Repsol Honda press release:
The Repsol Honda Team touches down in Qatar this week in preparation for Sunday’s opening round of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship. The Losail circuit near Qatar’s capital city of Doha will host the opening round of the 17-race series and, like last year, the world will once again witness the spectacle of a night MotoGP race held under floodlights.
Starting his fourth season in the factory Repsol Honda Team, Spanish ace Dani Pedrosa flies to Qatar determined to take part in the opening event of the year. The tough 24-year-old has made encouraging progress since undergoing surgery on his left wrist and left knee at the beginning of March and is cautiously confident that he will have sufficient flexibility and strength in his left leg to compete in Sunday’s 22-lap race.
While Pedrosa is not expecting to be at his peak this weekend, having missed out on significant fitness training time and been absent for several days of pre-season practice, the three-time World Champion is nevertheless fully focused on beginning his 2009 campaign by pushing for the best result possible.
On the other side of the Repsol Honda garage is Italian star Andrea Dovizioso who will be making his race debut as a works Honda MotoGP rider this weekend. The former 125cc World Champion has quickly adapted to life in Repsol Honda colours and has enjoyed a profitable winter testing programme, ably dealing with the extra demands of being a factory rider. He’ll be relishing his first race outing on the works-specification RC212V at a circuit he performed so well at last year in his debut MotoGP race. On that occasion, Dovizioso finished in fourth place, one place behind his new team-mate Pedrosa, and ahead of 2008 World Champion Valentino Rossi.
As well as the novelty of a race held under floodlights, the opening round will be the first chance to gauge the effects of the significant rule changes introduced for the 2009 season. Key among them is the single tyre rule which will see all the MotoGP riders competing on Bridgestone rubber. The number of tyres per rider has also been reduced to 20 per race weekend (eight fronts, 12 rears) and only two separate compounds will be available to the riders at each round. If conditions are wet, each rider is allocated eight wet tyres of a single compound, with an extra tyre allowed if every riding session is wet.
Another important rule change involves a reduction in practice time, which will put extra demands on the Repsol Honda riders and their rivals to rapidly arrive at the optimum set-up for each race circuit. The Friday morning practice session has been removed from the schedule, and the other sessions on Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and qualifying on Saturday afternoon have been reduced from one hour to 45 minutes in duration. The reason for this rule change is to cut costs, primarily by reducing the engine mileage amassed during a race weekend.
Of course, being a night race, the Qatar event has its own special timetable, with “morning” practice beginning at 19:05 in the evening and the race starting at 23:00 on Sunday, local time.
“First, I’ve got to say I’m really happy to be going to Qatar for this race. It’s clearly been quite a difficult winter for me and not the preparation for the season that we would have chosen. But my recovery from the surgery in March has been good – probably a little better than we expected – and that means I have the chance to make the first race, which is great. Obviously I haven’t been able to do the usual level of physical training while I’ve been injured, and we’ve missed out on some testing time, so we have some catching up to do. But I know my team hasn’t been standing still while I’ve been away and I’m really looking forward to getting back on the bike and riding for the maximum result possible for my situation.”
“Well, I’m really looking forward to the start of the season. This was my first winter as a factory Honda tester and it was an exciting experience to be in the full works squad. Now the preparation is over and we’re going racing. I like racing in Qatar, and riding under the floodlights at night is very special. It has an amazing, unique atmosphere and the layout of the track is different from the other circuits, in particular the turns are very long and it is not easy to get high speed corner. Still, I have always had good results in Qatar and last year, at my debut in MotoGP, I had a fantastic race. At the last test in Jerez our machine had improved compared to the previous test we did in Qatar at the beginning of March, so I’m confident for the first race of the season and I will be doing my best to fight up front.”