2017 Qatar Extra Notes: Zarco's Exceptionalism, Morbidelli's Maturity, Moto3 Madness

We need to talk about Johann Zarco. For a rookie to lead his very first race on a MotoGP bike is not just unusual, it has never been done before. To do so for six laps is beyond remarkable, and a sign that something rather special is happening.

To put this into perspective, it is worth noting that not only did Zarco lead the race, but he also set the fastest lap in his first race. The last rookie to set the fastest lap during their first race? Marc Márquez, Qatar 2013. Before that? Valentino Rossi, Welkom 2000. And before that, Max Biaggi, Suzuka 1998.

Zarco's downfall came at Turn 2 on lap 7. Quite literally: he got a little off line, hit a dirtier part of the track, and down he went. There is no shame in crashing out of your first MotoGP race. Valentino Rossi crashed out of his first premier class Grand Prix too. On the other hand, Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa all finished on the podium in their MotoGP debut race. Max Biaggi actually won his first 500cc race at Suzuka.

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2017 Qatar Moto2 & Moto3 Test Press Releases

Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the final day of testing at Qatar:

Top-10 for Rodrigo and Guevara in the last preseason test in Qatar
Losail, Qatar

The last preseason test ended today for the Moto3 class, just few days before the first Grand Prix of the 2017 World Championship.

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2017 Jerez IRTA Test Preview: Full Moto2 & Moto3 Grids Assemble For First Time

As the start of the MotoGP season draws near, this is a big week for motorcycle racing. On Wednesday, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams meet for the first official test of the season at Jerez, lasting until Friday. Early Friday morning, European time, the second round of the WorldSBK championship kicks off at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand. Then on Friday afternoon, the MotoGP teams start the final test of preseason at the Losail circuit in Qatar.

But the first place to see action is Jerez. After several private tests scattered around Spanish tracks, it is the first chance to see the entire Moto2 and Moto3 grid on track together. Or most of the grid: injury leaves at least one rider sidelined, Stefano Manzi being out with a knee injury. The three-day test is split into sessions, with the Moto2 and Moto3 classes each going out separately.

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2017 Jerez Moto2 & Moto3 Private Test Press Releases

Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the test at Jerez:

Baldassarri and Marini complete successful second test in 2017

Following a first prosperous shakedown in Valencia the Forward Racing Team continued its testing program ahead of the 2017 Moto2 World Championship season with a two-day private test at Circuito de Jerez. Bright sunshine provided perfect circumstances on Wednesday, while both riders were forced to stay inside the pit box on day two due to mixed weather conditions.

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Interview: Lorenzo Baldassarri On Being Moto2 Favorite, The VR46 Academy, And Preparing For 2017

With four of the top seven from last year's Moto2 championship moving up to MotoGP, the intermediate class is wide open for 2017. There are riders like Lorenzo Baldassarri, Tom Luthi, Franco Morbidelli, and Taka Nakagami who start the season hotly tipped for success. There are dark horses like Miguel Oliveira on the KTM, Domi Aegerter and Danny Kent on the Suters, Alex Márquez on the Kalex. And to top it all, there is an exciting crop of rookies entering the class, headed by reigning Moto3 champion Brad Binder, with Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia to watch as well.

What surprises is the depth of Italian talent in the class, a product of leading Italian teams in Moto2, and the conveyor belt of talent emanating from the VR46 Academy backed by Valentino Rossi's mighty commercial empire. The combination of those two forces was present at the launch of Forward Racing's Moto2 campaign for 2017 in Milan. The team, owned by Giovanni Cuzari and now run by Milena Koerner, sees their two riders from last year return, with Lorenzo Baldassarri expected to challenge for the title, and Luca Marini aiming to regularly challenge the top five, and start knocking on the door of the podium.

But Lorenzo Baldassarri is clearly the main focus for Forward in 2017. During the presentation, both team owner Cuzari and VR46 principal Alessio 'Uccio' Salucci anointed the 20-year-old Italian as the favorite for the title. A small group of journalists attending the launch gave Baldassarri a grilling on how he felt about the upcoming season. Starting with whether he felt any pressure after hearing Cuzari and Uccio tell the crowd they expected him to win the title this year.

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Launch Season Approaching - Yamaha, Ducati This Week, WorldSBK Teams In Two Weeks Time

With the first tests of 2017 fast approaching - track action gets underway next week, with the WorldSBK teams testing at Jerez, followed by MotoGP the week after - teams are presenting their new liveries, new sponsors and new teams for 2017.

This week sees two MotoGP factory teams unveil their new liveries and their new bikes for the 2017 season. The Movistar Yamaha team kick off proceedings on Thursday, 19th January, with the presentation of the 2017 Yamaha YZR-M1, with Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales as their riders. The following day, Friday, 20th January, Ducati follow suit, presenting Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Both events will be streamed live, for fans all over the world to see.

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Valencia Moto2 & Moto3 Test - Rain Stops Play As Bagnaia, Antonelli Fastest

Rain has been a factor at both the Moto2 test at Valencia and the World Superbike test in Jerez on Tuesday. In Jerez, the track dried up as the day went on, while at Valencia, the weather got worse as the day went on. It started cold and wet, and that was enough to persuade most teams to pack up and go home.

A few riders did ride on Tuesday, however. The Moto2 rookies dominated the timesheets, as riders who had the most to learn in the wet. Pecco Bagnaia was the fastest Moto2 rider in the wet, ending just ahead of Miguel Oliveira on the KTM. Fabio Quartararo took third spot on the Pons Kalex, while Remy Gardner was fourth fastest on the Tech 3 bike.

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Moto2 Testing Takes Heavy Toll: Binder Breaks Arm, Navarro Dislocates Shoulder

The Moto2 test at Valencia has taken a heavy toll on some of its participants. The rookies Brad Binder and Jorge Navarro both picked up serious injuries at the test, putting an end to their preseason testing for the winter. 

Binder was the most seriously injured. The reigning Moto3 champion highsided his KTM Moto2 bike at Turn 11, the bike apparently landing on his right arm and fracturing the radius, as well as damaging bones in his wrist. The South African was taken to the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona where he was examined and had a pin inserted in the broken bone. 

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2016 Valencia Sunday Round Up: A Fitting End To A Remarkable Season

Valencia is supposed to be an emotionally charged race. The last round of the season, the grand finale. The last chance for riders to lay it all on the line, in pursuit of glory. The bowl in which the Ricardo Tormo circuit is set focuses and amplifies the cheers of the crowd, carrying the racing to new levels of intensity.

There was an extra layer of emotion at Valencia this year. The excitement is tinged with the bittersweet taste of parting. There is the largest group of riders moving from one garage to another that I can remember in a very long time. Riders and their crew become very close, a tight unit that works intensely together. They celebrate success together, and share their despair during the bad times. These men and women have been through a lot together, forging bonds that are not easily broken. Riders may only be moving a couple of garages away, the parting is no less painful for that.

Those departing felt compelled to put on a good show for the people they leave behind, and they did not disappoint. In Moto3 and Moto2, the departing champions put on brave fights to reprise their title-winning ways, with supporting stars offering fierce opposition to add some luster to their victories. In the MotoGP class, all the factory riders switching garages dug a little deeper inside themselves, and pulled some outstanding performances out of the bag. The extra emotion of the final weekend of the season produced three great races at Valencia, with three truly deserving winners.

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