Testing is over, engines are on and when the sun goes down, the lights go out. So who will seize the first win of the season?
After four months, two tests and time enough for a mountain of expectation to rise from preseason, the foreword is finally written and the first race of the year is about to begin. Losail International Circuit changes from test venue to shimmering, spectacular MotoGP™ oasis in the desert outside Doha, ready for the floodlights to light up its every curve and give us a first glimpse of what the season may have in store. Every epos begins with a single verse and a new odyssey is poised to get underway.
So where do we begin? Two of the biggest questions as we head for Qatar line up alongside each other at Repsol Honda. Reigning Champion Marc Marquez comes back from surgery to his shoulder and questions abound as to the race readiness of the now seven-time World Champion, although Losail is far from an ideal venue from which to make a judgement: he’s only won once at the track in the premier class, and that was in his all-conquering 2014 season. Can he go the distance? And what of the man who enters the stage with the best record at Losail; the man now on the other side of the garage? That’s Jorge Lorenzo, who has six wins in Qatar – three of which came in MotoGP™ – and they speak highly of the ‘Spartan’’s skill at the venue. But how will he come out the blocks this year as he continues his recovery from a broken scaphoid and adaptation to a whole new machine?
Meanwhile, at the Mission Winnow Ducati garage, it’s less adaptation and more fine-tuning for last year’s Qatar GP winner Andrea Dovizioso. Confident in testing but not to a fault, the Italian begins the season with the natural advantage of being fully fit. Add that to his 2018 success at the venue and solid reports from testing, there’s likely a good few bets been placed on ‘DesmoDovi’. For new teammate Danilo Petrucci, meanwhile, the odds are a little longer – but the new addition to the factory Ducati team has shone in testing and he can’t be counted out. There are few motivations bigger than the chance at a first victory.
A first victory to kick off the season would be just what the ‘Doctor’ ordered for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after a more difficult season last year. In testing, however, it was Yamaha who locked out four of the top six on the final day in Qatar and 2017 winner Maverick Viñales who went top, so it looks promising. Can he replicate that on race day? Or will the experience and four previous MotoGP™ victories at the venue tip the scales in favour of teammate Valentino Rossi?
There could be another, newer name in the hunt for victory, too. Viñales may have gone quickest but Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins spent the Qatar Test either right behind the Yamaha man or just ahead of him – sometimes literally. Confidence in their 2019 machine has shone out of Suzuki, and Rins is a man in form. A dark horse for the win? Or can that not be said of someone who threw down an impressive gauntlet on the timesheets already?
His rookie teammate, Joan Mir, also made a buzz in testing. But the rookie who took the limelight most at the Qatar Test was most definitely Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). First debutant and top Independent Team rider, the Frenchman finished the test in a stunning second place – and it wasn’t a fluke. Plenty of eyes will be on him, and the man who managed a similar feat in Sepang, Francesco Bagnaia (Alma Pramac Racing). The two could prove a headache for the Independent Team riders gunning for glory already, and the likes of Bagnaia’s teammate Jack Miller, Quartararo’s teammate Franco Morbidelli, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) will be aiming to stamp some authority on the new kids on the block.
Another big point of interest in Qatar will also be aiming to get well within that battle. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro finished the test inside the top ten and impressed once again, and he’ll want more than a couple of points to prove a point for the Austrian factory as they enter their third year in MotoGP™. And Johann Zarco, recent arrival to the other side of the garage, will have his sights set on his teammate and closing the gap – as well as gaining a little more fresh air between himself and impressive rookie Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3).
It’s a long time since the 2018 Valencia GP and the hour is finally upon us to go racing again. New faces, new colours and a mountain of expectation…get ready for another epic season of MotoGP™ and tune in for the VisitQatar Grand Prix from the 8th to 10th March as we see the first verse unfold.
A new era: Moto2™ chase their first triumph of 2019
New faces, returning veterans and a shake up in the corridors of power
They say knowledge is power but as Moto2™ gear up for 2019, there are many unknowns that await them. They aren’t racing in the dark though, so to speak, and from development to testing the stage is now set as the intermediate class prepare to go racing powered by British marque Triumph.
What we, and they, already know is that the timesheets in testing have been tantalisingly close and the field are more than ready for the new challenge. And despite the biggest change to the class since inception, there are some things that seem to have remained the same: the pace of the likes of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), as well as fellow bastions of experience Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) and Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP). And what of Schrötter’s teammate Tom Lüthi? He, like Lowes the year before, returns from MotoGP™ with a point to prove – and a long rap sheet of intermediate class success.
Alongside the experienced runners this season, however, there are also host of superstar rookies. Reigning Moto3™ Champion Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Fabio Di Giannantonio (+Ego Speed Up), Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech3), teammate Philipp Öttl, Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) move up from the lightweight class, and they’re joined by Brit Jake Dixon (Angel Nieto Team) and Idemitsu Honda Team Asia duo Dimas Ekky Pratama and former Asia Talent Cup rider Somkiat Chantra as nearly a third of the field race for the title of Rookie of the Year. There’s also the debut of the new MV Agusta in the hands of Dominique Aegerter (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward Racing) and Stenfano Manzi, bringing the chassis count to up to five alongside Kalex, KTM, NTS and Speed Up.
In testing it’s never been closer – now all that remains to be seen is the contest on race day. In Qatar at least it was Lowes who held firm at the top, and the British rider seems more than #OnIt as we head back to Losail to race. But timesheets rarely tell the tale of a race weekend entirely, so who’s going to strike first?
Tune in to see a little history made and a new era begin on Sunday 10th March as Moto2™ go racing at 17:20 (GMT+3) in Qatar. Last year says Baldassarri could hold an advantage at Losail, but this season remains unwritten as yet.
The time has come: Moto3™ lead the troops out on track
The lightweight class get ready to race in 2019 – and they’re up first
The time has come and it will, by virtue of schedule, be the Moto3™ class heading out to race first in the VisitQatar Grand Prix. And what better way to begin than the ever impressive and incredibly close kings of slipstreaming? Just like any other race weekend, the points on offer are the same 25 but the stakes seem that much higher when it’s the season opener…so who will take those first spoils?
In the veteran camp there are a good few names that immediately stick out. Romano Fenati (Snipers Team) returns and he’s a former podium finisher at Losail, as are Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing). Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) won the 2016 edition, and the likes of Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Andrea Migno (Angel Nieto Team) and Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) have all had solid top ten showings there. What of the riders like Tony Arbolino (Snipers Team), gaining some serious traction in testing? Will he be able to turn his Qatar GP form around? And then there’s veteran Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), who broke his collarbone in testing and remains a question mark…
Then there are the rookies. Losail has made many an impression for a good few new names on Entry Lists throughout the years, and 2019 could be no different. After taking victory in Valencia last season as a wildcard to become the youngest ever Grand Prix winner, Turkish newcomer Can Öncü needs no introduction, and neither does Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) after appearing with a bang on the podium in Australia last year. In addition, Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Öncü knows the track from his time in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup, as does Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) – could that be an advantage over the likes of Raul Fernandez (Angel Nieto Team), Ricardo Rossi (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), Tom Booth-Amos (CIP – Green Power) and Filip Salac (Redox PrüstelGP)? In this race at least, they also have to contend with Ryusei Yamanaka at Estrella Galicia 0,0 as the Japanese rider moves up from their junior team to sit in for Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard isn’t injured, however, he’s just too young and has to wait until after his 16th birthday and therefore the Argentina GP to head out on track to race. Only the reigning Red Bull Rookies MotoGP Cup or FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™Junior World Champion can compete at 15. For Yamanaka then, the stakes are high. But aren’t they for everyone?
The time has come to find out and the lights go out for the first Moto3™ race of the season on Sunday 10th March at 16:00 (GMT +3).
THE EXPECTATIONS OF RINS AND MIR AHEAD THE QATAR GP
Team Suzuki Press Office – March 6.
The unique and exciting night time atmosphere of Qatar is once again about to kick off a new season, and Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir are ready to test their renewed competitiveness against a pack of 20 other fierce MotoGP contenders.
With the winter testing season finally having drawn to a close, the racing spirit of the riders sees them eager to get back on their bikes under the floodlights. The pair have differing expectations of the upcoming season; with Rins feeling ready to fight for a first victory, and Mir seizing his debut season with both hands, keen to learn and reduce the gap to the leaders race by race.
The tests in Malaysia and Qatar – the latter being just two weeks ago – brought the team positivity in terms of the competitiveness of the 2019 GSX-RR. As per the Suzuki philosophy the machine has not been totally changed, but the racing engineers have instead worked very hard on every aspect of the bike, introducing upgrades which when combined together provide an improved performance package.
Both Rins and Mir enjoyed the testing days, not only being able to place themselves often towards the top of the time sheets, but also finding solid improvements run after run. The new engine specification and chassis have proved to be effective updates, as well as the electronics package which has also been enhanced.
The riders have spent the winter undergoing intensive training, and are in prime physical condition to begin the 2019 season.
Davide Brivio – Team Manager
“In the winter testing we were able to go through several technical items that have been developed by the Suzuki R&D engineers, and finally we have put together the best possible bike package to start the season. The time sheets showed us that these improvements have been beneficial, but even more important was the feedback from the riders, who both felt confident and at ease on the improved GSX-RRs. Now we are excited to start the race weekend in order to fully understand and assess our winter work, and our real level, as we know very well that the only true test will be on Sunday with the first race. Alex Rins has improved a lot in the last two years, not only in his riding style but also in his approach to the races and his mental strength. He’s now able to showcase all his talent, and we believe he can continue the positive path he took at the end of last season. Joan Mir had a good winter preparation too and he is ready to start his first MotoGP season. He should not be under pressure, as the priority must be to learn and enjoy. He is certainly a talented rider, and he has already proven his skills in the winter tests, so we have to give him our best as a team to bring out his potential and see what we can achieve together. The objective is simply to improve consistently race by race.”
“Arriving for the Qatar GP is always very emotional because we can finally get into ‘race mode’ and blow away the winter cobwebs. The winter tests were positive, we found good improvements on the GSX-RR and I really enjoyed riding, but the race is something different and I definitely miss the adrenaline of nights out on the start grid. I’m very happy about how the bike has improved, the Suzuki engineers and technicians did a great job over the winter and I found positive feelings. Of course we still need to refine some things, and we still have some margins for development, in MotoGP the racing and development side is a never-ending challenge and we will work hard in all the sessions during every race weekend. Last year we ended the season in good shape, with many podiums, and the feeling that we can really go for the big prize! This is the objective that we’ve set for this season, to further improve our competitiveness and consistently put ourselves around the top of the sheets, trying to get one – or more – victories.”
“I’m really looking forward to starting the season because after the good testing that we’ve done I think we are ready to start. My biggest expectation for this 2019 Championship is to continue learning as much as possible and to constantly reduce my gap to the leaders. Learning and improving will be my absolute priority and it’s also a good way to get closer to the top guys. It will be very interesting to race with those more experienced riders. The Losail circuit is a layout where I feel confident and the GSX-RR has been improved upon consistently during the winter, in the test we did two weeks ago I had a lot of fun on the bike and found myself able to improve and be competitive. This gives me high hopes for a positive weekend in Qatar.”
TECHNICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF QATAR
Manuel Cazeaux – “The thing is that the riders are very motivated to do well, and that usually means that everything is closer than in the other races later in the season. The Losail circuit is very peculiar for the weather conditions and this is one of most crucial aspects from a technical point of view. The temperature can vary a lot from one hour to the next. Sometimes the humidity or dew can arrive in the evening – around eight or nine o’clock – and this can have an impact on grip. Tyre degradation is also a key point, it’s one of the most demanding tracks, so you have to find a good balance within the set-up of the bike to help the tyres last race distance.”
Losail (Qatar), 6th March 2019
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales are in great physical form and eager to kick off the 2019 MotoGP season, starting with the VisitQatar Grand Prix.
The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team is traveling to Qatar for the first MotoGP Grand Prix of 2019, held this weekend under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit. Riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales return to the 5.4 km track – where they completed the final preseason test two weeks earlier – feeling ready to bring the heat to another highly anticipated MotoGP season.
Rossi is looking forward to riding at Losail, which is historically a good circuit for him. The Italian is a known fan-favourite and he plans on making the spectators cheer this weekend. At the conclusion of the Qatar Test he was feeling very comfortable aboard his YZR-M1. He is confident his – and his crews’ – hard work this winter will pay off, as he aims to further improve his already great results in Qatar of four wins (in 2005, 2006, 2010, and 2015), four second places (in 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2014), and two third places (in 2017 and 2018).
Viñales doesn’t need any time to adapt to the saddle after months of testing, he is already 100% into the racing mindset. Last year he fought his way to sixth place in Doha. This time he returns with full motivation and is looking forward to battling as one of the top contenders and return to the Losail podium. He previously secured a win in the premier class in Qatar in 2017 (his very first race with Yamaha). He also scored a first and second place there in the Moto3 class, in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Built on the outskirts of Doha, 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. The track’s flowing midsection suits the Yamaha, thanks to its mix of medium and high-speed corners (six left and ten right turns). It forms a strong contrast to the iconic, over a kilometre long, main straight that ends in a steep first corner, where fans can expect to see many classic Qatar overtakes.
As the VisitQatar Grand Prix is the only night race of the year, the schedule of the upcoming race weekend differs slightly from the usual. The MotoGP FP1 session will take place on Friday evening from 15:40 – 16:25, local track time (GMT+3) followed by FP2 from 20:00 – 20:45. On Saturday, FP3 and FP4 will be held from 15:15 – 16:00 and 19:20 – 19:50, before the qualifying sessions from 20:00 – 20:40. On Sunday, the warm-up is held from 15:40 – 16:00 and the race starts at 20:00.
“After months of testing, we’re finally about to commence the 2019 season. The first race is always very interesting, because it gives us a more detailed impression of where we stand. The Sepang and Qatar tests have been very positive for us, so we’re curious and excited to start racing. Vale and Maverick are in great physical shape. Their feedback has been very helpful over these last few months and we’re happy both riders feel comfortable with the package we’ve prepared for them. Our findings have showed us that we’re on the right track, but now it’s time to really put it to the test and see where we can make further steps, as there is always room for improvement. We look forward to a thrilling race and will give our all to make a strong start to the season.”
“Finally, the first GP of the season is about to start! The preseason tests were very important. Both in Sepang and in Qatar we’ve taken steps forward and we can say that we’ve done positive tests. We still have to improve a lot, but the road we’re on is the right one. This Friday we’ll begin the first 2019 race weekend and we’ll be able to understand many things better. We’ll have time to improve the bike during the free practice sessions and we’ll do everything to get ready for the race. I feel good, I have trained well this winter, and I’m ready to start this new season with my team and all the Yamaha staff. We will do our best!”
“I‘m so excited to come to Qatar and start the new season. I can‘t wait! The conclusion of the winter tests was very positive. I felt I was going very fast on the three days of testing here in Qatar, so I come to the first race with a positive mindset. We have a good rhythm. The first round in Losail is going to be very important to see if all the work that was done during the winter has served us well. Our bike has many strong points at this moment. I felt very good riding the bike during all the winter, I pushed my M1 to the limit. We have taken a step forward compared to last season, I think I’m riding my M1 in a very good way again. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I feel strong enough to fight for the podium at this circuit this weekend. Above all, I feel very excited to start a new season with Yamaha. We just need to keep working and focus on improving the bike as much as possible to fight for the podium and, of course, for the victory. I can‘t forget that I won my first GP with Yamaha here, so I have very special memories of this circuit and that gives me extra motivation.”
The wait is over: the Mission Winnow Ducati team ready for the opening round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar
After positively concluding two three-day, pre-season tests, the last of which took place about one week ago in Qatar, the Mission Winnow Ducati team is ready for the opening round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship at the Losail track, located on the outskirts of Doha.
Andrea Dovizioso, who enjoyed yet another successful season, in which he took four wins and finished in second position overall for the second consecutive year with nine podiums overall, is ready to begin his 12th year in MotoGP and seventh consecutive with the Ducati outfit.
Alongside Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci is keen to make his official debut in factory colors after showing his competitiveness onboard the Pramac Racing Team’s Ducati in the past four seasons, the last two of which saw him battle for top overall position among independent riders until the very end of the year.
The Qatar GP is the only one on the calendar to be held at night: the start is scheduled for Sunday night at 20:00 local time (CET +2).
Andrea Dovizioso (#04 Mission Winnow Ducati)
“We worked positively and methodically during the winter break, and I’m confident we’ll be ready to put up a fight from the very first round. The lap times from the tests, especially in Qatar, don’t really show the whole picture since most riders mostly worked on race pace. As for us, we collected plenty of interesting data and we analyzed it into great detail to come up with the best possible strategy ahead of this round. We’ll be able to assess our level and that of our opponents more in depth only once we take it back to the track, but what matters is that our feeling with the bike has been very good up to this point.”
Danilo Petrucci (#9 Mission Winnow Ducati)
“I’m happy with the way the tests went and ready to begin a new season. From the very first outing with the team, I’ve been trying to further optimize my approach, both physically and mentally, to make the most of this opportunity. I’ve also made some important changes to my training and dietary regimes, and I feel as ready as ever for the upcoming battle. We managed to be fast in each session during the winter tests, but in the end it’s the race that matters, and that’s usually a different story. We have a lot of competitive rivals, especially on this track given the recent tests done here: it won’t be easy to put them behind us, but I’m confident we have some good cards up our sleeve.”
2019 MotoGP Preview Quotes
The time for tests, talk and tentative speculation is over. MotoGP 2019 begins this weekend and will see KTM’s biggest and most ambitious assault on the FIM World Championship fire into life as the factory hopes to dazzle under the Losail lights.
For the fifteen year in a row the Losail International Circuit will welcome MotoGP. The Grand Prix paddock will gather again less than two weeks after the second IRTA test of the pre-season period took place at the same flat, pacey and demanding facility close to the ever-changing metropolis of Doha.
In those final rapid laps of experimentation and refinement of the Red Bull KTM RC16 Pol Espargaro got to within half a second of the best time while new teammate Johann Zarco – who will mark a notable career milestone after first gracing a Grand Prix circuit as a Red Bull Rookie in the 2007 inauguration of the series – continued his adaptation to the factory bike.
Red Bull KTM will tackle only their third year as part of the MotoGP grid and with memories of their maiden podium finish at Valencia for the final fixture of 2018 not yet faded. Espargaro boasts a best result of 7th at the Qatari circuit in five years of MotoGP competition while Zarco has a 8th: 2019 will be just his third term in the premier class.
KTM presented their full line-up in a comprehensive launch event in Austria last month, and will watch the first round of nineteen with interest through the categories. Like many race fans the ‘orange family’ and KTM followers will have their own questions: how far will Red Bull KTM Tech3 duo Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin push into the pack? Will Brad Binder start the new Moto2 era with a trophy? Will Can Öncü make another immediate impression in Moto3?
2019 gets underway with the first Moto3 Free Practice sessions at 11.50 CET this Friday. The races themselves will occur at 15.00 (Moto3), 16.20 (Moto2) and 18.00 (MotoGP) CET on Sunday.
Pol Espargaro: “Losail is a strange track and pretty different to all the others; mainly because it is the first grand prix and everyone wants to start the season well. There is a lot of pressure. Racing in the night means the temperatures are usually quite low and the humidity is high, from one hour to the other or from the start of the race until the end the track can change a lot so you have to adapt fast. We’ll look to do our best and get the race set-up fixed as quickly as we can.”
Johann Zarco: “I first raced at Losail in 2009, so ten years ago. I remember leading race here in Moto2 and I had a mechanical problem and had to finish the race in third gear and missed the win! My first race in MotoGP was also nice. It is a fast track and of course what makes it special is to ride at night. It’s also the first race so it has a different kind of pressure: you start a long season here but then when you arrive to the end it always feels like it has passed so fast from this first moment.”
Miguel Oliveira: “I think the approach for the first GP is always quite simple, it’s to do my best and try to do my job as always, plus making the team happy with my performance. I feel it’s important for me to finish the race, to get experience and to get to know where to improve my riding. The most important thing is to gather this experience in my first race in MotoGP, I don’t think about any result in specific.”
Hafizh Syahrin: “I’m looking forward to the first race very much! We had some tough pre-season tests, where we tried to adapt to the bike step by step. It was pretty good and I felt better and better with the bike. So we keep on working hard, try to understand everything and keep the mind fresh to be ready for race day. Let’s see what we can do.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “The target is to reach the top positions as much as possible but we have to be realistic and this is just the third year for us. We are still fighting against manufacturers with many more years in this business. We are pushing to improve our package on many different aspects and this will of course take some time but racing is racing and we will always look for good results. Doha has been a difficult track for us. We started our project here two years ago and that’s why we are really happy to see the test lap-times closer than they have ever been to the fastest. I think for the race we can be optimistic and find the good set-up in the four sessions. The challenge there is that the track conditions can change day-to-day. We just have to be open and adapt to what we find.”
Repsol Honda Team ready for 25th year in the premier class
2019 marks 25 years of collaboration between HRC and Repsol as the iconic squad prepares for another year of competition with two champion riders.
112 days after the Valencia GP, the MotoGP™ World Championship is set to roar back to life under the unique Qatar floodlights. 2019 sees the Repsol Honda Team welcome five-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo alongside Marc Marquez and celebrate a 25-year partnership between Repsol and HRC.
During their 25 years racing at the highest level in motorcycle racing, Repsol and Honda have achieved 14 world championships, 168 victories, 427 podiums, 177 pole positions and 182 fastest laps. With 12 world titles between them, Marquez and Lorenzo form the most successful team on the MotoGP™ grid and begin another chapter in the Repsol Honda Team’s history.
Shoulder surgery in late December led to the most challenging off-season of Marc Marquez’s career and hundreds of hours of physiotherapy. Maintaining the mantra of ‘there are no points for testing’, the reigning World Champion had a, by his standards, subdued testing campaign but arrives in Qatar happy with the feeling of his Honda RC213V and with his physical condition. Since entering the premier class in 2013, Marquez has never finished outside of the top five in Qatar.
The Qatar GP will be Jorge Lorenzo’s racing debut in Repsol Honda Team colours. Having improved his lap time at the Qatar Test by 2.437 seconds, Lorenzo is looking to continue his adaptation to the Honda RC213V. Although Lorenzo was forced to miss the Sepang Test due to a broken scaphoid, his potential on the Honda is clear and the weekend will present him with more crucial bike time. With six wins and five podiums from 15 visits, the Losail International Circuit is amongst Lorenzo’s strongest.
The first MotoGP press conference of 2019 is set for 17:00 local time on Thursday, March 07 with both Marquez and Lorenzo in attendance after the traditional ‘class photo’. Free Practice One begins at 15:40 local time with the lights of the MotoGP™ race scheduled to go out at 20:00 local time on Sunday, March 10.
5x MotoGP World Champion
“Finally, it’s time to go racing once again! This winter has been different due to the surgery, I worked hard with five hours of physio per day with only one goal: arrive in the best conditions in the first race of the year. At the Qatar Test I felt much better than at the Malaysia Test and now I can say that I arrive almost 100%. Honda have done a lot to improve the bike and in the test we were feeling strong, especially for a circuit which usually isn’t the best for us, but we have to keep improving. Qatar is always a special round, not just because it is the first of the year but also because of the conditions. We will have to pay special attention to the temperature and consider everything before the race.”
3x MotoGP World Champion
“Lining up on the grid in Qatar is something I have been picturing during the entire off-season. It’s a new era for me and for the team, it is a special moment to be riding for the Repsol Honda Team. I am ready to give everything to achieve the best results I can on the Honda. Unfortunately I am not yet at my maximum with the bike, but I still believe we can achieve a good result here in Qatar. As with every year, MotoGP is looking very competitive and we certainly have the package we need to fight with the best after some more time. I know we can achieve greatness.”
APRILIA STARTS OFF WITH THREE RIDERS IN THE OPENING RACE OF QATAR
THIS IS A FIRST IN THE HISTORY OF THE NOALE-BASED BRAND, A SIGN OF RENEWED COMMITMENT IN THE PREMIER CLASS
By now, we are counting down the hours to the start of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship, one of the most anticipated of recent years.
The artificial lighting of the Losail International Circuit is ready to illuminate the opening race on Sunday, but the engines will already be rumbling from Friday for the first free practice sessions.
For Aprilia, it will be a true “first time” with three RS-GP machines on the grid for the first race. This is something that has never before happened in Aprilia history and it is a sign of the revamping that the Italian manufacturer carried out on their MotoGP project during the winter break.
Revamping that included changes in Aprilia Racing both in technical terms and with regards to the staff, with the clear goal of substantiating their ambitions in the premier class.
Dressed in an attractive new black livery, which is a clear reference to Aprilia tradition, the RS-GP tackled the pre-season tests with good feedback both from confirmed rider, Aleix Espargaró and new entry Andrea Iannone, assisted by the work Bradley Smith and the test team carried out. It is a three-point offence that will be complete in Qatar, thanks to the English rider’s first wild-card of the season.
“Preparation for the season was positive overall. The new bike is definitely a step forward in the right direction. I found a good feeling and I think there is still margin to work with. Especially in a few areas, we can definitely improve. The data collected in the simulations during the tests helped us to understand a lot in terms of the strong and not-so-strong points of the new project. Like every year, I can’t wait to get on the track and start getting down to business.”
“During the last tests on this track, we worked well, focusing on our priorities in anticipation of the race. At the end of the three days, we reached a good base to start from for this weekend. I am feeling positive, although keeping my feet on the ground. This is all new to us, so it won’t be a walk in the park, but I am confident that, if we are able to take 100% advantage of the available potential, we’ll be able to start on the right foot.”