News 9 Apr 2010

MotoGP: Contenders speak ahead of Qatar season opener

After a five-month winter break the FIM MotoGP World Championship is back on track this weekend, at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.

Twelve months ago the opening round of the season was disrupted by torrential rain at the Losail International circuit, with the result that the MotoGP race was postponed and took place 24 hours later on the following evening.

Fortunately, the weather forecast for this weekend is for almost perfect racing conditions for the opening Grand Prix of the 2010 season.

Casey Stoner, winner of the last three MotoGP races at the Losail circuit, joined Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha), Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) and Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) this afternoon for the first pre-event press conference of the new season.

Stoner impressed during pre-season testing with the new Desmosedici engine that he will campaign this season, but the Ducati Marlboro rider played down his chances of a fourth consecutive win on Sunday, saying he’d be happy to leave Qatar having secured some good points in the race.

“It’s been a very long winter without the tests that we’ve had in the past, but it’s given me the chance to take my fitness up to the next level and sort out all the issues from last year,” declared the Australian.

“We’ve got a new engine for this season and, while we’ve lost a bit of top speed, with better acceleration out of the turns and less drop off in tyre performance towards the end of the race, we’ve not really lost that much.

“I’ve had some success at this track in the past, maybe it’s because the track can be a bit dirty, which suits my riding style. If we can leave here with good points on Sunday night then I’ll be happy.”

Reigning MotoGP World Champion Rossi said he was also looking forward to getting the season underway with a run of three races in four weeks, starting this weekend in Qatar.

“Another season starting is always a good feeling and very exciting,” stated the nine-time world champion.

“We were fast here and in Sepang during testing, so the new bike looks good. Last year we had some great battles and, on paper, it looks like we could be in for the same this season. There are some new guys on the grid this season, so it will be funny.”

Earlier today MotoGP riders Loris Capirossi, Nicky Hayden and Hector Barbera, together with Moto2 contender Kenny Noyes and 125cc combatants Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez, boarded a traditional Qatari dhow, for a trip to Doha’s Islamic Museum.

Capirossi will make history this weekend in Qatar, becoming the first rider to make 300 Grand Prix starts, in a career that spans 21 seasons.

Friday evening sees the serious action commence with the first free practice sessions of 2010 for the three FIM World Championship classes.

The 125cc competitors are the first out on track at 8:00pm local time, followed by the all-new Moto2 class at 9:15pm and the MotoGP riders at 10:30pm.