MotoGP Preview: Here We Go

Press Release | April 6, 2010

The following is from Ducati…The 62nd edition of the MotoGP World Championship fires up on the 11th April and for the third consecutive season the curtain raiser will take place at night, under floodlights, in Qatar. The Ducati Marlboro Team head to Losail confident in the work they have done during winter testing but well aware that the competition is tough and the level even higher than ever.Both Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden have shown their appreciation for the technical modifications brought to the Ducati Desmosedici GP10 by Filippo Preziosi, in particular the new “big bang” engine. Both riders are looking to repeat their excellent preseason form when they take to the Losail circuit for the first time on Friday evening, as the 2010 season finally roars into life.CASEY STONER, Ducati Marlboro Team

“We have always enjoyed great results in Qatar although the track isn’t one of my favourites as a rider. It was good that they changed the race from daytime to night because they’ve made it different to anything else – it’s interesting for the fans and it is good fun for us. Ducati have come up with a much more manageable engine for this season, it is easier for everybody to understand and from my point of view I am finding it easier to ride fast on used tyres. We have made progress with the set-up ever since the first test at Sepang and we’re happy with what we have going into the first race. I will give my maximum as always but it is only the first race of a very long season that will only start to take shape from the third or fourth round.”NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Marlboro Team

“Finally the first race is here! We seem to have started later than everybody else and I don’t know if I could have waited any longer! Testing went fairly well – we met some of our objectives and still have a lot of work to do in other areas but overall I’m satisfied. We established a good base setting in Qatar and hopefully we can use that for the first race. It has been a couple of years since I made a good start to the season but I feel in good shape, the team are fully behind me and I can’t wait to get started.”VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager

“The past few months have flown by for me, especially because the 2009 season was barely over when we began working at full speed on the new engine and all the other new parts that have been added to the new bike. Our riders are both in good form – Casey has finally been able to enjoy a quiet winter without injuries to overcome and he has been fast throughout testing. Nicky has had some good tests, especially the last two sessions, and he is perfectly integrated into our working group. Now is the time for us to put it all onto the track for the first race but I’m confident in the work we have done so far.”THE TRACK

Losail, a fast and flowing but flat track with a long 1.1km start-finish straight, is located on the outskirts of the Qatari capital of Doha and is hosting the opening round of the MotoGP season for the third year in a row. The first race there was in 2004 and it took place in October, as it did the following season, when the torrid late summer temperatures made life extremely difficult for the riders, tyres and machinery. In 2006 the date was switched to the cooler springtime, throwing up a different challenge in the shape of high winds that bring sand onto the track surface and significantly alter grip levels. The asphalt itself provides better grip now but the sand is still an issue. The next major change to the conditions came three years ago, when the race was switched to a night start, making for a cooler track and reduced visibility for the riders. However, the work done in illuminating the circuit was exceptional, with a floodlight system powered by 5.4 million watts covering an area equivalent to 70 soccer pitches – reaching a safe level of visibility for the riders and offering a stunning viewing spectacle to the fans. The last year a torrential rain forced the postponement of the race by 24 hour.QATAR GP FACTSCircuit Record: Casey Stoner (Ducati – 2008), 1’55.153, 168.193 Km/h

Best Pole: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha – 2008), 1’53.927, 170.003 Km/h

Circuit Length: 5.380 km

MotoGP Race 2010: 22 laps (118,360 km)

MotoGP Schedule 2010: 23:00 Local TimeThe following is from Yamaha…The long winter break draws to a close this weekend as the 2010 MotoGP season gets going under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit. Fiat Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo are fresh from the recent pre-season test and both last year’s World Champion and the runner-up are aiming to kick off their 2010 campaigns with a successful opening weekend.Last year saw Rossi take his fourth title for Yamaha and the ninth of his career and, with 103 race wins already under his belt, the Italian hero has nothing left to do to cement his place in the history of the sport. Despite 14 seasons in the World Championship the 31-year-old still has the same hunger and desire for victory as he did when he first started out and he claims that this year will be no different. He has been in intimidating form during pre-season testing, finishing fastest on five out of six days, and he looks to have already found an excellent base setting for the 2010 YZR-M1. Rossi has won only twice before in Qatar, last year he finished second after starting from the same spot. He will be looking to go one better this time and take his first victory in a night race.Lorenzo gave his more experienced team-mate an exciting run for his money last season but the 22-year-old eventually settled for the runner-up spot, an impressive feat nonetheless in just his second year in the premier-class. This year the Mallorcan’s pre-season has been interrupted by a hand injury sustained in a fall with his motocross bike and he missed the second Sepang test, but he was back on board for the recent Qatar outing. Although still not at 100%, he is well on the way back to full fitness after an intensive physiotherapy routine at home in Barcelona. Qatar will always bring back memories of his thrilling 2008 MotoGP debut, when he burst onto the scene with a fantastic pole position and a second-place finish, while last year saw him make a solid start to the season by finishing third behind his team-mate.For the third time the opening race of the year will be run under the floodlights at the desert circuit, although hopefully without the torrential rain which saw last year’s race delayed by 24 hours. The infrastructure features 3,600 light fixtures using 250, 1500 and 2500-watt bulbs and the system needs 13 megawatt generators to produce the required 5.4 million watts of power – creating enough light to cover an area equivalent to 70 football pitches. The bulbs are fixed on 1000 poles with mounting heights from 3 to 36 metres, all linked together by almost 500 kilometres of wire and supported by 300,000 kilos of concrete.Valentino Rossi – “A good pre-season”

“Finally we’re at the start of the season and we are all very excited. The pre-season has gone well for me, our new M1 is good, Yamaha and Bridgestone have done a great job and we have been fast. We have only had six days on track so we still have work to do and things to learn about the new bike, but we are starting in good shape. I expect this season to be a big battle with many riders very strong, and I hope that we will show some good racing to the fans! Qatar hasn’t been one of the best tracks for our bike in the last few years but at the test we went well so I hope this will continue again for the race.”Jorge Lorenzo – “Not perfect yet”

“I am not perfect yet, I still need more time to recover 100% from my injury, but at least I can ride in Qatar. I am very happy because we are so close now to the start of the season; it’s been a long winter! Unfortunately, I had some troubles in training and hurt my hand, but these things happen. Qatar is a very special track for me; it was the place where I got my first podium in MotoGP in 2008! I know this time it will be more difficult, but I will try to be close to the action. I hope this year it doesn’t rain like last year!”Davide Brivio – “Let’s go racing!”

“Our development in testing has gone very well and this is encouraging for us all. We were fast in Sepang but also in Qatar, more than a second faster than last year in fact, so we are going into the first race feeling confident that we can put up a fight. It hasn’t been the best race for us previously but everyone is very focused and we will be looking to make a strong start to the campaign. The waiting is nearly over and we’re ready – let’s go racing!”Wilco Zeelenberg – “A long season”

“Jorge’s thumb is still not perfect but he was stronger than we expected at the last test and he has had some more time to recover since then so the situation is not too bad. It was a great shame for him that this happened and he missed one test but he has had good treatment and he is in the best shape possible, considering the injury. He felt good on the bike at the test and now we will just try to make some more small steps during practice this weekend. It’s a long season and this is just the first race.”The following is from Suzuki…Rizla Suzuki racers Loris Capirossi and Alvaro Bautista will both achieve personal landmarks at 2010’s opening Grand Prix in Qatar next Sunday.Capirossi will celebrate his 300th Grand Prix start when the race gets underway on Sunday evening. He already holds the record for the most Grand Prix starts of any rider in the history of motorcycle racing – his 277th race at Misano in 2008 overtook the previous record held by Alex Barros – and the first race of 2010 will see the experienced Italian begin his 21st season – and third decade – at the pinnacle of Grand Prix racing.Bautista will also make his own personal landmark when the former 125cc World Champion -and the Suzuki factory’s latest recruit – makes his competitive debut in the MotoGP class. Bautista has impressed during his inaugural pre-season testing campaign on a MotoGP machine and is in confident mood ahead of the 18-race championship that lies ahead of him this year.The 5,380m Losail International Circuit is situated just outside the city of Doha in Qatar and has now become the regular first race of the season. This year will see the third running of the race during the hours of darkness, as the race and all practice will take place beneath thousands of floodlights that illuminate the circuit to give an amazing and individual feel to the event.Rizla Suzuki takes to the track on Friday evening for the first practice session, with two further hour-long sessions on Saturday. The 22-lap race is scheduled to get underway at 23.00hrs local time (20.00GMT) on Sunday 11th April.Loris Capirossi:

“The Qatar GP will see a big milestone in my career as I start my 300th race! I never thought I would get to this many, but I have been lucky in my career and I have always given 100% and kept myself fit so that I have been able to stay at the top. I never really think about how many races I have been in, but this number is very special and I guess it will probably never happen for another rider. Anyway, once the race has started my attitude will be the same as it was in 1990 – full gas and full attack! The race for the team is also important because we have to continue with the improvements and good direction that we found at the Qatar test last month. I know we have some work to do, but we are very close now and all the guys in the team and back in Japan have worked really hard. I hope we can challenge the fast guys more consistently this year.”Alvaro Bautista:

“For me this is a very important weekend because it will be my first race in MotoGP. I have done ok in testing, but racing is a different thing. I still have very much to learn about the bike and about MotoGP because it is so different from 250, so I must keep focused and take everything as it comes. A target for this year would be to be rookie of the year, but that will be difficult because there are so many good riders and the racing will be close. I must learn step-by-step and not do anything stupid in the early races. I am really excited about my debut for Rizla Suzuki and just can’t wait to get racing!”The following is from Honda…For the third year in a row, the MotoGP World Championship gets started when the starting lights go out and the floodlights light up the Losail Circuit outside the Qatari capital of Doha, with Honda’s six-strong MotoGP squad ready to duel in the desert.The 2010 season-opener also marks the debut of the Moto2 class, which replaces the 250cc World Championship. The class’s glorious 61-year history came to a fitting end last year when Hiroshi Aoyama won the final title for Honda.That gave the marque an even 20 crowns, most in class. The Moto2 machines bring a new concept to world championship racing. The chassis and suspension specifications are wide open, and a fierce competition has emerged among chassis builders, but there will be no variation in the engine or tyres: The 40-strong field will be powered by control Honda CBR600RR engines and run on control Dunlop tyres.Honda’s MotoGP lineup is a mixture of experience and youth, with two rookies joining the team, which now includes four world champions. Dani Pedrosa is back for his fifth year in the premier class, again joined by third year rising star Andrea Dovizioso on the second factory Repsol Honda. Randy De Puniet is the only other returning Honda rider, the Frenchman returning on the LCR Honda for his third year after equaling his career best championship finish in 2009.Fausto Gresini revamped his San Carlo Honda Gresini squad by bringing back Marco Melandri, the veteran whose greatest success came on a Gresini Honda, while adding the slender bushy-haired former 250cc World Champion Marco Simoncelli.Pedrosa is hoping that a change in number will bring a change in fortune. The 24-year-old from Sabadell, outside of Barcelona, will run the number 26, the same number he ran for his first two years in the premier class. Pedrosa has won two races each of his four seasons in the senior class, and finished second in the championship in 2007. The next step is consistency over the length of the season, which is what Pedrosa is concentrating on for 2010.A year after a series of injuries cut into his off-season testing program, the Spaniard was in full fitness to make the most of the limited track time allowed under the new testing rules.In the final pre-season test, here at the 16-turn, 5.38k Losail Circuit, Pedrosa and his team had to work through a new chassis, swingarm, and suspension package that he hopes will improve corner entry. But just as he was beginning to make the most of it late in the night, moisture in the air and on the track halted his progress.Now that the engineers have had a few weeks to analyse the data, a fit Pedrosa returns, optimistic that he will benefit from their analysis.Andrea Dovizioso earned one of the most nail-biting wins of the 2009 campaign when he brilliantly steered clear of trouble in the treacherous conditions of the final British Grand Prix at Donington Park. On a gloomy day, and on an irregular track surface that brought down many of the sport’s best, the young Italian took full advantage by earning his maiden MotoGP victory.The Repsol Honda rider’s mastery of the Honda RC212V continued through winter testing. He was the fastest Honda rider at the end of every test.Though that was encouraging, he knows that he’ll have to step up his game, and continue improving the RC212V, if he’s to be considered a serious championship threat.Randy de Puniet starts his fifth season in MotoGP and third with the LCR Honda team of former racer Lucio Cecchinello, the LC in LCR Honda. De Puniet took encouragement from an off-season testing regimen that had the Frenchman improving his finishing position in each of the three 2010 tests. His best was eighth fastest, and second fastest Honda, in the final pre-season test in Qatar. The time wasn’t a one-off special, but one of several fast laps in the middle of a race simulation. And his time might have been even more impressive had he not encountered slower riders when he did fit the softer rear tire option late in the night.The Marcos, Melandri and Simoncelli, give the San Carlo Honda Gresini team an all-new look on a familiar machine. Backed again by the Italian snack giant San Carlo, the team expects to be more competitive with Melandri in the short term, while grooming Simoncelli for future greatness.Melandri has struggled since leaving Gresini Honda at the end of the 2007 season and hopes to regain the magic that took him to five premier class wins in his second and third years with the Faenza-based team. The former 250cc World Champion showed flashes of brilliance last year, when very little was expected of him. More will be expected this year as the leader of the Gresini Honda team.The shortened testing season-only six days in 2010-did no favors to Melandri or Simoncelli, both of whom were making significant career moves. The final test of the season at Losail didn’t produce the results Melandri had hoped for, but he’s confident that his race pace is more than competitive on a wide open track that he feels suits his riding style.The move to the premier class has been difficult for Simoncelli, the 2008 250cc World Champion. “Super Sic” had his confidence dented by two severe crashes during the two tests in Malaysia.That added pressure for the final test in Qatar, where he spent the two nights continuing to adapt to the complex and sometimes frustrating world of MotoGP. Rather than going for one outright fast lap, Simoncelli and the team worked diligently to improve the rideability of the Gresini Honda RC212V. Having stood on the top step of the podium 14 times, 12 times in 250 and twice in 125, Simoncelli knows what it takes to win and it’s only a matter of time before he adds to his tally.Interwetten Honda MotoGP Team’s Hiroshi Aoyama will make his MotoGP debut five months after securing the final 250cc World Championship for Honda. Like Simoncelli, Aoyama is facing a number of new challenges, including sophisticated electronics, Bridgestone tires, a vast array of set-up possibilities, all of which need to work in harmony. And also like Simoncelli, Aoyama had only six days of testing this year, which puts him at a disadvantage to his more experienced classmates. Still, the always positive Japanese rider is hopeful of scoring his first points in Qatar.The MotoGP World Championship staked its foothold in the Arab-speaking world in 2004, when the ultra-modern Losail International Circuit made its debut on the MotoGP calendar. It was a good year for Honda, with the Gresini Honda squad finishing one-two.Sitting 15 kms. outside the cosmopolitan city of Doha, and its million residents, the track was designed with motorcycles in mind, which means its one of the safest on the calendar. The track is fast, flowing, and wide open, with six lefts and ten rights spread out over its 5.38k length. With near constant high speeds and direction changes, the track rewards agility, while putting a premium on tire conservation.The 1.068k front straightaway is one of the longest in racing, and it isn’t uncommon for riders to overshoot the first turn early in the weekend before they adapt to the speed and hard braking from nearly 340kmh. With the finish line well down the straight, the possibility of a last minute draft-pass to the checkered flag makes for an exciting spectacle, and also showcases the more powerful motors: Last year, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa topped the speed charts with a best of 338.6k in qualifying.The first three years of the Qatar Grand Prix were run during the day, when temperatures routinely average 35C and track temperatures soar. That changed in 2007 when the lights were turned on. The novelty has somewhat worn off, but the challenges haven’t. Despite being the largest permanent venue sports-lighting project in the world, lit by 3600 fixtures, the track surface looks different during the night and the nighttime humidity that affects traction is sometimes difficult to discern. It also makes depth perception difficult at speeds that can reach nearly 340 kph. With practice and qualifying run deep into the night, followed by debriefs with their crews, the riders have to adjust their body clocks not only to the time zone, but also to the extended hours. That leaves them free to recover on the plush beaches of Doha, near the high rise hotels that seem to sprout up overnight in this bustling Middle Eastern business center.Another variable the riders have to conquer is sand. Artificial grass lines much of the track, but it isn’t entirely successful in keeping blowing sand from the surface. Because of that, the sighting and warm-up laps are more critical here than at any other track.And 2009 brought another surprise, torrential rains. A downpour brought the 125cc race to an end after only four full laps, with the 250cc race shortened to 13 laps after a delayed start to dry the track. Heavy rains began to fall just prior to the 11 p.m. MotoGP green light, which forced the event to be postponed. After consulting with riders and team principals, race officials moved the MotoGP race to 9:00 p.m. Monday evening.Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso said: “I’m really looking forward to the first race and after the long winter break and testing sessions it’s a very good feeling to heading into a race weekend again. Me are the team are very motivated and happy with the work done in the pre-season. We have moved in the right direction and have seen a big improvement through testing, and this gives us a lot of confidence for the start of the season. On Friday we will start with the base setting from the last test session we had here in Qatar a few weeks ago and work on it further through the course of the race weekend. The gap from us to the fastest riders has come down, but we still need to work really hard because we’re not close enough yet. The Qatar race is special and unique of course because it is at night. Having said that, once you get used to the floodlit circuit, it soon becomes “normal” to race in these conditions. The thing to consider carefully and to be careful about is the humidity, which is very high here at the time of the race. We’re ready for Round One and I’m really excited to go racing again.”Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa said: “It’s time for the first race of the season and we go back to Qatar this weekend ready to put in maximum effort to do as well as possible at the opening round. There’s no need to get carried away with the nerves or expectations because this would be only detrimental for us. We will stay calm, be very focused and simply concentrate as hard as possible in the practice sessions in order to find a good setting for the race. Technically, this circuit requires very precise bike set-up, with good agility and good straight-line speed – these two factors are very important at Losail. Two years ago we made an incredible step forward between the test and the race weekend and we have to do it once again – we know it can happen. I’m starting the season without physical problems, which means that the situation is much better than in the past, so we will work hard and do the maximum to get the best result possible in Qatar. I fully trust in the team around me and I also believe in myself, so I’m feeling positive going into this weekend.”LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet said: “I’m happy and ready for practice to start. We made a big step forward at the Qatar test and I was able to set my fastest lap times on race tyres. I have a good feeling with this bike and we have a good base set up to start the weekend.”San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Melandri said: “The Losail circuit in Qatar is one I like and racing at night has its attraction. Testing didn’t go particularly well but we still have some things to try and I am quite confident about my race pace. I think a lot of riders will struggle to match their pace from testing and if we can just improve a little and get a decent grid position then we can get involved in a group in the race that will allow me to take home a good result. I had a great race in Qatar in 2005, when I fought with Valentino until the final lap, attacking him for the lead with three corners to go but running wide and having to settle for second place as a result. I also had a good race on the 800 in 2007 even though the bike still wasn’t up to scratch so I still believe we can have a good race this Sunday – it wouldn’t be the first time we have taken a good result after a difficult preseason. The track is well suited to my riding style so I’m keen to see how well we can do.”San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli said: “I was hoping I’d be in better shape ahead of my MotoGP debut but testing hasn’t gone in the best possible way, especially Sepang. We have work to do and since I last rode the bike we have re-jigged our ideas a little and come up with some ways to improve things. We also have faith in the work done by Honda in Japan and we’re hopeful they can bring us something new that can help us. I’m obviously not going out to win the first race but I’m still travelling to Qatar in confident mood and I’m sure I can improve on my performance from the test. I don’t dislike Losail and I am always comfortable riding there. I am a little worried about the fact we’re racing at night because of the humidity that seems to settle at a certain point of the evening, especially in some of the right-handers, making them somewhat dangerous. Maybe bringing the race forward an hour would be a good solution. If not then we will just adapt to it and try to bring home the best result possible.”Interwetten Honda MotoGP Team’s Hiroshi Aoyama said: “I am looking forward to start the new season in MotoGP class. Qatar is not my favorite track and the conditions are not always perfect, also riding in the dark is very unusual and I will see how I can cope with this new situation. We still need to find a good set up for the race conditions as what we have until now was for the testing and it was still not perfect. I need to gain more confidence with the new bike and learn a lot, but I hope we can have a good result in Qatar and maybe gain our first points in the MotoGP world championship 2010.”

By Press Release