The first batch of press releases from the MotoGP teams ahead of the season opener at Qatar:
Repsol Honda Team head to Qatar to begin Defence of Titles
The 2012 MotoGP World Championship officially starts this weekend in Qatar, the small Peninsula off the Persian Gulf, noted for hosting the only race of the calendar under floodlights. The Grand Prix of Qatar is, without any doubt, one of the most spectacular races of the season.
Months of development, testing and hard work have gone into the preparation for this season which sees a switch to 1000cc bikes. In addition to this change the Repsol Honda Team faces another challenge; defending the Triple Crown they achieved in 2011 when they won the rider, team and constructor titles.
Casey Stoner, the current MotoGP World Champion, has also been the man to beat in pre-season, dominating both tests in Malaysia and Jerez, where his teammate, Dani Pedrosa, also confirmed himself as one of the fastest riders in the top class.
The wait is over and the next time that both Repsol Honda riders will go on track will be on Thursday for the first free practice of the GP of Qatar. Two more practice sessions will be held on Friday; the qualifying session on Saturday, and on Sunday, from 22h00 (21h00 CET) the lights will go out for the first race of the 2012 season.
Stoner’s record in Losail circuit is impressive: he’s the main reference with 4 pole positions and 4 wins out of six in the MotoGP class. Pedrosa has visited the podium 3 times in MotoGP and will be fighting, like the Australian, for a strong start to the season.
"After good pre-season tests in both Sepang and Jerez, we head to Qatar feeling positive, but still have some work to do. This will be the first time with the new bike on this circuit so we will need to spend some time on the set-up to put ourselves in the best position. We've always enjoyed good results at the Losail circuit but this is a new season and there are more competitors contesting for victory this year. I'm excited to get the season started and fight for another World Championship".
“Each year is different and there are always various obstacles to go through during a season. I’ve had good and bad races in the past, but a big part of these results are determined by how you have prepared yourself in the winter. I’ve worked very well this year, I had a good pre season with the bike and with my physical training; I hope that luck is on my side this time, so we can have a good championship. Qatar is important because it’s the first race of the season, but you have to minimise risks. If you don't win this race you can still win the championship, but on the other side, a mistake can complicate the year. I’m ready. Let’s see how everything goes and where everyone is”.
NEW SEASON STARTS UNDER DESERT LIGHTS
The lights go up on the 2012 MotoGP World Championship this weekend as the Qatari capital city of Doha and the circuit of Losail play host to the 64rd edition of the world's oldest motorsport. There is extra excitement this year, with the novelty of night racing added to by the dawn of the CRT MotoGP era and Moto3. Claiming Rule Teams represent the future of elite motorcycle racing and Team San Carlo Honda Gresini are taking on the challenge with a new bike featuring a chassis made by FTR and a Honda CBR 1000R engine, to be ridden by Michele Pirro. Meanwhile Team San Carlo Honda Gresini will also be battling on par with the top riders in the class, with Alvaro Bautista riding a Honda RC213V. After intense testing at Sepang and, most recently, Jerez, the talented Spaniard is close to finding an optimum feeling with the Japanese machine and a few small changes should allow him to step up his already impressive race pace and fight for glory at the front of the pack. Pirro has plenty more work to do, having only ridden his new machine three times during which time it has shown excellent potential but encountered understandable teething problems. It is a difficult new chapter in the history of Team San Carlo Honda Gresini because it goes ahead without Marco Simoncelli, a situation that provokes mixed emotions. However, the whole team are committed to their passion and determined to continue with Marco always in their hearts.
Alvaro Bautista “Finally we're hitting the track for the first race after preseason testing at Sepang and Jerez. I am early looking forward to racing again because testing is pretty stressful with so much work to do in and out of the box, the days are endless. Now is the time for the real action, for us to give everything to the task and experience that adrenaline that only racing provides. This will be my first race with Team San Carlo Honda Gresini and it's exciting because the guys are working well and I think we have made the connection we need for me to exploit my potential in Qatar. I like the circuit, it's fast and flowing and has a nice long straight. Unfortunately I am still not keen on the idea of racing at night, even though the track is well lit it is still not the same as racing in the day. It is also usually quite humid, which makes the track surface slippery and even though the race takes place earlier this year I still think it will be a problem. Anyway, it is an investing event and I have the machinery to be fighting at the front so I will be giving my best to do that."
Michele Pirro “I am feeling nervous but excited ahead of this new challenge. Obviously I know I don't have the means to run at the front but I will be giving my all to be amongst the best of the CRT entrants. Unfortunately we only have 500km on the clock so we know we have a lot of work to do with the new bike but we know the potential is there and we will do everything we can to be as competitive as possible in Qatar. The team are working hard, with a lot of enthusiasm and I am getting along well with all the guys so I am sure we can take a big step forward from Jerez. I like the circuit and racing at night is appealing."
Fausto Gresini “It all starts again now but I can't honestly imagine right now what this first Grand Prix is going to be like for us. It is a brand new championship for everybody and we are taking on a new, difficult challenge. We believe in it, we enjoy it and maybe that is a defect or maybe it's a quality. We want to do well and we think we can because Alvaro has a good bike and every chance of running at the front. Testing went quite well and we have the potential to be fighting for fourth, fifth or sixth place. We suffered at Jerez because of two minor but needless crashes that our engineers have been studying so that we can help Alvaro get his confidence back as soon as possible. This is a chance for Alvaro to show his ability but also for us to start looking to the future because Marco's tragedy hit us hard. Marco is and always will be in our hearts, the pain is still fresh and strong but we decided to carry on, we are doing it with Alvaro and this is the best way. It also helps that we have a new challenge in the CRT project with Michele Pirro, making his debut in MotoGP. It won't be easy and it has already been a challenge just to get the bike on track and have Michele with us in Qatar. It is a completely new project and we are a little behind with it , having done less testing than we would have liked at this stage. Really we have only been out at Jerez but the feedback was good, the bike is sound and the engine is strong. There is a lot of work to do and we know it but I am fascinated by the concept of CRT and I am proud of the enthusiasm shown by my guys to get involved. CRT has virtually been forced on us by economic circumstances but i think it will be a successful formula and Team San Carlo Honda Gresini can be a part of that success. ”
New look for 2012 Championship as MotoGP kicks off in Qatar
The 2012 MotoGP World Championship starts on Thursday at Losail International Circuit, with the first free-practice session scheduled for 6 p.m. (40 minutes) for the Moto3 class, 6:55 (45 minutes) for Moto2 and 7:55 (45 minutes) for MotoGP.
It will be a long weekend, with riders taking to the track a day early and the race being held at night, as has been the custom at this venue, but those aren’t the only unique characteristics of the season-opening Grand Prix. This year is also marked by MotoGP’s return to the 1,000cc maximum-displacement limit and the debut of the CRT bikes.
During the three winter tests, Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden started their work on the Ducati GP12, which debuted two months ago. While their focus during the Qatar practice sessions will be on preparing for the race, the two riders and their respective teams will also continue to work on finding their harmony with the new bike.
VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Team
“We worked hard over the winter, and although we went the wrong direction at one point, we once again managed to find the good feeling with the GP12 that we’d had in the first test. With those settings, which we’ll start with in Qatar, I was able to get good feedback from the bike. At Losail it will be very important to work well during the sessions leading up to qualifying so that we can increase our confidence step by step as we approach Saturday, always trying to maximize our potential. I’m a realist, and I know well that our times are still a long way off and that there are still some things to fix. We won’t be able to address some of them right away, but it’s also true that both we at the track and the guys back home now have a direction to work in, and we must try to do as well as we can. We won’t completely redo the bike during the season, but we’ll try to progress little by little.”
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Team
“This is my tenth season in MotoGP, and I’m looking forward to it. I have a really solid team and I think we have a good bike this year. With all the injuries from Valencia and my training incident, preparation obviously hasn’t gone exactly how you’d like it to, but Jerez was a good test for me to do a lot of laps at very close to 100 per cent. Qatar is pretty unique because we’re racing at night, but the truth is, after you get rolling, you don’t notice it by about the third of fourth corner. It really doesn’t change too much with things like lines and bike setup, but as it gets later, you have to be careful with the condensation on the track, especially in Turn 2. I’d like to be going into the first race closer to the front, but hopefully we can do some steps. I’ve basically only ridden around by myself on this bike, so it will be nice to get in the race and really see how it stacks up against the others.”
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager
“It was an off-season marked by hard work, with a lot of effort expended by Ducati and all the guys in the racing department. Valentino and Nicky also had to work hard on the track, and despite some difficult moments during the winter, which I think is normal when you work on this kind of a schedule, we come to Qatar with a decent base. It’s a starting point, or rather one of the steps along the path that we’re following. We know that other steps await and we’ve planned for them, and as always, the races will give us more accurate answers than the tests. Although our priority will be to work toward putting Vale and Nicky in the best conditions possible for Sunday, I’m sure that we’ll also gather important information to help us continue improving our bike.”
NEW SEASON TO START UNDER LIGHTS OF QATAR THIS WEEKEND
POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar ready to lead the MotoGP revolution
The 2012 MotoGP World Championship steps into the spotlight this weekend as the Losail prepares to host the curtain raiser to an exciting new campaign. The Grand Prix of Qatar, the only night race on the calendar, has been the opening round every season since the start of the 800cc era in 2007 and now it heralds the start of another new dawn for the sport as 1000cc machines return to the grid. Yamaha and Honda will look to continue their domination of preseason testing at a circuit where Casey Stoner has taken victory for four of the last five seasons.
The POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar riders are counting down the hours for that first session in the desert, following a long and hard winter on their brand new ART machines. Despite some weather-affected testing throughout preseason both Randy De Puniet and Aleix Espargaró are ready to race, with the Frenchman set to contest his seventh consecutive season at the highest level whilst the Spaniard returns after a season in Moto2. Both riders face a completely new challenge, however, as they look to be the leading riders in the new CRT era of MotoGP.
Aleix Espargaró: "I am very excited for the season to start because as usual winter has felt like a long time without racing. I enjoy training and testing but I am one of these riders that lives to race. I like Losail a lot because it is fast and that usually suits my style, so I am very much looking forward to starting the season there. I need to control my excitement and channel it into finishing as high up the order as I can. The weather has not been kind to us during preseason testing and we are perhaps short of a few kilometres on the bike but we start to put that right on Thursday night. I am really keen on the new concept and I think we're in a position to get some great results."
Randy De Puniet: "After preseason we are ready for the first Grand Prix of the year. From a technical point of view we are ready to race and the communication and relationship within the team is excellent. Personally I am 100% fit and looking forward to getting out on the bike on Thursday. Testing went very well but I am looking forward to feeling the atmosphere of a Grand Prix. I really like the Losail circuit. There will probably be a lot of sand on the track at first so on Thursday and Friday we will have to be extra careful. It has a long straight which will cost us time against the factory bikes but our objective is to be the first CRT bike across the line."
Yamaha Factory Racing Gear Up for Qatar
This Sunday sees the long awaited and hugely anticipated season opening race of the 2012 MotoGP Championship at the Losail circuit in Qatar. Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies will line up on the grid under the spectacular floodlights alongside their rivals for the first true test of the 1000cc era. A strong winter testing period with very competitive times means both riders arrive in Qatar confident in the abilities of their all-new 1000cc YZR-M1 as they set their sights on the podium.
2011 Championship runner up Lorenzo has a strong record at Qatar, starting every premiership MotoGP race there from the front row and always finishing on the podium. An outright Losail victory has so far eluded him, something he aims to put rights this weekend. Team mate Spies has yet to score a podium finish in Qatar, taking fifth in 2010 and sixth in 2011. The Texan is looking very comfortable on the new 1000cc machines and is aiming for nothing less than a podium finish on Sunday.
“I’m very excited to finally make a race and see how we are compared to our rivals. Qatar was a good race for us last year but I think this season we have a slightly more competitive bike so I am hoping for good things to happen. Because of my hand injury it has been a long time since I was in a race so I am really excited for Sunday. I have been training a lot for this season; I’m feeling very good and very happy with the bike as well.”
“Finally! I think testing can get a bit dull after a while so I’m happy we now get to go and do some racing at last. We’ve worked really hard over the winter; the Yamaha Engineers have done a great job so we’ve got a pretty good bike to race with at the weekend. Let’s get out there on Thursday and start finding a set up and see how it feels. It’s always special to race at night under the lights, we’re going to give it 100% and put on a good show!”
Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“I’m really excited to go to Qatar, it’s been a longer off season than usual. We had a great winter test season and we solved a lot of problems from 2011 so I’m curious to see how our package behaves under race conditions. Testing is one thing but finishing on a podium is the real test. Jorge is very fit and the M1 is ready to go. let’s clean the track for the first couple of days and then go racing!”
Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“We are going to Qatar in good spirits. After the three winter tests our performance was consistently good which is important. We’re starting this Grand Prix with good expectations, knowing that we can achieve a good result. Last year Jorge had a really good race and the bike was less competitive than it is now, and Ben has always been strong at Qatar, also in World Superbike. The Losail circuit layout is very suitable for our bike characteristics so we should do well!”