MotoGP riders speak ahead of Qatar MotoGP
The Losail Circuit lies on the outskirts of Doha, the capital city of Qatar. Built in little over a year, the track is a flowing layout of 5.4 kilometres, surrounded by artificial grass designed to prevent sand from the neighbouring desert from blowing onto the circuit. The main straight is over a kilometre in length and there is a good mix of medium and high-speed corners, including a couple of quick left-handers. The inaugural event was held in October 2004, while the switch to night time racing in 2008 was a success and the Qatar event is now firmly established as one of the most spectacular on the MotoGP calendar.
“Last year I had a great race, and I scored a fantastic first MotoGP podium so it is a good memory for me. With the rule changes, I think that this year will see a good fight up front, because all the riders are closer, but we can also be competitive and will try our best to get on the podium again. The last test in Qatar was the best one for me, because day after day I was able to improve the feeling with the bike and with the Michelin tyres. We worked well, but we are only at the start with the new bike and we still have a lot of potential.”
“It’s great to start the season here in Qatar. Losail is a circuit where the MotoGP bikes can make the most of their available horsepower, because it is a very fast track and has a wide range of corners. It’s really different at night, when the temperature is perfect for the race. We have to be optimistic because in nine days of testing we worked well to set a good pace, and made a lot of progress in improving the feeling with the new Desmosedici GP. I’m quite relaxed about the start of the season, but I know that during the race weekend we will have to be quick to adapt to the Michelin tyres. It will be important to approach the weekend and all the new aspects in the best possible way, but I am confident for the race.”
“The pre-season is over and the real action will kick off under the floodlights of Losail. All of us are eager to start the true competition. The winter was so long and testing has not the same feeling as racing. I feel very strong and arrive very confident to this first match of the season. I‘m happy I adapted quite well to the Michelin tyres and we proved it during two of three tests. However we need to keep our feet on the ground because until Sunday the points are not distributed so we have to work hard from Thursday on to get a good position and then demonstrate our strong pace in the race. I would like to start this 2016 season in the best way possible, especially compared to the beginning of 2015. Let‘s go into this race fighting and enjoy it!”
“Finally we start talking about racing! I‘m very glad that a new season begins. Our tests were definitely positive, but the race is another thing. During testing we’ve learned a lot about the new tyres and electronics, but there are many other things to discover and this first race will be really important to understand the real potential of the bikes and the riders. Last season for me began very well. I don‘t know if I will be able to repeat that result but I will try to get on the podium for sure. It will be important to start to work well from the first sessions and get ready and have clear ideas going into the race. I feel ready and motivated and so does the team, so let’s go!”
“The season is finally about to start, and I’m looking forward to it. When we came here two weeks ago we did a big step forward with the setup at the very end of the test, and I really felt at ease with the bike, especially in my last run that was quite late in the evening, with the dew already starting to form. That’s positive in view of the race, even if we’re not yet where we’d like to be and still have a margin for improvement with the setup. The Losail layout may not be the most favourable of the season for our bike, but in the past we’ve scored a podium and a win here with the RC213V, so we’ll fight to get the best result on Sunday. This year there are a few variables that aren’t yet completely predictable, such as tyre wear at race distance, for example, and the bike’s behaviour with the new electronics. Still, Honda never cease to work hard, as is the case for me and the whole team, so I’m positive and look forward to the action starting!”.
“I’m going to Qatar with a positive attitude, even if the test we did there wasn’t completely satisfactory. We’ve made some progress with the electronics, but we have to improve further with the chassis setup and make the tyres work better. I expect things to go a little better for us this week compared to the test. We’re probably not yet where we’d like to be, but it’s important to remain positive, especially because with the many changes that have been introduced this year, I expect a greater balance among the performances of the riders compared to the past, at least in the beginning. Losail isn’t among my favourite tracks, but I’ve got five podium finishes here so we must stay focused, work to improve our bike setup and be ready to get the most from what we have and from the situation”.
“The winter months have passed, so now it’s finally time to switch on to race mode and get ready for the first GP of 2016, which I am very excited about. We’ve had a really constructive off-season, which kicked off in Malaysia and despite the tricky weather there, as well as later again at Phillip Island, I feel we completed a lot of valuable work. This is just what we needed before the start of what will be a very competitive year. I intend to continue from where I left off last season, but I am under no illusions that it will be any less competitive than last year. Still, we have taken every necessary step to be prepared and I’m feeling optimistic about my chances. This GP is always unusual due to it being at night and also over four days, but I am confident of starting strongly in FP1 and then go from there. It will great to be back racing again and I can’t wait to get going.”
“Finally, the winter is over and we can get back to doing what we love to do best – MotoGP! I am more determined than ever about this year and it will be a very important season for me as a rider. I’m happy to be part of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team once again and I intend to make everyone proud in 2016 after the difficulties that we had to face last year. The winter tests were a bit different this time because we had to adjust to our updated Yamaha YZR- M1 but also get used to the Michelin tyres and the new electronics. However, I am feeling confident about all of these aspects after the thorough job the team and I did in February and earlier this month. Although the bike is not quite 100%, we are close and I am particularly confident of our race setup this year so I’m sure I can fight to some strong results. I will give my all at the first GP to start the season with a positive finish. The time has come and I’m ready for the contest.”
“A new season is beginning which, especially for us, will be rather demanding at the start. A new challenge, a new project and with just a few test sessions under our belts: we’ll need to put forth a lot of effort to understand the RS-GP and overcome the inevitable growing pains quickly. Let’s just say that the first rounds will be a sort of pre-season for us, but I’m confident. I felt comfortable immediately on the new bike, so now we’ll see how it performs during a race weekend. Losail is a special track, different from all the others, with a layout that I like. What I’m not particularly thrilled about is night riding, as well as the sand that inevitably accumulates on the tarmac from the desert. In any case, both the team and I are quite pumped up”.
“I have been anxiously awaiting the first race because this promises to be a really exciting year for us. The winter was rather long and I’m pleased to be getting back on the track. Even if we only had a few tests with the new Aprilia, we’ll try to give it the most straight away. There are still a lot of aspects that need to be improved, the first of which is getting to know the new bike and its characteristics. It will be important to make progress in every practice session. The race will obviously be difficult, but rather than setting our sights on the end result we need to aim for consistent growth. I am really anxious to get to work”.
“I am ready and excited for the GP of Qatar to get started. I am curious to see how development is progressing with the Michelin tyres. Hopefully we can do a good job. I have been working hard to get us to where I think we should be, which is inside the top ten or twelve riders. That is our objective for this season. On the final day of the test recently in Qatar we found the right way forward and that enabled us to maintain a consistent pace. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off and start the season off on the right foot, with a positive race at Losail. I quite like the track and I had a pretty good race there last season. Night racing is unusual and also not as hot as normal.”
“I’m very excited to begin racing once again. Pre-season testing is a really important time of the year but racing is my real passion. I’ve endured a tough winter but when the lights go out on Sunday it will all be worth it. We made progress during the test in Qatar and I’m happy that we are returning to the same circuit again to continue our forward momentum. The Aspar team is working hard with me to get back to 100% and soon we’ll be able to display our full potential on the Ducati. We’re aiming for a points scoring finish on Sunday to start our season on a positive note and we’ll keep building from there.”
“We finished the test with very positive outcomes and this makes me think that the first race will be a good one for us. It will be the first time we will be able to test the improvements we have done in a real race condition and this makes me very curious. Probably the good word for this first race will be ‘to enjoy’; we can enjoy the fact that the tests were positive and also enjoy the fact that it is going to be a good race. My objective for this is year will be to try to be consistently into the top six, but if we will work like we did in the test it is possible for something even better. The plan is easy to say; to work hard from the very beginning and to exploit all the potential we have. I’ve worked very hard during the winter to get ready for this first race and I definitely want to take Suzuki to the top.”
“I feel very motivated for this first race in Qatar and I can’t wait to see the red lights to switch off and start the fight. In general I’m not the kind of rider who likes the preparation work, I’m more into the racing side of the job. Moreover this year, I have suffered a lot in the winter tests. To be honest, I’m not so worried with the results of the test; already the last day here a few weeks ago we found a new set-up which made me more comfortable and I’m sure the adrenaline of the race will give us a further push to improve.”
“We’ve had some time to go through the data from the Qatar test and we know where we need to improve the bike when we head back for the first race of the season. Since the test I’ve also had more time to work on my injured ankle and I have much more mobility in the joint now, which will definitely help this weekend. I’m feeling really good after a solid week of training and I’m looking forward to getting the new season started.”
“The last day of the Qatar test wasn’t a good one for us; too many crashes and a lack of confidence with the bike. Since then we’ve spent some time looking through the data and we think we’ve identified some areas in which we can improve the bike, which is positive for us. In myself I feel strong, ready to start the season and confident I can accelerate the learning process with more riders on track during the practice and qualifying sessions. My goal for this first weekend is to improve with every session and then give it my best shot in the race on Sunday.”