A couple more Qatar previews, this time from the Mahindra squad of Danny Webb and Marcel Schrotter, and from British Moto2 chassis builder FTR:
Qatar debut for Mahindra Racing
March 16, 2011, Mumbai: Mahindra Racing – part of the US $7.1 billion Mahindra Group – will make its race debut on March 17-20 at the 5.38km Losail International Circuit for round 1 of the 125cc MotoGP World Championship.
Mahindra is the first Indian motorcycle manufacturer to enter a team into the prestigious MotoGP World Championship with its GP125 racing motorcycle, entered in the 125cc class.
Produced by Mahindra's Italy-based Engines Engineering division, the GP125 will be ridden by riders Danny Webb from Britain and Marcel Schrötter from Germany.
Qatar is likely to present a tough debut venue. Its desert location means sand is often blown on to the track, making finding a good bike set-up difficult on the constantly changing surface. It is also the season's only night race, held under floodlights, giving added difficulties to the riders.
Speaking about Mahindra's participation in the MotoGP Championships, Mr. Anand Mahindra, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group, said, "It is a matter of great pride for us to represent India in the world's most prestigious two-wheeled race series. Mahindra Motorcycles will compete with the best in class, and it will be an ideal opportunity for us to showcase our strengths in the engineering and IT domains. MotoGP is the ultimate test for the finest talents in motorcycle racing and an immensely popular championship with a cult following. Our participation will also help us leverage the power of global branding for the Mahindra Group."
Team Principal Mufaddal Choonia heralds the team's debut. "I am very proud to be part of the first Indian team in MotoGP racing. This is a big challenge for everyone involved and we are all working very hard to ensure we are competitive.
"Mahindra are a US $7.1 billion multinational group, and we build three things: products, services and possibilities. We are new to the two-wheeler market and our entry in MotoGP shows our ambition.
"Ultimately, we are not in the sport to make up the numbers, we are here to win. That might sound ambitious, but that's the way we are. I know that this is a big task, but we are all focused and we are in the battle for the long term" said Choonia.
Leading Mahindra's charge is 19-year-old Danny Webb from Tunbridge Wells, England, who starts his fifth season in the category.
"I think my experience and potential attracted the team to me, and the strength and back-up of the Mahindra Group combined with the expertise at Engines Engineering drew me to them. Qatar's our first race together and we're focused on improving steadily through the season.
"I like the Qatar track but racing at night is an usual challenge. It's a bit like being in a Playstation game, and you have to learn to ignore the shadows from the riders behind you as the floodlights makes it look like they are riding into you all the time. I'm confident we'll do a good job."
Eighteen year-old Marcel Schrötter from Pflugdorf, Germany, is entering his second season in the category. "I'm looking forward to Qatar and it will be great to be racing again. I am still learning the GP125, and the bike is still being developed so it is difficult to know how well we will go in our first race but I will be pushing hard all the way."
Watching over activities during the four days action in Qatar is team manager, Nicola Casadei. "It is fair to say that testing was not as straight-forward as we hoped as we were interrupted by a lot of rain, but we have a good understanding of the bike. We know our strengths and we know where we have to improve. Qatar will give us a good gauge of where we sit relative to our rivals."
The Grand Prix of Qatar opens with practice sessions for the 125cc class on March 17-18, followed by qualifying on March 19 and the race on March 20.
FTR MOTO LOOKING FOR OPENING ROUND REPEAT
FTR MOTO is hoping to get the 2011 Moto2 World Championship under way in the same manner as last year with a podium finish in Sunday night's Qatar opening round.
It was FTR-mounted Alex Debon finishing second a year ago under the lights of the Losail circuit – 15 miles outside the country's capital of Doha. Now FTR heads into this year's first round with 10 riders carrying the hopes of the Buckingham company.
Riding the unique M211 machines, BQR Team riders Esteve Rabat and Yonny Hernandez are joined in the same garage by Kenny Noyes with the American running with backing from GP Tech and FOGI Racing. Scottish youngster Kev Coghlan appears in the Debon-run Aeroport de Castello Team for his World Championship debut season.
The Italian IODA Racing Project operation fields Simone Corsi and Mattia Pasini on FTRs while the 2010 race-winning Speed Up squad have placed their hopes, and their M211s, in the hands of youngsters Pol Espargaro and Valentin Debise.
The Stop and Go Team has the second of the Hernandez brothers from Colombia, Santiago, paired with Thai tough guy Ratthapark Wilairot – back in action and all set for his FTR debut after a serious road traffic accident in early December while at home in Thailand.
"We had a really good time in our debut year last year," recalled FTR's Steve Bones. "But now it feels like we're taking a big step forward. We've gone from four machines on the grid last year to 10 now, it's exactly what we were hoping for – for the Grand Prix paddock to confirm its belief in our machine.
"We've made a lot of subtle changes and improved the machine for 2011 but it's also thanks to the four riders we had last year that they were regularly on the pace and pushing our M210 to the maximum to ensure we received the very best and most accurate feedback.
"From those four riders – Alex Debon, Gabor Talmacsi, Karel Abraham and Andrea Iannone – all of them finished on the podium and two of them won races, and there were a handful of fastest laps and pole positions – the same again in 2011 is our initial target but we have to keep developing the M211 – the World title is what we ultimately want."