Rossi: As always, the first race of the season will be particularly telling …

Old huntin’ dogs know to ignore the pups. Marco Guidetti

Movistar Yamaha Prepare for 2017 Season Kick-Off in Qatar


The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team has returned to the Losail International Circuit in Qatar to kick off the MotoGP World Championship this weekend. Riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales can hardly wait to fire up their YZR-M1s’ engines under the floodlights for the first free practice session of the Grand Prix of Qatar on Thursday and finalise their bike set-up at the 5.4 km track for the first race of the season.

After a busy winter, filled with extensive testing, Rossi is ready to get back into his leathers to challenge at the front of the field. He looks forward to start comparing some solutions found during the final pre-season test a little less than two weeks ago and to return to the premier class centre stage, fighting for the victory.

Last year he bravely fought his way to fourth place in Doha, missing the podium by a hair. This year the nine-time MotoGP World Champion is determined to pop the champagne at the end of the first round. He previously secured wins in the premier class in Qatar in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2015. He also claimed second place in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2014.

Teammate Viñales is set to make his official race debut for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team this weekend and has his eyes firmly set on the top step of the rostrum. During the off-season, he has consistently been one of the top contenders and is keen on keeping the trend going at the Qatar GP.

The Spaniard showed he felt comfortable at the test a fortnight ago, when he sealed his fourth fastest lap of the four official pre-season IRTA tests, but the youngster remains level-headed about his Yamaha race debut. This weekend he aims to improve on his best MotoGP placement at the Losail Circuit, a sixth place in 2005. However, Viñales is certainly not unfamiliar with the Qatar podium, having clinched the Moto3 victory in 2012 and a second place in the same class one year later.

To make the highly anticipated first round of the season even more exciting, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team is also set to reveal new partners that are added to their YZR-M1s’ colour schemes. For the 2017 season, the Yamaha Factory Racing team has strengthened its relationship with Official Sponsors PT. Yamaha Indonesia Motor Mfg. (YIMM), Yamaha Motor Vietnam Co., Ltd. (YMVN) and Yamaha Motor Philippines Inc. (YMPH). Throughout the 18-rounds their respective national flags and slogans will alternately grace the front of Rossi’s and Viñales’ MotoGP machines, starting with the Indonesian and Vietnamese flags in Qatar.

Furthermore, the flags will be accompanied by the corresponding Yamaha Distributor slogans. This weekend the bikes will feature YIMM‘s “Semakin Di Depan” (“One Step Ahead”) and YMVN’s “Go Beyond”, to cheer on the Movistar Yamaha team throughout the race weekend.

The Losail International Circuit is best known for being the only track on the MotoGP calendar to host a night-time Grand Prix. The first time the event was held under the floodlights was in 2008, after the MotoGP circus had visited the asphalt strip in the outskirts of Doha four times prior for daytime races. Losail offers a mix of medium and high-speed corners, of which six are left and ten are right turns, but its key feature remains the iconic, over a kilometre long, main straight that allows the riders to fully open the throttle as they speed towards the finish line.

The Qatar GP time schedule for 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 testing, this first race is something we all have been living towards. We are finally going to start the 2017 championship, which promises to become quite a spectacle thanks to the strong field of riders and the diversity in manufacturers that compete at the top. After our last test at the Losail International Circuit a fortnight ago we got even more excited to begin the season. Maverick and Vale are incredibly motivated and in great physical shape, so they and their team crews are itching to jump into action. As always, the first race of the season will be particularly telling. It will be vital to make a good start to the championship and it will be very interesting to see where we stand in a head-to-head fight with our competitors. We already have some ideas of what we would like to work on over the first few days of the Qatar GP to prepare for the race. We are confident we will be able to give the Yamaha fans a good opening show!”

Valentino Rossi

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP

“I’m very happy that the season finally starts. It’s been a busy winter, challenging, and now I really need to race. Our bike has improved a lot during the winter and, although we are not yet OK, we will work hard during the next few days in Qatar to be ready for the start of the first race of the season. We will see what the weather conditions will be like and then we will try to find the best set-up possible. I’m confident that together with the team we will be ready for Sunday.”

Maverick Viñales

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP

“I’m really happy to start the first Grand Prix, especially after the tests during the winter were so positive for us. We are really motivated to start this new era. After the amazing pre-season, we can‘t wait to finally start racing and work hard over the next 18 rounds. I’m very curious to see how the Yamaha will respond at the track during a race and to see if we are going to be as strong during the race as during the test. I’m so excited to start!”

Zarco and Folger fired up and ready to fight at 2017 season opener in Qatar

The Monster Yamaha Tech3 duo confidently await the highly anticipated first race of their rookie campaigns with full motivation as they aim to kick-start their MotoGP careers with two solid results under the floodlights. After deeply impressing during the three pre-season tests, the promising young riders will seek to get up to speed at the iconic Losail International Circuit and then battle for the top rookie honours aboard their Yamaha YZR-M1 bikes. The event will begin with Free Practice One at 19:55 (local time) on Thursday the 23rd of March with the eagerly awaited race taking place at 21:00 on Sunday.

Johann Zarco

Monster Energy Yamaha Tech3 Team

“My first MotoGP race will come very soon and I’m excited for Qatar after the positive test that we did there with the team not long ago. At that time, we gathered a lot of important information and made some solid references, which I will use to do my best this weekend. For sure, there are more things to learn, but the work that we have done up until now has been productive and I hope to do a good job by the time the chequered flag drops on Sunday. When we get going on Thursday evening I hope that we will have clear conditions under the floodlights so that we can ride uninterrupted and we can push. Lets see what happens but I will be focused and I will try to be the best that I can be plus, I think that achieving a good result is within my grasp.”

Jonas Folger

Monster Energy Yamaha Tech3 Team

“After such a long wait, it’s time for action and we can finally start the all important 2017 campaign. We had a really positive winter testing period and at every event the team and I undertook a lot of important work and made great progress. With regards to the last test in Qatar, I thoroughly enjoyed it because my pace was good and we tried all of things that we set out to. In addition, we confirmed some of the key settings on the bike, so therefore, I am confident about the forthcoming weekend and we have a clear direction as well as a solid base for the opening round. The Tech3 team and I are all very excited and motivated for my rookie season and we can’t wait to get going at the Losail International Circuit.”

Hervé Poncharal

Monster Energy Yamaha Tech3 Team Manager

“Finally the winter test season is over and we can look back and say that it was intense but very positive for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Clearly, Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger exceeded expectations as not only did they have to learn the bike as rookies, but they spent a lot of time inside the top ten, sometimes even higher than this, and both of them were always within a second from the fastest lap. Everyone in our team is really happy about how the tests went and how competitive the guys were. Yamaha did a great job with supplying top-level machinery for us and if you are rookie who is entering the MotoGP class, riding the YZR- M1 gives you a big advantage. With regards to the event, we need to be careful because the racing conditions are tricky in Qatar, it is often cold and there can be some humidity on the ground. Therefore, it could be challenging but we are positive and it’s important to try and leave the track with a decent result, as it will significantly boost the confidence for the rest of the season. For the first time, the guys will go face to face with the other riders on Sunday and they have to learn how to fight them. So there is a bit of pressure, especially after the good results at the tests, yet everyone at Tech3 is motivated. We must stay modest and work hard to prove to our partners that they were right to trust and invest in us. Together, Johann and Jonas are part of the exciting 2017 grid and let’s hope that they put big smiles on our faces when the chequered flag comes down in Qatar..”

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