The 2014 MotoGP season is set to start this weekend amidst a huge buzz of excitement at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit. Twenty-three riders will take part in MotoGP for the 2014 season, which will span eighteen races across thirteen countries. Adding to the anticipation for the 2014 season opener, Bridgestone’s new tyre classification system will make its debut in Qatar, with Green (Extra-soft), White (Soft), Black (Medium) and Red (Hard) coloured markings to be utilised throughout the season, making it easier for fans to see which tyre options the riders are using.
Three factors make the Losail circuit one of the most slippery on the MotoGP calendar; cool track temperatures, the potential for wind-blown sand on the track, and high humidity levels after the sun sets. The sand on track can also be quite abrasive, so Bridgestone’s tyre allocation must ensure high levels of grip and warm-up performance, together with good durability. The circuit features ten right-hand corners and just six left-handers, so asymmetric rear slicks with harder rubber on the right shoulders are provided here. Open-class riders at Qatar will be allocated the soft and medium compound asymmetric rear slicks, while Factory-class riders will be able to use the medium and hard asymmetric rears. Front slick tyre options for the season opener are the soft and hard compounds to ensure the riders can manage the changeable grip and abrasion levels that occur at this circuit.
“Obviously it was very disappointing for me to miss the two tests but the good news is that I’m getting better and the bone is mending. I’ve been exercising more, so I’ll have to see how I am in Qatar -I don’t expect to be 100%, but I will try my hardest. The important thing is to take some valuable points and then get up to 100% by round two in Austin. Arriving in Qatar as World Champion is something new to me -to defend the Title- and I know that from the first session the eyes of the World will be on us. Taking my first podium here last year was special and I have good memories!”
“It’s been a pretty positive pre-season and we’ve completed a lot of laps in both Sepang and Phillip Island. We’ve made a lot of progress but as always there is room to improve. Since we finished in Australia, I’ve been concentrating on my fitness and focusing on the start of the season, my days are pretty hectic with the various training regimes. The race weekend in Qatar is quite long -as it stretches over four days- and the grip level is always quite low the first practice. Now I’m looking forward to the start of the Championship!”
“Even though the last test went well and we made some important progress I honestly hoped we would be better prepared for the season and closer to the front by now. Anyway, in terms of the level of communication and the relationships in the team we are getting stronger and stronger. This will be my first race back on a Honda and my feeling with the chassis definitely helps, it’s fun to ride. We are ready to start a new adventure and I am excited, looking forward to getting started. We know it won’t be easy because there is a lot of strong competition but the simple fact that I am back in MotoGP for another season is a source of satisfaction and also motivation to do a good job. As a team we are hoping to get more and more competitive as the season progresses. Losail is not one of my favourite tracks but I like the feeling of racing under the lights.”
“Everything is new to me this year in terms of the bike and the team so we are still in a transitional stage but we were in Qatar just two weeks ago for a three day test and we gathered a lot of information that will be important this weekend. The aim is to put everything we learned in the test into practice. The first race of the season always has a special and unusual feel to it. I am looking forward to getting there and giving it my best. The level in this championship is very high and there are a lot of strong riders in the Open category this season. Our motivation couldn’t be higher and we are looking to make the strongest possible start to the season. I am looking forward to a new adventure with a new team and back with Honda.”
“I am really excited to start the 2014 campaign, especially now that I have a year of experience. I am keen to ride the new 2014 package from Yamaha, and I am impressed with what I have sampled from them so far. I know we have very competitive material this year, so I want to do the best job I can. We are going into a new adventure with Pol, and I am excited to be working alongside him. I think it will be a good year for us both. We want to be the leading satellite team at every race, the same as the last couple of years. Cal and Andrea had some really strong performances; I want to continue this for the team, and I think this is a realistic goal for the season.”
“With the beginning of the season almost here, another dream has come true for me. As long as I can remember, I wanted to ride in the highest category of world motorcycle racing, and this year I finally have the opportunity. I’m really excited and looking forward to the first race, but I know there is still a lot to learn, and I need to gain more experience on the bike. But I will give it my all during every race, and try to improve step by step, so we will see where we can end up. If we battle with the other satellite riders we have done a good job. I’m truly grateful for the faith Yamaha has in me and I am convinced that together with my Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team we will have a successful year in 2014.”
“I am very satisfied with how the winter tests went, because we managed to improve more than we expected. Now the GP14 is easier to handle and by making a few changes to the bike, we managed to set some interesting times. The Losail circuit is very strange, because of the wind that often blows sand onto the track, and in addition it’s a night race. The track is long and fast and it’ll be interesting to see how well we go there with the new bike. I’m sure I can be quick over one lap, especially because last year I managed to go well in qualifying. Maybe the race will be a bit more difficult than practice, but I think we can be quite competitive at Losail. For sure we have reduced the gap to the others we had last year.”
“I’m starting my fourth season in MotoGP and my first as a Ducati factory rider, so I’m really looking forward to getting on the bike in a few days’ time and begin this new chapter. I think Qatar is going to be quite good for us: the team have been working fantastically hard, and I think we’ve progressed a lot since I first got on the bike in November. I think we will be at a little disadvantage because we never tested there, but we will still be at 100%. I’ve been very busy these past three months and in January I got married to Lucy, but once we start the season we can settle down into a rhythm. I can’t wait to start the season.”