Finance critical as MotoGP Teams hit Qatar for 2015 season opener
The MotoGP paddock will arrive at the Losail International Circuit this week for the start of the 2015 season. After months of waiting the first round is upon us and what a season it promises to be, as already during preseason testing a few surprises have been thrown up with some big stories making the headlines. Perhaps the worst of which is the possible financial problems facing the CWM FX LCR team comprising of Cal Crutchlow and Australian debutant Jack Miller. A breaking stroy in the UK details that 13 people were arrested at the CWM FX headquarters this week, apparently connected with an ‘anti money laundering enquiry’.. Click Here for More. While this may not, and we indeed hope not, affect the LCR squad this season, their rivals over at M7 Drive Aspar have lost their major sponsor only days before the season opener. While MotoGP puts on the glitz and glamour very well it is clear that under the surface a lot of teams sail very, very close to the wind and like motorcycle racing around the world, is always under massive financial pressures. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems…
Ducati have dramatically come back with a competitive machine for 2015, with the Luigi Dall’Igna designed Desmosedici GP15 dominating the final preseason test in Qatar. The new machine is not only fast, but the Italian factory team seemed to have finally cured the understeer problem that affected previous versions of the bike. While the GP15 has shown good pace since it debuted at the second test in Sepang, it will be interesting to see how it performs over the race distance under the floodlights at the Losail Circuit in the hands of the Ducati Team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone.
Andrea Dovizioso – “I am really pleased with the test in Qatar, because I was fast on both new and used tyres. I start the season with optimism because the new GP15 is a much better bike than the previous model, in Qatar it adapted really well immediately and so I think we can do well in the race. The Losail circuit is very unusual, but I’ve always gone well at this track and so I can’t wait to line up for the first race.”
Andrea Iannone – “I’m happy with the way testing went at Losail last week and with the work that we did. It’s a pity we couldn’t test on the final day because we still needed to do some more work on the GP15. In any case from Thursday evening we’ll be trying to sort things out in the best possible way and I feel confident for the race. In my opinion, this is a great track and racing at night is always really special. I like Losail a lot: I’ve won here in the past and done some other podiums so for sure it’s a positive track for me.”
Suzuki have returned to MotoGP with an all new factory squad, featuring riders Aleix Espargaro and class rookie Maverick Viñales. They have been developing the GSX-RR machine over the last year, and already it has proved competitive, plus the team believes there is a lot more potential to unlock in the bike throughout the season.
Aleix Espargaro – “The right word to describe my feelings is that I’m excited! To start the new season with such a great team is incredible for me. There have been three years of hard work, the whole crew is amazing, the machine is performing well and everything is like a dream to me. I can’t wait to be on the grid waiting for the green light.
“During winter tests we had the chance to discover what’s good and what has to be improved on the bike. I feel confident with the chassis and set-up, and while we lack a little traction, this is the main issue we’re focusing on right now. We will spend the early two sessions of practice to finish the job we were going to do in the rained-off Qatar Test and then we will focus on finding a good pace for the race: especially on Friday, when I will try – if not a real race simulation – then at least a 12-15 lap-long-run.
“Fitness-wise I feel pretty good. My knee is getting better and better and my physiotherapy is giving me good results. Our main objective here is not to make any mistakes and to take things step-by-step. We know our potential, but we also know where we need to improve, so the important thing is to do the right things, get well into the points – hopefully within the top-eight – and then look at the season as a whole.”
Maverick Viñales – “During the previous test in Qatar we have worked very well with the hard-tyre in order to get ready for the race. For sure we still have lots of room for improvement and we will try something new also in free practice tomorrow. Right now the time is short and the race weekend is very different from testing, but I feel enthusiastic in facing my competitors for the first time. In free practice we will mainly work to find a good pace, while we will work on a single fast-lap more in qualifying to gain the best position available.
“We have time to improve, now I have to get experience on the machine to understand the new class and new competitors, plus the MotoGP qualifying procedure is new for me. Therefore for this race my objective is to get into the points and to be as competitive as I can without compromising the development job we still have to do. We are making steps of improvement each time we ride, so I have a good feeling about our potential.
“Right now we can’t aim to win and we have to be realistic and to keep on with the approach plan that we have embarked upon. To me this will be a debut. I’m pretty young, but I have a strong team behind me so right now I’m not scared at all of this new adventure as I feel confident and excited to test my machine’s and my own capabilities in the races.”
On the subject of comebacks, Aprilia have also returned to the MotoGP grid for 2015, although this year will be more of a season-long test for riders Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri, as they look to develop the RS-GP bike to be competitive in 2016.
Alvaro Bautista – “After the winter tests it’s finally time to get back to racing! Every time a new season begins it is very exciting and in this case it’s even more so because it is also the beginning of our challenge together with Aprilia. This first round actually represents the natural continuation of testing for us: in fact, our primary goal is to develop the bike, no matter what the results are on the track, and it’s pointless to focus on those right now. The tests were important for identifying the basic technique to start with.
“We’ll take on the Grand Prix resuming our hard work to keep growing and improving my sensations in the saddle. There is a lot of work to be done, but that doesn’t frighten us. To the contrary, the whole team is very united and motivated to make progress. I like the Losail track and I obviously also hope to have fun this weekend!”
Marco Melandri – “For me this weekend is the start of a new challenge: returning the MotoGP after several years of absence will not be a walk in the park and I am well aware that the first Grand Prix races will not be simple for me, but I am confident that I’ll be able to make progress throughout the season until I find the right feeling to be fast. Unfortunately, besides the time needed to adapt to a completely new technical package compared to the one I was accustomed to, my winter tests were also hindered by physical problems. I had been taking antibiotics until three days ago because of a pesky flu and I still haven’t fully recovered. But in any case I hope to be fit for the race weekend where I will give it 100% as always along with my team which is supporting me in the best possible way.”
Romano Albesiano – (Aprilia Racing Manager) – “With the Qatar round Aprilia’s MotoGP adventure begins. We are well aware that we will be sizing ourselves up against the highest technical and sports level in motorcycling, but we are doing it confident that we have all the means to develop a successful project. Aprilia’s sports history demonstrates this. The purpose of the upcoming season for us is to gather data and know-how on MotoGP specific technologies, to strengthen the work group at home and on the track and simultaneously it will allow us to design a prototype and put it on the track in 2016. The constant competition with our rivals, definitely fierce and difficult for us at the moment, will allow us to speed up our growth process in the category, as has already happened during the winter tests.”
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez will be looking to defend his title once more, having claimed back-to-back championships in the past two seasons. The young Spaniard believing that the serious challenge for the title will not come from Ducati, but his own teammate Dani Pedrosa and the Movistar Yamaha’s.
Marc Marquez – “I can’t wait for the season to begin! It’s been a long Winter and then testing was cut short in Qatar last week due to rain, which was very strange, but I’m confident going into this first race. This circuit isn’t one of my favourites but it’s still fun to ride and it marks the beginning of the Championship which is great. Let’s see how the conditions are after all the rain last week. As usual it will take a few sessions of the different classes on track to clear the racing line and then we will see how the grip level is. There are a lot of fast riders on fast bikes – as we saw during testing – so this first race weekend will be interesting for sure!”
Dani Pedrosa – “Unfortunately, our testing programme in Qatar ended early due to the weather last week but overall I’m confident and happy to get the season started. Since Valencia the bike has improved a lot, so I thank HRC for all their work, and also my team – where we have some new members this year – have also clicked together more and we have a good working momentum. This first race weekend is always a little tough to get back into the rhythm and also with it being stretched over four days instead of three is quite tiresome. However, now we’re ready to get out on track and put all our hard work to the test.”
Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will be desperate to wrestle the title form Marquez’s grasp, and with 11 world titles between them plus a renewed determination this season, the Movistar Yamaha team will be looking to claim the Championship once more. Rossi experienced a resurgence last season, having made some changes behind the scenes, while his teammate Lorenzo ended the season brilliantly, after a disastrous start to 2014 effectively cost him any chance of the title.
Valentino Rossi – “I am very happy to leave for the first race of the season after many days of testing. I am very satisfied about the tests. The bike has improved a lot, but we still have a lot of work to do. Unfortunately we could not finish the test due to rain and it will be important to resume work on the bike where we had stopped. It seems that in Qatar there will be many fast riders, so we‘ll all be very close in times. At least that’s what the tests told us. I am very excited to start this season. I’m ready, I feel good and also my team is ready. They are all very motivated!”
Jorge Lorenzo – “The pre-season is over and I look forward to racing as soon as possible. We‘ve completed a very positive preseason with some benefits in terms of new, mechanical parts and also in terms of performance. We did a great job in both the Sepang tests and we got some clear ideas how to improve the bike. Then we visited Qatar a few days ago but unfortunately there, a track that usually suits our YZR-M1 better, we struggled a bit to get the best set-up. Finally we lost the final day because of the rain and that was a pity, but now we face the first challenge of the championship, the real game, and we go to Losail eager to fight for the first victory. I want to forget what happened there one year ago with the crash in the first lap of the race. Fortunately this year we‘ll arrive in a better shape and we can do even better in the first part of the season so we are quite positive for the starting race.”
Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director – “After the winter tests we are finally going to kick off the championship and we‘re really looking forward to it. We had some good tests in Sepang and Qatar so we are ready to begin. We are going to start from where we stopped last week, so our schedule is already set. Because of the rain on the last day of testing in Qatar last week we couldn‘t test what we wanted to prepare, so that‘s going to be our starting point. Losail is a circuit that suits the Yamaha well so for this reason we are feeling very confident and so are the riders. Vale and Jorge are in great physical shape and the team is excited too. The competition is going to be closer than ever this year, so fans can expect really exciting racing from the first round. Let‘s start the season!”
There is also the interesting battle of the satellite teams with riders Cal Crutchlow on the CWM LCR Honda RC213V, Scott Redding on the factory spec Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing Honda, the Tech 3 Yamaha’s of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro plus the Pramac Ducati’s of Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci all set to do battle in Qatar.
Cal Crutchlow – “Over the winter the CWM LCR Honda Team have been doing a great job and I’ve adapted quite well to the new bike. It’s difficult because it’s my third bike in three seasons and that makes it tough to adapt, but I’m focused and my team are too and I’ve been enjoying riding again. I felt good testing in Sepang, which I don’t normally, and then we came here to Qatar to test and I felt comfortable here too.”
“I’m not just looking for consistency at the start of this season, we need to keep fighting and take some risks too, why not. There’s a lot of strong guys out there and it’s been close in testing, but I believe we can push immediately and then by the second or third races we’ll see where we are.”
Scott Redding – “In an ideal world we’d have got the last day of testing in Qatar done, rather than sitting in the box watching the rain, but it was the same for everyone. I was on a good level at the test and we had some changes to make on the final day that we knew would bring improvements but, unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to test them because of the weather. I’m feeling positive going into the Qatar race. I’m still learning with the Honda RC213V, so I’m only going to get faster and, when you look at how close the lap times were during the final test, I think a finish inside the top six or seven is a realistic goal for me this weekend.”
Bradley Smith – “Obviously, I am thrilled that we are racing again this weekend and it’s so good to get back on track! My off season was very productive and I did a lot of training to ensure that I am as prepared as possible for this year. I am also pleased with what we accomplished in the testing and I am excited about the potential of the Yamaha, plus the team and I did a lot of work, which I must thank them for. Realistically, there will be a few more tweaks that we need to do when we arrive, but we must hit the ground running and make the most of the available practice time in order to prepare for Sunday. I am confident of a good result here and will certainly be looking to battle as close as possible to the factory bikes. I’m already gritting my teeth with anticipation for Sunday’s race and I can’t wait to get going.”
Pol Espargaro – “It’s finally time to get the wheels in motion for 2015 and I am very excited to contest in the first race. We have had a positive pre season and the bike is at a level that I am happy with, but of course it will be a challenging race and this year, I am under no illusions that it will be easy to finish close to the front. There will be a lot more riders who can fight for podiums and top positions when compared to the previous years. Having said that, I will do nothing but my best. The team did a great job over the winter so now it’s up to me and I am ready. Qatar is always special as it’s the only night race, which is really interesting and different for the MotoGP riders. I look forward to getting back on the Yamaha YZR-M1 and then giving my all to seize a good result which will set me up confidently for the next GP’s.”
In the Open class it was Karel Abraham who ended on top at the final preseason test, but it should prove to be an interesting season-long battle between the Drive M7 Aspar Honda RC213V-RS’s of Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty along with the Avintia Ducati’s of Hector Barbera and Mike Di Meglio, and the Athina Forward Racing Yamaha’s of Stefan Bradl & Loris Baz.
Nicky Hayden – “The show is about to start and we are ready for a new season. Obviously I am not a rookie any more but I still feel the same level of excitement and I have the same desire as I do every season. We have a huge challenge on our hands so I am looking forward to getting started in the first race of the year. As we have seen during preseason the level in MotoGP this year is extremely high, which I think is a good thing for the championship. I really like the Losail circuit, it is fun to ride. It can be a little dirty at first but the grip improves as the weekend progresses and it is always fun to ride at night. The team have done a great job over the winter and we have made strong progress. Clearly we still need to work on some areas, especially with the electronics, but hopefully I can do a good job in Qatar to make the team and my fans proud.”
Eugene Laverty – “Pre-season testing has gone really well as we’ve made steady progress every time that I’ve ridden the bike. I’ve gelled really well with both the ‘Open’ Honda and the Drive M7 Aspar Team so I’m excited about the challenge that lies ahead of us. The final test at Losail finished really well, which bodes well for round one at the same circuit. It is difficult to say what my goal is in terms of overall position because the field is so strong this season. However, within the ‘Open’ category I want to be fighting for the top three positions from the beginning. I enjoy the Losail circuit and our bike suits the circuit very well so I want to start the season with a strong result.”
Loris Baz – “It’s finally time of my MotoGP premiere. I worked really hard to be able to get ready for this race. I had to learn everything about this bike: the carbon discs, the brakes, the new tires and strengthen my muscles to adapt my driving style to the Yamaha Forward. The goal is to try to get close to my rivals in the Open class by summer. I am confident and at the same time anxious to get on track in Qatar.”
Jack Miller, the runner-up in the Moto3 Championship last year, will be looking to impress on the Open spec CMW LCR Honda, while Alex de Angelis is on the Octo Ioda Racing ART Machine.
Jack Miller – “I’m really looking forward to my first race weekend on the MotoGP bike with the CWM LCR Honda Team. It’s been a long wait since we started our winter tests back in Valencia in November, but I think testing hasn’t gone too badly and I am mentally prepared to race now. Nothing can compare to actually racing though, so we will see where we are at. “
“I’m really excited to get going this weekend, especially in the qualifying sessions which should be fun with their special format. It’s all going to be difficult, I know, but I look forward to seeing where we are by the end of the weekend. I think it’s a bit too early to put any expectations on where we will finish, the first thing is to actually finish and then we will aim to be as close to the front as possible.”
In 2015 the number of riders competing in the MotoGP class has increased to 25 – up from 23 in 2013 – and this season there will be more riders on the grid that have won Grand Prix World Championships than ever before. Twelve riders, who have won a total of 18 titles between them, will line up under the lights in Qatar to compete in the first round, along with 4 rookies to the class in the shape of Viñales, Miller, Laverty and Baz.
The schedule for the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar differs from other rounds in that it is spread over 4 days, with two days of free practice commencing on Thursday, qualifying on Saturday, and the MotoGP race scheduled to start at 9pm local time on Sunday night.
2015 Moto2 World Championship begins in Qatar
The 2015 Moto2 World Championship starts this weekend with the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar.
After the recent weather-affected final preseason test in Jerez, it is hard to predict any favourites for the 2015 Moto2 title as riders prepare to do battle under the lights at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
Tito Rabat becomes the first ever Moto2 World Champion since the class began to attempt to defend his title on the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing Kalex, with previous Champions having decided to move up to the MotoGP class.
Tito Rabat: “I’m pretty happy with our preseason testing, mainly because of the rain. We were able to test extensively in the wet, which I’ve never had the opportunity to do before and we learnt a lot. We know that in the dry we have the pace to fight for the win, and I think the same is also true when it’s wet now. And that’s the approach for this season, to go to every race and to try and fight for the win, starting this weekend in Qatar.”
Rabat is joined in 2015 by two of the top three Moto3 riders from last season as well as 14 of the top 15 riders in the Moto2 standings from 2014, with only Maverick Viñales having left the class to join the factory Suzuki Ecstar team in MotoGP.
Speed Up Racing´s Sam Lowes will hope to continue his preseason form during 2015 as he begins his second season in the class, while last years Moto2 runner-up Mika Kallio has made the switch this year to the Italtrans Racing Team.
With serial contenders like Johann Zarco, Luis Salom, Axel Pons, Simone Corsi, Thomas Luthi and Rabat´s new teammate, the 2014 Moto3 World Champion Alex Marquez, also lining up on the grid, it is shaping up to be an incredibly competitive season.
Alex Marquez: “Qatar will be my first race in Moto2, so everything is new and we will need to concentrate all weekend. We haven’t had such good luck with the weather during the preseason tests; I needed dry track time on the bike, but mostly we had rain, which wasn’t ideal. It means we need to find a good setting with the bike in Qatar and a good rhythm for the race, but I head to the first race really motivated to work hard with the team. We need to do the best job we can during practice in Qatar, so we’re ready for the race. It’s difficult to say what my expectations are for the first race, after such a wet preseason, but there will be quite a few riders in the same situation.”
The Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar starts on Thursday with two practice days for the riders, before qualifying on Saturday, with the Moto2 race due to take place at 19:20 local time on Sunday night.
Moto3 World Championship gets under way in Qatar
The 2015 Moto3 World Championship begins with the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar this weekend.
The Moto3 class has always been a platform for the best young riders in the world to showcase their talent, and for 2015 this is no different with only four riders competing in the Championship over the age of 21.
Frenchman Fabio Quartararo will be the youngest rider to ever to compete in a full season in Moto3, at just 15 years and 343 days, with the organisers having changed the rules this year to allow someone under the age of 16 to take part in a race. Quartararo was the CEV Repsol Moto3 Champion from 2014, and has already impressed a number of people with his pace during preseason, having joined the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Team for 2015.
There are a number of new faces that will line up on the grid in 2015, including last years Red Bull Rookies Cup Champion Jorge Martin, who will be joined by Juanfran Guevara and Francesco Bagnaia on the on the Mapfre Mahindra Team.
Jorge Martín: “I am really excited to be making my debut in the World Championship. Preseason has been long and we have had the time to do a lot of work in different conditions, which has allowed us to really develop the bike. I am happy with the work we have done during the winter. I have never been to Qatar and I have never ridden at night so I guess it will be a little tricky to get used to the circuit but I am sure that my team will help me to process everything quickly and get comfortable. My team-mates have told me it is strange to right at night because the shadows make it feel like there are people constantly trying to overtaken you. Even though I haven’t been to Losail before I have done a lot of laps on the Playstation and I know the layout by heart. The goal this weekend is to enjoy it and finish as high up as possible.”
Juanfran Guevara: “Everybody at the team and Mahindra have done a great job during preseason and thanks to that we have a good base to start the season from. I like the Losail circuit quite a lot and I went well there during practice last season, it was just a shame that I got knocked off in the race. Our objective is clear – we want to be running in the front group and this season I want to correct the mistakes we made in 2014, and I am sure we can be fast from the start. Preseason is important but this weekend is when we really measure ourselves against the rest and find out what level we are all at. I am sure that if we continue to work in the same way we have been doing in preseason things will go well. There are three of us in the team this year, we all get on well and that is good because we can help each other out on the track.”
Francesco Bagnaia: “Finally winter is over and we are going to Qatar to start the season. The rain didn’t allow us to get much work done at the last test but we have still done a great job over the preseason. My adaptation to the team has been perfect, we have found a lot of solutions with the set-up of the bike and we are ready to get the season started. We have already reached a good level and I am sure we can be competitive from the first race. I can’t wait to get started and I have missed racing a lot. Losail is a fun circuit, it suits my riding style well and it has a really long straight so it will be important during qualifying to make the most of a slipstream. Also, even though it is quite strange I enjoy riding at night.”
Quartararo is joined in the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Team by the man who finished runner-up to him last year, Jorge Navarro, while Gabriel Rodrigo will be the first ever Argentinian to compete in Moto3, for the RBA Racing Team.
Maria Herrera will be the second female to compete full-time in the Moto3 class alongside Ana Carrasco, as she becomes teammates with Isaac Viñales in the Husqvarna Factory Laglisse Racing Team. Efren Vazquez, who took two race wins last year on his way to 4th in the championship, lines up alongside British rider Danny Kent for the Leopard Racing Team, with Scottish rider John McPhee also returning to the the grid with the Saxoprint-RTG Team.
Karel Hanika, Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira make up an extremely competitive Factory Red Bull KTM Ajo team, while the rider who finished the championship in 5th last year, Romano Fenati, is joined by compatriot Andrea Migno in the Sky Racing Team VR46.
A total of 14 nationalities will be represented on the grid when the lights go out in Qatar, and with less than 0.6s separating the first six across the line last year, it once again promises to be an exciting start to the 2015 Moto3 World Championship.
Teams have an extra day of practice at the Losail International Circuit to prepare for the season opener, with things kicking off on Thursday in Qatar ahead of qualifying on Saturday and the Moto3 race scheduled to take place at 6pm local time in Qatar on Sunday.