The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team arrives in Spain for a very special 14th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship. Not only is the Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón the last European round before the overseas races and Maverick Viñales’ home Grand Prix, but it’s also a home race for the team’s title sponsor, Movistar, and the scene for either Valentino Rossi’s return from injury, or Yamaha WorldSBK rider Michael van der Mark’s MotoGP debut as a replacement rider.
At the previous race in Misano, Viñales flew the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP flag alone. His fourth place at a very wet San Marino race was labelled as good progress by the Spaniard, as it was his first time trying the 2018 chassis in these conditions.
He currently holds third place in the championship standings, 16 points behind the joint leaders and – as the 2017 season has four more rounds after this weekend and there are still 125 points up for grabs – the number 25-rider has all to play for. This weekend he will focus on getting his Yamaha set up for the elevation changes and multiple flowing corners at the Alcañiz track as soon as possible on the Friday, so he can make another step forward in his championship challenge in Sunday’s race.
The young gun has stood on the podium in Aragón three times before, thanks to a third place in 2011 in the 125cc class, a Moto3 second place finish in 2013 and a Moto2 victory in 2014. Last year he just missed out on the premier class podium, securing a best MotoGP placement in Alcañiz of fourth position. This year he fancies his chances to secure a place in the top-3.
After 17 days of recovering, Rossi got his first laps in at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli last Monday and Tuesday, before undergoing a medical examination today. Following the check-up, the Italian decided to make his way to Aragón in order to try to participate in this weekend’s race. He will have to successfully complete a mandatory physical check by the MotorLand Aragón Chief Medical Officer to be declared fit to take part in the Grand Prix weekend.
Despite missing the previous race due to injury, Rossi arrives at the 14th round holding fourth place in the championship, 42 points from the top of the standings. While his leg hasn’t fully healed yet, the nine-time World Champion is happy he might have the opportunity to attempt riding his YZR-M1 again and greet the Spanish fans in Alcañiz, where he stood on the podium three times before (three third places in 2013, 2015 and 2016).
Yamaha WorldSBK rider Van der Mark will still attend the Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón as a replacement rider, in case Rossi is declared unfit or if he feels he can’t compete in Sunday’s race after any of the Free Practice sessions. Should he be stepping aboard the YZR-M1 this weekend, he will do so without any prior testing. Nevertheless, he is looking forward to the challenge and to taking in as much information as possible, should Rossi not be able to ride.
The MotorLand Aragón is situated near the town of Alcañiz in Northern Spain and is only a few hours’ drive from Barcelona. The circuit was added to the MotoGP calendar in 2010 and was given the IRTA Best Grand Prix of the Year award that same year, reflecting the riders’ and the fans’ appreciation of the venue. The fast and challenging 5.1km long track has ten left and seven right corners and a 968m longest straight. It draws thousands of fans, especially as it’s the last European race before the triple header overseas, making it a round motorsport enthusiasts don’t want to miss.
Championship: 3rd – Points: 183
“I’m very happy to head to Aragón because for us it’s like a second home Grand Prix and we know that we can do a good performance there with the M1. It’s one of my favourite tracks because of its lay-out, in Aragón we can be very fast. We are 16 points behind and we need to close that gap as soon as possible. For that reason, it’s very important to push and believe that we can do it. In Misano we made a big step and I’m sure that we will do another important step this weekend. It’s very important to stay focused.”
Championship: 4th – Points: 157
“Fortunately, yesterday I had a good test with my YZF-R1M in Misano. I tried also the day before, but the rain stopped me after a few laps. Yesterday I managed to complete 20 laps and find the answers I was looking for. Eventually, the test was positive and I want to say thanks to Dr. Lucidi and his staff, who helped me find the best solutions to feel the least amount of pain possible in my leg when I’m riding. Obviously at the end of the test I was in a little bit of pain, but this morning I went to Dr. Pascarella for a medical check, and it came out with a positive result. At the end I decided I will leave for Aragón and will try to ride my M1 this weekend. If I will be declared fit to ride, I’ll have the real answer after FP1, because riding the M1 will be a much bigger challenge. We’ll see. See you in Aragon!”
Michael van der Mark
“Though it remains uncertain if I will get to ride the YZR-M1 this weekend, I’m still looking forward to it. While I would like to get to step aboard the YZR-M1, I’m also fully supporting Valentino making his return. I’ll either get to make my MotoGP debut or, should I not be able to ride, I will get to see Valentino live in action as he makes his comeback. As I said earlier, I’ve not been able to ride a MotoGP bike before the Grand Prix kicks off so, if Valentino ends up withdrawing from the Aragón GP, I will have to jump in at the deep end at the start of the next session and just try my best. However, after securing my first WorldSBK podium of the 2017 season in Portimão, I’m having a good momentum to step up to the challenge. I want to thank Yamaha again for giving me this opportunity. I’m sure it will be a good experience either way.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“First of all, the team is looking forward to welcoming back Valentino and his crew in the pit box! The Aragón GP is very special for the team as we share the title sponsor with this round of the MotoGP championship, and we are very happy that we might get to start the event with a ‘complete’ team and rider line-up. It remains to be seen if Valentino feels he can complete the entire race weekend, which is very demanding, especially at a circuit like MotorLand Aragón, with big elevation changes. Should Vale feel that his injury is causing him too much discomfort, then Michael van der Mark will step in as the replacement rider. If that is the case, the team will put in maximal effort to help him adapt to the YZR-M1 as quick as possible. He didn’t get the opportunity to test the bike before, so it would be a very exciting but also interesting weekend for him. As for the other side of the box, we are fully engrossed with the fight for the championship. Maverick is 16 points behind the joint leaders, with five races to go, so we are as determined as ever to get a top result and decrease the margin to the top in the standings. He really likes this circuit and, as it’s also his home race, he will be pushing hard this weekend to confirm his status as a key protagonist.”