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.
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