Class of 2011 ready for MotoGP Season opener in Qatar
The wait for MotoGP fans around the world will finally end on Thursday when the first round of the 2011 season commences under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. With the pre-season done and dusted the 17 premier class riders will step back on track at the venue just three days after completing the final pre-season Test there, as the business of racing gets underway.
Defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo is the man whose crown the remainder of the MotoGP field will be targeting, and a range of suitors have put their names forward as title candidates for 2011 during pre-season.
The Repsol Honda trio of Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso have all been strong in testing in the lead up to the new campaign, with the RC212V having been the fastest machine across the two Tests at Sepang and the Qatar meeting just passed. Stoner has a fearsome record at Losail having won for three years consecutively from 2007-2009, including on his Ducati debut, a feat he will be eager to repeat on the Honda and having topped the timesheet in the final pre-season Test there on Monday. Pedrosa has been fast and, importantly, fit in pre-season and will aim for a first podium finish at Losail since 2008, whilst Dovizioso opened his campaign last year with a closely fought third place at the track.
Lorenzo himself has never finished off the rostrum when riding at Losail in the premier class, and took an impressive second place last season despite carrying a hand injury. The Factory Yamaha Racing rider’s new team-mate Ben Spies will be another man expecting to fight at the front in what promises to be a thrilling curtain raiser.
No doubt a great deal of attention will centre around Valentino Rossi, whose pre-season travails have added to the anticipation surrounding his race debut on the Ducati Desmosedici. The Italian was victorious in Qatar last season but in the lead up to 2011 a recovering shoulder and continuous efforts to get comfortable on the GP11 have made his adaptation to the machine a subject of much interest, with team-mate Nicky Hayden heading into his third season on board with the factory Ducati team.
San Carlo Honda Gresini pair Marco Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama have enjoyed promising pre-seasons and will hope to convert those into results at the first round as they both enter their second seasons in the premier class. Other riders embarking on their sophomore MotoGP campaigns will be Álvaro Bautista, the sole rider for Rizla Suzuki this year, and Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar Team).
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards has been in good form on the M1 whilst on the Desmosedici Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi commence new phases in their premier class tenures with the Pramac Racing team.
Toni Elías’ return to the MotoGP class will see the Moto2 World Champion tackling the 800cc RC212V of the LCR Honda team, and for MotoGP rookies Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) an exciting new chapter in their respective careers begins. The latter will go into the opening round nursing a finger injury on his left hand however, which he picked up in a crash on the final day of the Test on Monday.
The Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar takes place across four days, starting on Thursday March 17th. The first MotoGP practice session takes place on Thursday at 7.55pm local time.