This week MotoGP rushes from the scenic surroundings of the Tuscan countryside and Mugello to the Mediterranean jewel that is Barcelona and round seven of the 2017 series: the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. The Montmelo course a few kilometres outside of the stunning seaside metropolis has been one of the most popular circuits on the calendar and usually counts on fierce early summer sunshine.
Barcelona is native ground for athletes such as Alex Marquez (Moto2), Jorge Lorenzo and, of course, current MotoGP championship leader Movistar Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales. #25 heralds from the costal town of Roses, about an hour north of Montmelo, and arrives ‘home’ after a solid second position in Mugello that allowed the twenty-two year old to extend his margin at the top of the standings by nine points, now resting at twenty-six.
“Montmelo is a track I really like and I have been successful there: I’ve won once and had many podiums,” Maverick said of a track record that includes four trophies in two categories…but missing a rostrum celebration in the premier class after two attempts. He will have to cope with the glare of attention and expectation at its hottest. “I feel really good with all the fans and support and that is something I like and gives me extra motivation. I don’t see it as extra pressure. I have more desire to win.”
Round seven of nineteen and a ‘back-to-back’ hot period of the schedule sees Viñales back in control of MotoGP and with a 50% win ratio so far. Paddock insiders have been impressed with the maturity, focus and control of the Yamaha man at such a tender age and his assertions that there is still work to be done follows suit. “We know we are quite strong but we can still improve and me especially with my riding style and my level. We have many, many opponents right now: Valentino, Dovi, Marc, Dani…they are all still there. When we have the chance to win we must take it.”
All eyes will be on Viñales at the challenging track that was recently the site of the Spanish F1 stop and a MotoGP test to acclimatise to a new and slower layout. The change came about in the 2016 edition and an event tinged with sadness at the tragic passing of Luis Salom but also joy for The Doctor as Valentino Rossi blitzed the field for his 114th career chequered flag. Catalunya is still the last scene of victory for the Italian who is rapidly overcoming the motocross training injury that blighted his quest for honours at Mugello.
“It is better to have an extra week than two races in a row but if I feel like this then it will be OK,” he said. “I am a bit worried because the asphalt in Barcelona is bad and the grip level is very low. This year in Jerez, with these conditions we struggled a lot with our bike. It is early to say…but I love Barcelona, a lot, and with the new layout we have to try: you are fighting with the very best in MotoGP.” With four different winners in six events MotoGP 2017 has continued to twist-and-turn and Barcelona is bound to offer up the next riveting instalment. Proceedings get underway with the first practice sessions on Thursday.