Press releases from some of the MotoGP teams previewing this weekend's season opener at Qatar. Includes Repsol video giving a brief rundown of the new rules
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Sets 2016 Racing Action in Motion in Qatar
The wait is finally over for MotoGP fans! The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team has arrived in Qatar to kick off the first MotoGP Grand Prix of 2016 this weekend under the famous floodlights of the Losail International Circuit. Riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi return to the 5.4 km track where they completed the final pre-season test two weeks earlier feeling ready to bring the heat to another highly anticipated MotoGP season.
Energised from the positive results during the winter tests, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi are in great physical form and eager to take the 2016 YZR-M1 to the track. Both riders proved to be on the pace during pre-season testing and are expected to once again be key protagonists for this season's title challenge starting with the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar.
Returning to the premier class battlefield as the reigning World Champion, Lorenzo looks forward to getting back into the racing mindset after months of testing. Last year he bravely fought his way to fourth place in Doha despite problems with his helmet impairing his vision. This time he returns with full confidence and is looking forward to battling as one of the top contenders for the victory. The triple MotoGP World Champion previously secured a win in the premier class in Qatar in 2012 and 2013. He also claimed second place in 2008, 2010 and 2011, and secured third place in 2009.
Teammate Rossi is also looking forward to riding at the Losail circuit and plans on making a strong entrance to the season like last year when he secured a brilliant and hard-fought victory. The Doctor felt very comfortable with the new Michelin tyres and electronics during the winter testing and is confident his hard work will pay off as he aims to further improve his already great record of four wins in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2015 and four second places in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2014 in Qatar.
The Losail International Circuit was added to the MotoGP calendar in 2004 and became the first and only circuit in MotoGP to host a night-time Grand Prix four years later. Built on the outskirts of Doha, the track has a good mix of medium and high-speed corners, of which six are left and ten are right turns. The flowing midsection of the circuit forms a strong contrast to the iconic, over a kilometre long, main straight that ends in a steep first corner where fans can expect a lot of racing action as the MotoGP riders fight for the first win of the season.
This being the only night race of the year, the schedule of the upcoming race weekend slightly differs from the usual. The Free Practice 1 session will take place on Thursday evening (from 19:55 - 20:40 local track time, GMT+3), followed by FP2 (18:00 - 18:45) and FP3 (20:55 - 21:40) on the Friday; FP4 (19:55 - 20:25) on the Saturday before the qualifying sessions (20:35 - 21:15), and the warm-up (17:00 - 17:20) and race (21:00) on Sunday.
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
"After months of preparing we have finally arrived at the start of the 2016 championship. We have been looking forward to kicking off the season for a very long time, especially after our positive test results at the Losail International Circuit a fortnight ago. Vale and Jorge are in great physical shape and they can't wait to start racing again. The first few races will be particularly interesting as they will give an impression of which teams and riders have found the best combination with the new tyres and electronics. The competition might be the closest ever in the history of MotoGP, but we are confident we will be able to give the Yamaha fans as much reason to cheer as we did last year while we try to defend our Triple Crown. Our supporters can look forward to a thrilling race for the first round and an equally exciting new season. Let's start the show!"
"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!"
Repsol Honda Team in Qatar for 2016 MotoGP season opener
The Repsol Honda Team has arrived in Qatar for the opening race of the 2016 MotoGP World Championship, scheduled to take place March 20 at Losail International Circuit. This unique event will see MotoGP practice start at 7:55 pm on Thursday, instead of Friday, with the race occurring at 9 pm on Sunday night. The format alone requires a different approach than with normal, daytime races; add in this year’s introduction of the unified ECU software, plus Michelin control tyres replacing Bridgestone following a seven-year absence (with Dani Pedrosa as the last to win a MotoGP race with the French tyres, in Catalunya in 2008), and the task for the teams and the riders is even more challenging.
The test that took place at the same venue two weeks ago saw the Repsol Honda Team encounter mixed fortunes, with Marc Marquez experiencing a challenging start to the session but a very positive conclusion, as he set the fourth-best lap time overall and enjoyed a strong long run on the closing day. Dani Pedrosa, on the contrary, set his fastest overall time on day two and was unable to improve on that.
In any case, both Marc and Dani are approaching the first race with the same positive attitude, knowing that HRC engineers have continued working in Japan on the data gathered in the test, and that both they and the team are prepared to do their utmost to gain the best possible results on Sunday.
"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".
Ducati Team ready for opening round of 2016 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar
After three winter testing sessions in Malaysia and Australia in February and in Qatar two weeks ago, the Ducati Team is now ready for the opening round of the 2016 MotoGP World Championship, scheduled for Sunday evening at the floodlit Losail International Circuit on the outskirts of Doha.
Both Ducati Team riders will be riding the new Ducati Desmosedici GP, which was unveiled to the press in February at the Ducati Auditorium in Bologna. Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso gradually improved their form and their feeling with the bike over the various test sessions, and they concluded the final test at Losail satisfied with their race pace.
The Qatar weekend, unlike the rest of the races in the calendar, will begin on Thursday evening with the first Free Practice session, while the race will be held on Sunday at 9pm local time (19.00 CET).
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team #29)
"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.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04)
"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 Losail International Circuit
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.
Fastest Lap: Lorenzo (Yamaha), 1’53.927 (170.0 km/h) - 2008
Circuit Record: Stoner (Ducati), 1’55.153 (168.1 km/h) - 2008
Best Pole: Lorenzo (Yamaha), 1’53.927 (170.0 km/h) - 2008
Top Speed: Marquez (Honda), 350.5 km/h - 2015
Race Distance: 22 laps (118.4 km)
Race Start: 9pm local time (19:00 CET)
Podium: 1. Rossi (Yamaha), 2. Dovizioso (Ducati), 3. Iannone (Ducati)
Pole Position: Dovizioso (Ducati) 1’54.113 (169.7 km/h)
Fastest Lap: Rossi (Yamaha) 1’55.267 (168.0 km/h)
Bike: Ducati Desmosedici GP
Race Number: 04
Age: 29 (born on March 23rd 1986 in Forlimpopoli, Italy)
Residence: Forlì (Italy)
Races: 240 (142 x MotoGP, 49 x 250cc, 49 x 125cc)
First GP: 2001 Italian GP (125cc)
Wins: 10 (1 x MotoGP, 4 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
First Win: 2004 South African GP (125cc)
Pole Positions: 16 (3 x MotoGP, 4 x 250cc, 9 x 125cc)
First Pole: 2003 French GP (125cc)
Titles: 1 (1 x 125cc)
Bike: Ducati Desmosedici GP
Race Number: 29
Age: 26 (born on August 9th 1989 in Vasto, Italy)
Residence: Vasto (Italy)
Races: 178 (51 x MotoGP, 51 x Moto2, 76 x 125cc)
First GP: 2005 Spanish GP (125cc)
Wins: 12 (8 x Moto2, 4 x 125cc)
First Win: 2008 GP of China (125cc)
Pole Positions: 9 (1 x MotoGP, 5 x Moto2, 3 x 125cc)
First Pole: 2008 GP of Malaysia (125cc)
TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR READY FOR QATAR MotoGP™
Team Suzuki Press Office – March 16.
Team SUZUKI ECSTAR riders Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales can’t wait to get back on their GSX-RRs at this weekend’s MotoGP™ opening round under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
Following positive winter tests, the machine has been improved with many new features introduced by the Suzuki Factory in the chassis, engine, gearbox and electronics areas which saw Viñales topping the Australian test and classified third overall in Qatar last week. There were also positives from Espargaró, who although couldn’t be so effective on the single lap, found good consistency in pace and improved his performance run after run.
The Losail International Circuit lies on the outskirts of Doha, the capital city of Qatar. The track itself 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 which has proved particularly popular with the riders.
In 2008 Qatar celebrated the first night time Grand Prix in history, following the construction of permanent outdoor lighting. The switch to night time racing was a success and has continued to be so, with the Qatar event now established as one of the most spectacular on the MotoGP calendar.
“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.”
Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 2015 Qatar Results:
Qualifying: 11th – 1’55.035
Qualifying: 15th – 1’55.246
MOTOGP - FIRST RACE OF THE SEASON FOR APRILIA
BAUTISTA: "LOSAIL IS A SPECIAL TRACK, IT WILL BE A DEMANDING WEEKEND”
BRADL: "WE NEED TO SET OUR SIGHTS ON CONSTANT IMPROVEMENT"
Losail (Qatar), 15 March 2016 – After the tests and the pre-season efforts, MotoGP 2016 will begin with the first race at Losail, Qatar. This is a special round, both because it marks the beginning of the season and because it will be held in the particular atmosphere created by the artificial lighting.
It will also be the first chance to see the new RS-GP 2016 in action during a race weekend, the new prototype developed entirely by Aprilia Racing to compete in the top world motorcycle racing championship. Feedback from the initial tests gave the project passing marks on all fronts, notwithstanding the wide margins for improvement that need to be worked on during the season. The official Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders, Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl, immediately appreciated the potential of the new bike, not making any secret of the need for continuous work aimed at learning how it performs and exploring the way it reacts to the chassis and electronic setup changes.
Two other important changes for the current season must also be taken into consideration: the new Michelin tyres and the controlled electronics package with Magneti Marelli ECU and Dorna software. These are two fundamental elements that must be aligned with the characteristics of the new bike in order to define a competitive package.
ROMANO ALBESIANO (Aprilia Racing Manager)
“For us the Losail weekend will be the first chance to really put the new RS-GP to the test. Both in terms of reliability and performance, the first race will be an essential test bench. It will also be the first time that all the riders will be pushing to the limit with the new tyres and I believe that the way the tyres work with the rest of the package will be a crucial aspect of the first part of the season. For our part, we'll be taking the first evolutions to Qatar aimed both at improving performance and reliability and at solving a few small problems we found during the tests. In a few days we'll have a clearer idea of the level of our new project”.
FAUSTO GRESINI (Team Manager)
“The recent tests conducted on the track where the first Grand Prix of the season will be held in just a few days were positive. The 2016 RS-GP, although entirely new, showed good potential and undoubtedly represents a significant step forward compared to last year's bike with a compact engine and improved dynamic capabilities. Over the last few days Aprilia Racing has also continued to work hard so that we can bring more material to Qatar with the goal of sorting a lot of things that, as can be expected, came out during the tests. The project is brand new and it will take time, but there is no lack of enthusiasm”.
“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”.
Tech3 riders all set for opening battle under the lights in Qatar
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro look towards the highly anticipated season opener at Qatar fully confident as they intend to kick off their 2016 campaigns with two solid results. The FP1 fight begins at 19:55 local time on Thursday, with both Tech3 riders determined to battle to strong finishes in Sunday’s race at the first of the 18 rounds.
Bradley Smith will aim to hit the ground running as he aims to follow up his positive efforts in the pre season with a strong finish. Whilst Pol Espargaro will be gunning to be right in the mix with his teammate for a top six result in order to get his third year with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team off to a solid start.
"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."
Hervé Poncharal - Team manager :
“The long wait is finally over, and in just a few days, the new season will begin. This year, there will surely be another amazing 18 rounds of racing. With regards to Bradley and Pol, they both put the hours in during the winter tests and walked away having made some really big steps forward. The guys are prepared and we are excited to see what they can do this year and we are behind them all the way. Bradley will be intending to continue his impressive record from 2015. For sure, this season will be more competitive, but I think Brad can do it and his brilliant form from last year shows that he means business. As for Pol, he has performed well over the winter and he has done a lot of hard work with his side of the garage. As a result, he is feeling confident and determined for this year, with his ambition being to fight for the leading satellite position, which he won in 2014 in his debut year in the class. Both riders will aim to get the ball rolling and start the GP weekend very strongly, which should set them up nicely for the race under the floodlights. We are all as excited as the fans, and ready to get the show on the road.”
Let battle commence: Rabat and Miller head to Qatar
Gosselies, Belgium – 14 March 2016: After an intensive preseason test program, the Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS pairing of Tito Rabat and Jack Miller head back to Qatar this week, to finally kick off their 2016 MotoGP campaigns.
Rabat and Miller will be hoping to make a significant step forward with the Honda RC213V this weekend, after enduring a difficult three days of testing at the Losail International Circuit earlier this month.
Both riders complained of a lack of confidence in the front tyre, but it was Rabat who was worst affected, crashing four times over the course of the test, with three of those crashes coming on the final day. The crashes came with no warning, which significantly dented the former Moto2 World Champion’s confidence.
Both crews have been working tirelessly since the test to identify the cause of the issues and they head to the Middle East with a number of possible solutions, which they will evaluate during free practice on Thursday and Friday.
Sunday’s Grand Prix of Qatar will mark Miller’s race debut for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS, while for Rabat it will be his first MotoGP race since stepping up from Moto2 to the premier class at the end of the 2015 season.
“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.”
“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.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“After such a difficult test in Qatar earlier this month, I’m sure both Tito and Jack are a little apprehensive now we’re heading back there for the first race of the season. We need to find a solution to the problems they had during the test and we need to do it quickly. Nothing knocks a rider’s confidence more than crashing without understanding why, so it’s critical we start rebuilding that confidence from the first free practice session. Since the test our technical people have been working hard to identify possible solutions and I’m confident that we’ll see a significant improvement this weekend.”
Qatar ready to get the 2016 MotoGP party started
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 10:17
ASPAR Team riders head to Losail with hopes pinned on first points of the season
The Losail International Circuit in Qatar plays host to the opening round of the MotoGP World Championship for the tenth successive year this weekend and, as has been custom since 2008, the races will take place at night under floodlights. The teams and riders completed their preseason programmes at this very circuit just over a week ago but finally the long winter is over and the promise of a new season is about to be fulfilled. Major technical rule changes to the series look to have brought parity to the grid during testing, with a new maximum fuel capacity of 22 litres, the introduction of standard electronics and a new single tyre manufacturer in Michelin. Some of the riders and their machines have adapted better than others, with defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo looking like the man to beat when the new season launches at 9pm on Sunday night.
The winter has seemed never-ending but finally the first race is in sight and the ASPAR Team riders can't wait to get the 2016 season started. Yonny Hernández has worked hard throughout preseason, gradually building his pace in every session whilst following a strict physical training programme in between. The man from Medellín made big progress in the final test recently in Qatar and he is hoping to pick up where he left off when free practice begins later this week. Although he knows the Ducati well it seems like a completely different bike with the changes to the regulations, but Yonny is adapting well and he is confident of challenging for a top ten finish on Sunday. His team-mate Eugene Laverty is also aiming for points under the Losail lights, the Irishman now recovered from a series of injuries suffered throughout a tumultuous preseason that also ended with a positive test last week. Now he is ready to give his all on what is a new bike to him but one he feels has huge potential.
Yonny Hernández: “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.”
Eugene Laverty: “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."
MICHELIN READY FOR THE SEASON OPENER UNDER THE LIGHTS OF QATAR
Michelin will be heading to the Losail International Circuit for its return to MotoGP™ as the series kicks off under the floodlights at the Qatari track on Sunday 20th March.
Following three informative pre-season tests – including one in Qatar – Michelin has analysed all the data to make its decision as to the best tyres to take to the 5,380km track. The Losail International Circuit is situated in a rocky, desert location and as such the track can be very abrasive at times due to the sand that is blown off the surrounding area. This allied to the usually cooler temperatures that are experienced as the sun sets, all add to the challenges that supplying the optimum tyres for such conditions will present to the French company. The Qatar race will see the introduction of 17” tyres and with a need to have a consistent grip and good durability, Michelin will take three front and two rear tyres to Losail for the race. The soft Power Slick – which will be identified by the white band – the medium Power Slick – which will not feature a coloured band for identification – and the hard Power Slick – yellow band – for the front. Along with the asymmetric soft Power Slick – white band – and the asymmetric medium Power Slick – no band – for the rear. There will be no Michelin Power Rain or Power Inter tyres in use as the riders will not run in wet or changeable conditions under the lights.
Built in less than a year and completed in 2004, the Losail International Circuit is located on the outskirts of Doha – Qatar’s capital city – and has been a regular on the MotoGP calendar since its completion. The first night race was held in 2008 and is staged beneath over 3,000 individual light sources on more than 1,000 structures, all powered by huge generators. This impressive array of lighting is designed to not only light the track, but deflect light away from the surface and then redirect it back, all aimed at avoiding glare from blinding the riders and giving them ideal visual awareness.
Track action at Losail begins on Thursday 17th March when the MotoGP stars will take to the circuit for the first free practice session. Two further free sessions will be held on Friday to decide which riders progress through to which qualifying session – held on Saturday evening. The inaugural race of 2016, and Michelin’s re-introduction in to the exciting arena of MotoGP, will take place at 21.00hrs local time (18.00hrs GMT, 17.00hrs CET) on Sunday 20th March, when the world’s best two-wheel racers will do battle over 22-laps of the challenging Losail circuit.
The Qatar race weekend will also see a Michelin press conference which will be staged at the circuit on Saturday 19th March, with Director of Michelin Motorsport, Pascal Couasnon in attendance, along with Michelin’s Head of Two-Wheel Motorsport Group, Nicolas Goubert and the Manager of the Two-Wheel Motorsport Group, Piero Taramasso, when the three will lay-out Michelin’s plans for the forthcoming season and answer any questions from the assembled audience.
Nicolas Goubert – Head of the Two-Wheel Motorsport Group:
“We are looking forward to the first race, because we have been getting ready for it for over a year. It has been a lot of hard work to get to this position and we are now prepared for competitive action. We are quite confident about heading to Qatar, because we learnt a lot during the test sessions that we had two weeks before the race. The riders were satisfied with the improvements we have made from the beginning of the season, and there was a positive feeling at the end of the test. Having a race at night gives extra issues, where we can encounter lower temperatures and the added difficulty of dew on the surface, plus the wind blast blowing sand on the track, making it quite abrasive and giving it a sandpaper effect, which impacts on tyre wear. Other than that the Losail track is not the most demanding for tyres in general, the toughest part lies between turns 10 and 14, where riders contend with a double left (10 and 11) and a triple right (12, 13 and 14), which is quite a difficult combination, but we have worked hard to give the riders the best tyres for this circuit and we are now excited to get into competitive action.”
Piero Taramasso – Manager of Michelin MotoGP Programme:
“We are all motivated to get back to Qatar and the first round, especially with it being Michelin’s return and the special atmosphere of this night race. We have been preparing for over a year-and-a-half and have worked closely with the teams, the riders and Dorna to provide the best tyres in readiness for the first race. Logistics are very important, because the Qatar event is not the easiest one to manage and all our consignments of tyres and equipment has to be shipped in containers, but we have prepared for that and we’ll be ready for the first race. We are really looking forward to getting back into MotoGP action.”
MotoGP rule changes for 2016
The new season represents a major challenge for the Repsol Honda Team and the rest of the premier class grid. This winter, they have worked hard to adapt to changes to the MotoGP rules.
MOTOGP EXPLODES INTO 2016
Can it possibly be more exciting than last year? We are about to find out. The long wait is over on Sunday when the 2016 MotoGP™ season explodes into action under the floodlights at the opening round in Qatar. The four British MotoGP stars are ready for the first battle of the year at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix, around the 3.343 miles Losail International circuit.
After nine days of official pre-season testing in Qatar, Australia and Malaysia, 23 year old Gloucestershire rider Scott Redding leads the British charge. He was second fastest behind World Champion Jorge Lorenzo at the final test in Qatar. After two tough seasons on Honda machinery Redding has adapted brilliantly to his new mount, the Octo Pramac GP15 Ducati and to the new electronics and Michelin tyres.
It’s been mixed results in testing for the three other British riders. Isle of Man – based Midlander Cal Crutchlow has experienced up and downs on the LCR Honda. He suffered a painful crash on the final day in Qatar but has made progress despite Honda struggling with the new electronic regulations.
Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith was the top Brit and non-factory rider last year. As always he put in a massive number of testing lap on the Monster Tech3 Yamaha. Despite problems fully adjusting to the new Michelin tyres he made good progress, which will stand him in good stead in the 22 lap opening clash on Sunday.
Irishman Eugene Laverty started the season with a crash on the opening day of the first test damaging his wrist. Since then he’s made steady progress and like Redding has switched from Honda to Ducati power on his Aspar MotoGP machine.
KENT AND LOWES HEAD TO HEAD
Two British riders could be fighting for the Moto2™ World Championship. Moto3™ World Champion Danny Kent and Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes have impressed in pre-season testing and should be head to head for the title starting in the opening round on Sunday.
Wiltshire-based Kent brought Britain their first world championship for 38 long years when he clinched the Moto3 world title in that dramatic final round in Valencia last year. The 22 year old is still adjusting to Moto2 on the Leopard racing Kalex but his previous Moto2 experience will stand him in good stead as he prepares for the next step in his career.
Lowes has been very impressive in pre-season testing after switching to the Kalex framed Federal Oil Gresini machine. Last year Lowes won the Red Bull Americas Grand Prix at Austin on the Speed Up machine and has already adjusted brilliantly to the Kalex frame to be a real Championship contender. The Lincolnshire – based rider led the way in the final test this week in Qatar to set himself up brilliantly for that first clash at the same circuit.
Scotsman John McPhee is Britain’s only representative in the competitive Moto3 class. It’s not been a an easy start to the season for the 21 year old who is supported by the Racing Steps Foundation on the Peugeot MC Saxoprint machine. He broke his left index finger when he crashed the Peugeot badged Mahindra in Jerez. He will be fit for Qatar and will be seeking a points winning start to the long season.
ROSSI PULLS ON THE FOOTBALL BOOTS TO LEAD HIS TEAM
Nine times World Champion Valentino Rossi puts on the football boots to lead his VR46 Academy team against the Aspire Academy in Qatar on Thursday. Rossi is a big football fan but will have to be at his best with the former Barcelona star Xavi Hernandez leading the Aspire team in the game at the Aspire Dome in Doha.
CARRY ON WITH EXACTLY THE SAME – PLEASE
The 2016 MotoGP season kicks off in Qatar on Sunday looking to carry on where it left off last year. After the most dramatic season in the 67 year history of grand prix racing the very same gladiators return to the arena to continue the battle.
World Champion Jorge Lorenzo has looked ready to defend that hard won title with some impressive pre-season testing performances on the Movistar Yamaha. The Spaniard knows he can’t afford to make the same poor start to the season he experienced last year if he’s going to win that fourth MotoGP world title. His team-mate, 37 year old Valentino Rossi, pushed him to the limit last year in that controversial end to the season. The Italian nine times World Champion is as focused and enthusiastic as ever as he starts his 21st season in grand prix racing. Rossi wants a repeat of last year where he won the race in Qatar after a tremendous fight with Andrea Dovizioso
It was a tough year for double MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez and the Repsol Honda team after winning the title for the two previous years. He eventually finished third and in pre-season testing has shown both the rider and the team are getting to grips with the new electronics and Michelin tyres. Team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who had a brilliant finish to last season with wins in Japan and Malaysia, has struggled with the changes and will be seeking improvements in practice before qualifying.
Ducati roared into Qatar last year with their new GP15 machine. Andrea Dovizioso finished second from pole position, which he followed up with two more consecutive podiums. He returns with the Ducati GP16 machine together with team-mate Andrea Iannone who had such a brilliant season last year. He eventually finished fifth in the Championship two places in front of Dovizioso.
The big surprise of pre-season testing has been 21 year old Maverick Vinales on the Ecstar GSX RR Suzuki. The former Moto3 World Champion in just his second MotoGP season led the time sheets at Phillip Island in Australia and in the final Qatar test was third fastest. Suzuki starting just their second season back in MotoGP have made big strides including a seamless gearbox and could be pushing for a long awaited podium finish on Sunday.
Danilo Petrucci is fighting to be fit after breaking his hand in a Phillip Island crash.
Frenchman Johann Zarco starts his campaign to become the first Moto2 World Champion to successfully defend his title but it will be tough. The likes of Sam Lowes, Alex Rins, plus Danny Kent and Miquel Oliveira up from Moto3 will give the impressive Zarco a hard time.
The top two may have left but the Moto3 Championship promises to be another cracker. Throw in all the usual candidates including Romano Fenati, Jorge Navarro, Fabio Quartararo, Niccolo Antonelli, Enea Bastianini and Brad Binder the sparks are certain to fly for the next eight months, starting in the 18 lap race on Sunday.
DID YOU KNOW?
High level maintained in the MotoGP class
The top nineteen riders of the 2015 MotoGP world championship continue in the class for 2016. The full time entry list for this year contains twenty one riders, with the following changes from last year:
• Out from last year have gone – Nicky Hayden, Mike di Meglio, Alex de Angelis, Karel Abraham and Marco Melandri.
• The only Rookie in the MotoGP class for 2016 is the 2014 Moto2 world champion Tito Rabat.
The strength of the MotoGP grid can be illustrated by the following facts about the riders lining up:
• There are ten riders who have won a Grand Prix World Championship.
• These ten riders have won a total of twenty-seven World Championship titles between them.
• Five riders on the list have won races in the premier-class. These five riders have between them won a total of 179 premier-class GP races – the highest number of accumulated premier-class GP wins ever assembled on the entry list at the opening race of the year.
• Fifteen riders on the MotoGP entry list have had race victories in at least one of the three classes of Grand Prix racing, with a combined total of Grand Prix victories of 386.
The oldest rider on the MotoGP full-time entry list is Valentino Rossi, who celebrated his 37th birthday in February. The youngest rider for the second year running is Jack Miller, who will be 21 years 62 days old when he lines up on the grid in Qatar; Miller is just six days younger than Maverick Viñales.
Sixteen Grand Prix winners on Moto2 entry list
Eighteen of the top 20 riders in last year’s championship continue in the Moto2 class in 2016, including Johann Zarco who will be defending his world title. Also joining the Moto2 class this year are the top two riders from the Moto3 class in 2015. The main changes in the full time entry list for this year are as follows:
• Out from last year have gone: Tito Rabat, Mika Kallio, Randy Krummenacher, Anthony West, Azlan Shah, Ricky Cardus, Louis Rossi, Florian Alt and Thitipong Warokorn.
• Into the Moto2 class as full-time entrants in 2016 come the following riders: Efren Vazquez, Luca Marini, Ratthapark Wilairot, Isaac Viñales, Alessandro Tonucci, Miguel Oliveira, Danny Kent, Mattia Pasini, Edgar Pons and Xavi Vierge.
The strength in depth of the Moto2 grid can be illustrated by the following facts about the riders lining up:
• Sixteen of the riders on the full-time entry list have previously won Grand Prix races
• Between them, these sixteen riders have scored ninety-five world championship race wins.
• Five of the riders competing in Moto2 in 2016 have won the 125cc/Moto3 World Championship: Thomas Luthi, Julian Simon, Sandro Cortese, Alex Marquez and Danny Kent.
The youngest rider in the full-time Moto2 entry list is Luca Marini, who was just 21 days old when his maternal half-brother Valentino Rossi clinched his first world title in the 125cc class at Brno in 1997. Marini is one of five riders in Moto2 who will start the season as teenagers, along with Jesko Raffin, Alex Marquez, Lorenzo Baldassari and Xavi Vierge. The oldest rider is Mattia Pasini, who returns to grand prix racing in the Moto2 class having made only two wild-card appearances last year. Pasini is the only rider in the Moto2 class who will have passed his 30th birthday at the opening race of 2016 in Qatar.
Influx of new young riders into Moto3
The Moto3 class has a total of ten rookies in the field in 2016. The main changes to the entry list compared to last year are:
Out from last year have gone: Remy Gardner, Efren Vazquez, Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Tonucci, Ana Carrasco, Stefano Manzi, Niklas Ajo, Isaac Viñales, Miguel Oliveira, Danny Kent and Zulfahmi Khairuddin.
Into the series as full-time riders come the following: Fabio Spiranelli, Fabio di Giannantonio, Adam Norrodin, Nicolo Bulega, Joan Mir, Stefano Valtulini, Aron Canet, Bo Bendsneyder, Lorenzo Petrarca and Khairul Idham Pawi.
This addition of new young talent into the Moto3 class means that at the opening race of the year only three of the riders on the full-time entry list will be aged 22 or over: Jakub Kornfeil (22), Hiroki Ono (23) and Alexis Masbou (28). Of the thirty three riders on the Moto3 full-time entry list, twenty two will still be teenagers at the opening race of the year. The youngest rider competing full-time in Moto3 in 2016 is Fabio Spiranelli, who will be 16 years 106 days old at the opening race of the year.
Five of the riders in the Moto3 entry list have grand prix victories to their name: Romano Fenati (6 GP wins), Alexis Masbou (2), Nico Antonelli (2), Enea Bastianini (1) and Livio Loi (1).
Michelin return to MotoGP
After a seven year period during which Bridgestone have been the exclusive tyre suppliers for the MotoGP class, next year will see the return of Michelin as the control tyre. Below are a few facts and stats about this change of tyre supplier:
• Starting in 2009 Bridgestone have been the exclusive tyre supplier to MotoGP; previous to 2009 there had been no restriction of which tyre manufacturer each rider could use.
• The last Michelin victory in a MotoGP race was when Dani Pedrosa won the Grand Prix of Catalunya in 2008. The remainder of the races in 2008 were won by either Casey Stoner on a Ducati or Valentino Rossi on a Yamaha, both using Bridgestone tyres. Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo also won a race in 2008, in Portugal, but he was using Michelin tyres.
• After the San Marino GP in 2008 Dani Pedrosa made the unusual step of switching tyres manufacturers in mid-season and used Bridgestone tyres for the final five races of the year.
• Of the 118 MotoGP races that took place from when the class was introduced in 2002 to the end of 2008, Michelin won 83 races, with Bridgestone taking 35 wins.
• The very first Michelin victory in the premier-class of grand prix racing was with Australian Jack Findlay riding a Suzuki at the Isle of Man TT races in 1973.