GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM GET BACK TO WORK AT QATAR The champagne may have only just stopped flowing at Valentino Rossi's title celebrations but the Gauloises Yamaha Team arrive in Qatar this week for the last of three consecutive races in Asia ...
GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM GET BACK TO WORK AT QATAR
The champagne may have only just stopped flowing at Valentino Rossi's title celebrations but the Gauloises Yamaha Team arrive in Qatar this week for the last of three consecutive races in Asia with their attention firmly fixed on continuing their dominance of the MotoGP World Championship. The fourteenth round of the season gets underway at the Losail International Circuit on Thursday with Rossi riding without the pressure of competing for the title and focusing only on taking the victory he feels he was denied at this track last year, when he was forced to start the race from the back of the grid.
After clinching a decisive second place at Sepang, the 2005 MotoGP World Champion returned to his native Italy on Sunday night to celebrate his fifth consecutive premier-class crown with close friends and family before returning to the Middle East for MotoGP's second visit to Qatar. The trip home presented an ideal opportunity for Rossi to reflect on a record-breaking year, which has seen him surpass the legendary Mike Hailwood as the third most successful Grand Prix racer of all time behind Giacomo Agostini and Angel Nieto, before turning his attentions to the final four races of the season.
The Grand Prix of Qatar represents unfinished business for Rossi, who slid out of the inaugural race last season after slicing through the pack and making up nineteen positions over the opening four laps. Rossi's Gauloises Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards has travelled straight from Malaysia to Qatar with completely contrasting memories to Rossi of last year's event.
The American clocked the fastest lap of the race no fewer than six times on the way to setting a new circuit record and equalling his best ever MotoGP finish of second place, a result he would be delighted to repeat as he aims to end a run of disappointing results that stretches back to his fourth place finish at Donington Park. After two consecutive victories for Loris Capirossi (Ducati), Edwards has dropped to fourth in the championship, twenty points behind second-placed Max Biaggi (Honda) in what looks certain to be a nail-biting battle for the runner-up spot.
VALENTINO ROSSI: A SCORE TO SETTLE
Valentino Rossi heads from Italy to Qatar this week with the sweet taste of champagne replaced by the hunger for revenge. After leaving the celebrations of his seventh Grand Prix title behind him the World Champion will certainly not be in party mood when he takes to the Losail International Circuit for first free practice on Thursday morning, aiming to become the first Yamaha rider ever to take ten victories in a single season.
"To be honest I don't really like the circuit," admits Rossi. "Last year it was like a motocross track, there was so much sand out there! I don't know whether it will be better this year but I hope so. I've also got really bad memories of last season. You could say I have a score to settle with the circuit. We have had some problems with the bike and the tyres over the past couple of rounds but hopefully they will be solved easily at this circuit and allow us to fight for the victory again.
"Racing with Yamaha gives me a great motivation to win; these last two championships have been two of the best. We made a little party in Malaysia with my mother and some of my best friends from Italy and it was fun to go back home with them to rest, even though it was only a short visit. I have been able to relax a little and now I am ready for the last four races."
COLIN EDWARDS: HAPPY HUNTING GROUND
The Grand Prix of Qatar can't come quickly enough for Colin Edwards, who is desperate to get his YZR-M1 machine to a circuit where he has a proven track record after struggling with set-up difficulties over the last few rounds. Edwards came closer to MotoGP victory at the Losail International Circuit last season than he has at any other venue on the calendar and the American is hoping to go one better this time around.
"I liked the circuit in Qatar right from the beginning last season," says Edwards. "I had one of my best races of the year and I've been looking forward to this weekend ever since my bad run started at Sachsenring. It has a real mixture of corners and even though the surface is a little dirty, if you can get a good grid position and get away at the front then you have a chance. Things haven't gone our way recently but I still think I can win a race before the end of the season and there is no reason why it can't be here.
"We had a lot of unexpected problems at Sepang but we had a long meeting after the race on Sunday and hopefully things can work out in Qatar. It will be very hot again, as it was in Malaysia, but to be honest I'm not bothered by the heat. It makes life hard for everybody but I feel fit and strong and I'm looking forward to it."
DAVIDE BRIVIO: IT'S NOT OVER YET
Gauloises Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio is still smiling after seeing Valentino Rossi bring the MotoGP World Championship home to Yamaha for the second successive season but insists there is still plenty of hard work to be done before the year is out. The Italian admits feeling a sense of relief after his compatriot clinched the title in Malaysia but says the team have other targets to meet before the season is out.
"After being under pressure for a few rounds it was a fantastic feeling to finally win the title in Malaysia," says Brivio. "We had a couple of difficult weekends at Motegi and Sepang but in the end the advantage we built up over the first eleven races of the season was decisive. The engineers, team crew, management... everybody has given 110% to support Valentino in the best possible way.
"I want to thank all those people, our technical partners and anybody else who has been involved in this project and made it possible. These past two years will go down in the rich history of this sport; it is a fantastic achievement and an honour for us all to be a part of the legend.
"Qatar was a strange race last year but we are going there much more relaxed this time. Everybody knows that the season is a long way from over. We have met our first objective, which was the riders' championship, but now we want to follow that up with the constructors' and teams' titles, as well as giving Colin Edwards our full support as he fights for second place. It is important that we continue to do our jobs properly and continue to give 100% effort until the end of the season."
Based on the outskirts of the capital city of Doha, the Losail International Circuit hosted the MotoGP World Championship for the first time in 2004 after an incredible round-the-clock project that took a little over a year to complete, with an investment of around $58 million USD and 1,000 full-time workers. With the only current data available coming from that inaugural Grand Prix last October, there are still plenty of questions for the Gauloises Yamaha Team engineers, mechanics and technicians to answer when practice gets underway this weekend.
The 5.4 kilometre track features sixteen corners, ten to the right and six to the left, with a series of fast sweeping sections based on existing Grand Prix circuits around the world, which proved immensely popular with the riders last season. One factor that didn't bode well with either the riders or the teams, however, was the excessive amount of surface dirt and sand, which blows onto the track from the neighbouring desert.
With a long straight measuring 1,068m and a good mix of corners, as well as extremely high track temperatures in excess of 50ºC, the base setting of the bike will be similar to that used at Sepang, with the focus on finding a good balance between the brakes and suspension in order to give stability under hard braking but sufficient feel to find the required level grip.