The 2012 MotoGP World Championship starts on Thursday at Losail International Circuit, with the first free-practice session scheduled for 6 p.m. (40 minutes) for the Moto3 class, 6:55 (45 minutes) for Moto2 and 7:55 (45 minutes) for MotoGP. It will be a long weekend, with riders taking to the track a day early and the race being held at night, as has been the custom at this venue, but those aren’t the only unique characteristics of the season-opening Grand Prix. This year is also marked by MotoGP’s return to the 1,000cc maximum-displacement limit and the debut of the CRT bikes.
During the three winter tests, Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden started their work on the Ducati GP12, which debuted two months ago. While their focus during the Qatar practice sessions will be on preparing for the race, the two riders and their respective teams will also continue to work on finding their harmony with the new bike.
“We worked hard over the winter, and although we went the wrong direction at one point, we once again managed to find the good feeling with the GP12 that we’d had in the first test. With those settings, which we’ll start with in Qatar, I was able to get good feedback from the bike. At Losail it will be very important to work well during the sessions leading up to qualifying so that we can increase our confidence step by step as we approach Saturday, always trying to maximize our potential. I’m a realist, and I know well that our times are still a long way off and that there are still some things to fix. We won’t be able to address some of them right away, but it’s also true that both we at the track and the guys back home now have a direction to work in, and we must try to do as well as we can. We won’t completely redo the bike during the season, but we’ll try to progress little by little.”
“This is my tenth season in MotoGP, and I’m looking forward to it. I have a really solid team and I think we have a good bike this year. With all the injuries from Valencia and my training incident, preparation obviously hasn’t gone exactly how you’d like it to, but Jerez was a good test for me to do a lot of laps at very close to 100 per cent. Qatar is pretty unique because we’re racing at night, but the truth is, after you get rolling, you don’t notice it by about the third of fourth corner. It really doesn’t change too much with things like lines and bike setup, but as it gets later, you have to be careful with the condensation on the track, especially in Turn 2. I’d like to be going into the first race closer to the front, but hopefully we can do some steps. I’ve basically only ridden around by myself on this bike, so it will be nice to get in the race and really see how it stacks up against the others.”
Vittoriano Guareschi – Team Manager
“It was an off-season marked by hard work, with a lot of effort expended by Ducati and all the guys in the racing department. Valentino and Nicky also had to work hard on the track, and despite some difficult moments during the winter, which I think is normal when you work on this kind of a schedule, we come to Qatar with a decent base. It’s a starting point, or rather one of the steps along the path that we’re following. We know that other steps await and we’ve planned for them, and as always, the races will give us more accurate answers than the tests. Although our priority will be to work toward putting Vale and Nicky in the best conditions possible for Sunday, I’m sure that we’ll also gather important information to help us continue improving our bike.”
LOSAIL INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT RECORDS
Lap Record: Casey Stoner (Ducati — 2008), 1:55.153, 168.193 Km/h (104.510 mph)
Best Pole: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha — 2008), 1:53.927, 170.003 Km/h (105.635 mph)
Track Length: 5.380 km (3.343 mi)
2012 MotoGP Race: 22 laps (118.360 km, 73.546 mi)
2012 MotoGP Race Time: 10:00 p.m. local time
2011 Podium: 1st Casey Stoner, 2nd Jorge Lorenzo, 3rd Dani Pedrosa
2011 Pole: Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:54.137 — 169.7 Km/h (105.447 mph)
2011 Fastest Lap: (13th lap) Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:55.366 — 167.9 Km/h (104.3 mph)