At the last preseason test of the year at Qatar, run under the floodlights to allow the riders to get used to the conditions, five riders went down in a period of thirty minutes late on in the test, as dew forming on the track made conditions treacherous. After that test, several riders called for the time of the MotoGP race to be brought forward, from 11pm local time to 9 or 10.
In the pre-race press conference, Valentino Rossi repeated his preference for bringing the race forward, a suggestion which received the support of both Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden later that evening.
But at a press conference held to open the Qatar MotoGP round, attended by Carmelo Ezpeleta, the CEO of Dorna, and Nasser Al-Attiyah, head of the Qatari motorsports federation, the Dorna CEO was not convinced a change would be necessary. Ezpeleta felt that conditions had changed since the last test, obviating the need to change.
The start of the 2010 season finds MotoGP in a deeply schizophrenic state. The MotoGP class remains sparsely populated, with just 17 riders on the grid - despite prospects of one new manufacturer running wildcards and another looking to enter the series full time once the paddock returns to Europe. Meanwhile, in the brand new Moto2 class which replaces the 250cc two strokes, 40 riders are scheduled to take to the start at Qatar.
The theory behind running the MotoGP season opener in Qatar at night is simple: Because the daytime temperatures in the desert state are so high, causing problems for riders, bikes and tires, taking advantage of the cooler nighttime ensures the race is easier on man and machine. The evening start also timeshifts the race to a more favorable broadcast time, right into the middle of the evening primetime in key Spanish and Italian TV markets.
But night races have problems of their own: For a start, there's the monstrous amount of energy required to provide sufficient light for the riders to race in. Then there's the fact that if it rains - extremely rare in the desert, but as we saw last year, extremely rare is not the same as never - the racing has to be stopped, as water on the surface reflects the overhead lighting, making it impossible to see properly to race.
Overall times from both days of testing at Qatar:
Casey Stoner finally managed to break Valentino Rossi's stranglehold on testing on the final day at Qatar, the Australian putting his Marlboro Ducati on top of the timesheets early on, and only occasionally ceding the lead to the Fiat Yamaha man. The Australian was fast throughout the session, not even a minor crash slowing Stoner down.
Despite finishing half a second down to the rider he has annointed as his main challenger, Rossi pronounced himself happy with the way the test went, telling GPone.com that he believed the new Yamaha M1 had proved it was competitive at Qatar. The Italian also tested some tires for the 2011 season; after testing a hard front in Sepang, Rossi tried the softer compound 2011 front tire at Qatar, but revealed he did not believe it represented a huge leap forwards.
The first day of the final test for the MotoGP class before the season commences saw Valentino Rossi continue his domination of testing, ending the session three tenths ahead of his nearest rival Casey Stoner. The Fiat Yamaha rider was constantly at the top of the timesheets, only really ceding the top spot when he paused for dinner late on in the evening. Despite the track cooling and the evening dew which started to form, Rossi took another half a second off his best time to stamp his authority on the session.
The Hungarian round of MotoGP has been troubled from the start, and doubts have hung over it ever since the end of 2008, when it became clear that the Spanish/Hungarian construction conglomerate building the circuit was having trouble completing the track. The 2009 Hungarian round was first pushed back from the spring to September, before being canceled altogether, and the debut planned for September 2010.
Even that has proved too much, though. Rumors that the round would be canceled altogether emerged earlier this week, after the Hungarian Development Bank MFB refused to underwrite a loan over doubts over the financial viability of the project and allegations of corruption. Without that bank guarantee, the project was effectively dead in the water, and cancellation of the Hungarian round of MotoGP was just a matter of time.
As predicted, Jorge Lorenzo will take part in the Qatar tests due to take place at the end of this week. Yamaha today issued a press release confirming his intention to ride in the tests, the final opportunity for testing before the 2010 season gets underway at Qatar on April 11th.
The news had been expected, for Lorenzo had been increasingly optimistic about his chances of making a return in his posts on Facebook and Twitter. The Spaniard is not yet fully recovered, though, so his times will be difficult to judge. Lorenzo will be forced to ride with a specially-made brace and special gloves, to provide support for the fractured metacarpal he suffered. Lorenzo described his predicament in a press statement issued by the Fiat Yamaha team as follows:
Jorge Lorenzo is almost certain to take part in next week's final MotoGP test at Qatar. The Spaniard's participation in the test had been in doubt since Lorenzo broke his wrist during a motocross accident in early February. The injury had already caused Lorenzo to skip the second test at Sepang, and with testing limited to just six days before the season starts in April, Qatar would be the final chance for the Fiat Yamaha rider to test before the championship commences.