|The 2017 MotoGP Season is kicking off at the Losail International Circuit, this weekend. Defending Champion Marc Marquez and the rest of contenders had tested at Losail in the final pre-season test two weeks earlier, prior to the season opener.|
Following a promising preseason during which Marquez and team mate Dani Pedrosa worked on development of the RC213V in Malaysia, Australia, Jerez and finally in Qatar itself two weeks ago, the Repsol Honda riders look forward to the first race of the year and are prepared to do their utmost to achieve the best possible results on Sunday.
Top challengers Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales are eager 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 finalize 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, the Doctor bravely fought his way to fourth place in Doha, missing the podium by a hair. This year the nine-time MotoGP 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 Yamaha MotoGP Team 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. He aims to improve on his best MotoGP placement at the Losail track, 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.
After completing three winter testing sessions in Malaysia and Australia in February and two weeks ago in Qatar, the Ducati Team is now gearing up for the opening round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship, scheduled for Sunday evening at Losail.
This year’s Ducati Team line-up is made up of former MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Dovizioso. Both riders will be tackling the sixty-ninth edition of the championship on the 2017-spec Ducati Desmosedici GP.
During the pre-season test sessions, Dovizioso and Lorenzo were able to improve their feeling with the new bike, and they finished the final Losail test in second and fourth place respectively.
The other factory squad in contention is the Suzuki Ecstar team, featuring two rising stars: Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins. The development of the GSX-RR has seen Suzuki engineers putting-in a lot of effort during the winter time, with many cutting-edge advances introduced to the factory machines. Although nothing has been radically changed, many aspects of the bike have been improved, resulting in great feedback from the riders during the pre-season tests.
Iannone and Rins are eager to kick-off the season and they are looking forward to measuring themselves against their competitors in a real race. Iannone spent the winter testing to help the engineers improve the machine. While getting his racing-style adapted to the GSX-RR characteristics, he could also give important feedback for improvements. Rins will be a debutant in the Main Class and his priority will be to get a feel for the new category and get as much experience as possible.
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, followed by FP2 on the Friday; FP4 on the Saturday before the qualifying sessions, and the warm-up and race on Sunday.