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MotoGP riders brace for “race of survival” in Catalan GP

Francesco Bagnaia feels polesitter Aleix Espargaro remains favourite for victory at the MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix but expects all riders to suffer in a “race of survival” over tyre management.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The Ducati rider missed out on pole position to Espargaro by 0.031s, but already anticipates the Barcelona race to be a different challenge due to the hot and slippery track conditions in the high temperatures, which will make tyre conservation over the race distance the key test.

Aprilia’s Espargaro demonstrated eye-catching race pace in practice, while topping three of the four practice sessions, as his RS-GP bike could find better mechanical grip in the conditions compared to his rivals.

While Bagnaia doesn’t believe there’s a huge deficit in outright pace, he predicts the major challenge will be to sustain a strong pace over a race distance without suffering a drastic rear tyre performance drop.

“I don’t know how to beat him [Espargaro], but I think that the key will be to be smart with the rear tyre for the whole race,” Bagnaia, who has won two of the last three races, said.

“It is true that you can go fast in the first laps but then you have to be constant until the finish of the race and if you push at the start you can’t be constant until the finish of the race.

“It will be a race of survival because you have to be very, very smart on acceleration.

“We did different work compared to the others in FP4 to see if the tyre would be OK and I am quite happy with the result of FP4 of my pace.”

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Reigning MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo agreed with Bagnaia’s assessment and also feels he has the speed to fight for the win, but is wary of making his rear tyre last the distance.

“I think we have the potential and we have the speed, we are not the only one to have the speed, but I feel we have the potential [too],” Quartararo, who starts the Catalan GP from third place, said.

“Everybody knows here how critical is the tyre consumption, the rear grip, and after Moto2 [race] we know that in the past there is always less grip, but everybody is ready for it so I think everyone has a clear idea how to manage the rear tyre.”

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Despite dominating the race weekend so far, just as he did in Argentina when he secured a breakthrough pole position and victory back in April, Espargaro doesn’t feel direct comparisons can be made in Barcelona because of the different track conditions which won’t allow him to exploit the same advantages in the race.

“It is different to Argentina, there it was not easy, it is never easy in MotoGP, but I had some margin with my rivals, I was little bit faster,” he explained.

“Here I am struggling like them because this track with this lack of grip it is very difficult to go fast. It is not a matter of how fast you go, in FP4 I could go with the medium tyre 1m39.5s but then you destroy the tyre and you are done.

“So, to understand the limit and the tyre consumption is not as easy here, as in Argentina you could push whatever you wanted and the tyre was not a problem. It is not like that here.

“Starting from pole tomorrow will help but it is going to be a very difficult race.”

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