After the traditional opening night under the lights in Qatar the MotoGP World Championship begins its European summer road trip in Spain this weekend as Jerez de la Frontera prepares to host the world’s premier motorcycle racing series, as it has done every year since 1987. For Team San Carlo Honda Gresini riders Alvaro Bautista and Michele Pirro the second round of the season presents an opportunity to build on the progress made in Qatar and show their true potential at a circuit more suited to them. Bautista is determined to enter the battle at the front of the pack in front of his home crowd, having established a good feel for his Honda RC213V machine around this track during preseason testing. Pirro’s main challenge is to continue development of the team’s new CRT bike, which has shown good potential during its limited track life so far. A two-week break since the last race has given the team time to work on the fledgling machine, with Pirro hopeful of an increasingly competitive package as the season progresses.

Alvaro Bautista

“It was a tough weekend for us in Qatar because I struggled to find the confidence with the bike that I had enjoyed during preseason testing. We tried a lot of things without ever establishing a good feeling and I had to work very hard in the race to get 100% out of what we had. It was important for us to finish the race and to finish it in seventh was a positive way to finish a difficult weekend. During this short break I have been training hard every day and enjoying some time relaxing with my family, without ever taking my mind off the job. We have some extra PR work to do this weekend but I always look forward to Jerez because it is a very special race to me. I missed out last year through injury but we gathered some good data during preseason that should help us have a good race on Sunday. Our objective is to run with the guys at the front, which would be great because it is always such a pleasure to race at Jerez in front of the fans. Jerez always feels like the true start to the season because it is the first European round and everything runs according to the normal daytime schedule. It is a real festival of motorcycles and it’s exciting for the fans and riders. I have some unforgettable memories of Jerez because it was here that I took my first ever Grand Prix win and it would be nice if I could get my first MotoGP podium here too.”

Michele Pirro

“It was exciting for me to make my MotoGP debut in Qatar, racing alongside so many great champions. Unfortunately it wasn’t an easy debut from a technical point of view because our bike still has some teething problems, which is to be expected, so I wasn’t able to find my limit despite a lot of hard work from the team. They are putting in a huge effort and I hope that is rewarded in a positive fashion in Jerez. It won’t be easy because we don’t have a magic wand to wave but I am confident that we can take another step forward and be on the pace of the best CRT bikes out there. Jerez is one of the best events on the calendar and the atmosphere there is very special. We all believe in this project and hopefully Jerez can prove to be a launchpad to bigger and better things.”

Fausto Gresini

“The first race of the season in Qatar gives us an idea of how the season can be for us and I thought Bautista showed the potential to be running at the front in future. It wasn’t an easy weekend because we had three cashes to contend with but in the end it was a positive weekend. He ran with a competitive group, fought hard for sixth place and could have maybe even finished higher. He had a good pace at Jerez in testing despite a few crashes there too so if he can improve his feeling for the Honda RC213V from Qatar he should have a good weekend. The incredible Spanish crowd will be behind Alvaro at Jerez which is an important factor and can help him make that step up to the lead group. It wasn’t an easy debut for the CRT project in Qatar because the bike is still so young and needs a lot of work, especially with us having fallen behind the planned schedule. It is an important project to us and the guys are working hard on it with a lot of enthusiasm. That includes Michele, who is giving his maximum every time he goes out on track and I am sure we will see marked improvements this weekend after that first real outing with the bike in Qatar. With the changes we have made since then we can look forward to taking another step forward at Jerez.”