try to stop him as soon as possible”.
With Marquez playing catch-up, it's up to Cal Crutchlow,to wave the Honda flag, having finished third in Argentina: “I struggled in certain sections at Rio Hondo – recalled the LCR rider - here it will be another uphill climb, but I'll do what I can to be competitive over the weekend. I like the track, though I'll need more time to be fast.” In terms of the bike's difficulties: “During testing we had more time to work than we do over race weekends. Sometimes you go over the limit unfortunately. Braking remains our strong point, but we need to find a better performing base set-up ahead of the next races”.
Also on hand today was Johann Zarco: “I'm pleased with my season start, particularly with the confidence I have in the bike – he commented - the aim isn't to fight for the title, but to learn and take steps forward. Fifth at Rio Hondo increases my confidence and keeps me focused".
The championship start has also seen him receive more attention: “After Qatar it was strange – revealed the Frenchman - people talked more about me leading a MotoGP race for six laps than when I won Moto2 titles. It would be great if people were equally interested in the minor categories. Moving to the reigning class wasn't easy, but I'm understanding more, one step at a time”.