The 2009 MotoGP World Championship will get underway under the spectacular floodlights of the Losail International Circuit next weekend, with the San Carlo Honda Gresini Team determined to put on a good show. With a reduced preseason testing ...
The 2009 MotoGP World Championship will get underway under the spectacular floodlights of the Losail International Circuit next weekend, with the San Carlo Honda Gresini Team determined to put on a good show. With a reduced preseason testing schedule limiting their preparations, Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis still have some last-minute work to do to set up their machines but both riders are excited and optimistic about returning to race action following a five-month hiatus.
For Elias the Grand Prix of Qatar signals a welcome race return to the team he competed with for two seasons in 2006 and 2007, during which time he scored three podiums and clinched his first MotoGP win. The Spaniard will be riding a factory-spec Honda RC212V machine, which Fausto Gresini's team are proud to have been entrusted with by the Japanese manufacturer. For the second season in succession De Angelis will also be on board an RC212V as he looks to build on an encouraging rookie year.
The 2009 season sees a host of changes to the MotoGP regulations, most significantly with Bridgestone becoming the single tyre supplier for the whole series. Twenty slick tyres will be provided for each rider on a race weekend with a choice of just two compounds. Each rider will have four 'A' and four 'B' fronts in addition to six 'A' and six 'B' rears, as well as four wet tyres. Allocation of the tyres to each of the MotoGP riders is down to Technical Director Mike Webb and his staff, who will hand out the rubber on a random basis. Another major change for the new season is a reduction in practice time, with the removal of Friday morning free practice making for just three sessions of 45 minutes each, plus the usual 20-minute warm-up before Sunday's race.
TONI ELIAS: "We have struggled a little more than we expected in testing but we know where the problems lie and it is good to be going back to a circuit where we already have lots of data. I'm happy to be going racing with this team again, with Honda and on this fantastic bike. Ideally I'd like to be starting the season in better shape but the truth is we have work to do in a short space of time when we get out to Qatar and we'll be pushing hard in every aspect to approach the race in the best possible way. Racing at night makes it a bit tricky but Losail is one of my favourite circuits and I've started on the front row there twice before - both times with this team. I remember in particular three years ago we were three seconds off the pace on the first day and still managed to qualify on the front row. That just shows how quickly things can change in racing so we'll go there with optimism, fight hard and see what happens."
ALEX DE ANGELIS: "I love Qatar as a circuit, it is one of my favourites, but I just hope it is a little warmer than when we were there for the test so that we can get more heat into the tyre because this is the area we're struggling with the most. We haven't had much time to work on the bike this winter and it was a real shame that it started to rain after the 'qualifying' session at Jerez because we were planning to do a race simulation, which I haven't managed to do yet this preseason. It means we go out there with a few question marks, particularly regarding tyre wear over race distance, but even so I am confident and excited to be going racing again."
FAUSTO GRESINI: "We are going to Qatar armed with a lot of data from testing and with the determination to work hard and sort out the few doubts than we still have. We know it is a good machine but we're struggling to get 100% performance out of the chassis and making progress with this is our target for Qatar. I know my team well enough to have confidence that they will do it and of course we are all excited to be going racing again. This spirit of competition is why we are all here." Fri, 10 April 2009