Rossi and Hayden ready to go racing in Losail for season opener
The Ducati Team of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden are set for the opening round of the inaugural 2011 MotoGP World Championship, which begins with first practice on Thursday. After much anticipation, Rossi will begin his Ducati career under the spotlights in Qatar at the Losail International Circuit.
For the team, tomorrow is doubly important because March 17 is when Italy will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification. Since January, the fairings of Valentino Rossi's and Nicky Hayden's Ducati Desmosedici GP11s have worn the official logo created for this event, three waving Italian flags representing the three Jubilees of 1911, 1961, 2011, a link between generations.
VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Team
“For the first practice session in Qatar, we’ll start with the settings that we found on the last day of the test, because our final lap time notwithstanding, they weren’t bad. In fact, I think I could have gone faster if the strength hadn’t left my shoulder almost without warning before I had even tried the soft tyres. The race weekend has sessions of 45 minutes and one hour, so it should be easier from that point of view. Naturally, my shoulder isn’t the only issue: if we want to have a good race, we know that in addition to me being physically ready, we’ll have to find some solutions that will help us be faster and improve our pace. In any event, the debut with Ducati brings a lot of motivation, and Sunday will definitely be very emotional. A greeting to all the Italians who will be celebrating the 150th year of Italy’s unification tomorrow, we know there are a lot of you supporting us, and although we probably won’t yet be at our best by Sunday, we’ll give it our best effort. I’m also thinking of everyone in Japan who is living through this very difficult moment. What happened is truly frightening, but Japan’s people are very strong and capable of reacting. We’re all behind you.”
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Team
“Well, it’s time to go racing now! We obviously wouldn’t have minded a bit more testing, but I’m looking forward to starting another season. We’ll have four days here for the race weekend, so there’s still time to check some more options. During the test, there were parts of the track where I was pretty fast, and a couple of long, fast corners where I was losing a pretty good chunk of time. Our focus will be to try and get the bike to steer a bit better through those spots. Hopefully as the track gets cleaned up more, it will help us a bit more than some of the others. Everyone is really tight on times and I think that’s pretty cool. I like how competitive it is and we know it’s going to be like that all season. Finally, I'd like to let everyone in Japan know the world is with them in this difficult time. I've worked with many Japanese companies over the years, so I have a lot of friends and fans there. Stay strong; we're thinking of you”.
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager
“Tomorrow, practice starts for the Grand Prix, and we’ll try to apply everything we’ve learned during winter testing. With Valentino, we weren’t able to completely use all of the days at our disposal, and because of that, we still haven’t found all the solutions for an optimal setup for him. He still won’t be at 100% physically for a couple more months, but we know that when the starting light goes off, he’ll give everything he has and more! In the meantime, we’ll continue working without pausing to improve the bike, because the others have made a lot of progress and the level is very high. Nicky is progressing and compared to Malaysia, he has found some promising solutions here in Qatar that we can work on for the race. Sunday will be very important and emotional for us and for all motorcycle racing enthusiasts—Italian and otherwise—and that gives us even more motivation and desire to do well.”