Drawn over 5.4km amid the desert is the Losail racetrack in Qatar which will host the first round of the 2016 MotoGP season. There are a few changes for this year including the use of Michelin tires (or tyres) for the first time in seven years and the lack of rider representation from North America (hence tyres). This first round of action is also the only race to held at night with a starting time of 9:00pm – even later than your typical hockey game. However unlike a hockey game finding this race on your television is going to be a challenge – as we were told by an irate fan at one of this season’s motorcycle shows. There might not be many but the fans of MotoGP in Canada are an ardent bunch. Apparently there may be a way to stream the racing action though the MotoGP site if you are truly needing something other than a weekend of binge watching House of Cards on Netflix.
Many of the usual MotoGP suspects are accounted for at this first round and like hockey players each have their pre-game pep talk which makes for a change for us Canadians from the usual “keeping the puck out of the net” or “putting pucks in the net” but the idea of “giving 110%” is definitely being bandied around. As these following four riders have shared the top four spots for the past three seasons, let’s hear from them based on their overall finish last year:
“The pre-season is over and the real action will kick off under the floodlights of Losail. All of us are eager to start the true competition. The winter was so long and testing has not the same feeling as racing. I feel very strong and arrive very confident to this first match of the season. I‘m happy I adapted quite well to the Michelin tyres and we proved it during two of three tests. However we need to keep our feet on the ground because until Sunday the points are not distributed so we have to work hard from Thursday on to get a good position and then demonstrate our strong pace in the race. I would like to start this 2016 season in the best way possible, especially compared to the beginning of 2015. Let‘s go into this race fighting and enjoy it!”
“Finally we start talking about racing! I‘m very glad that a new season begins. Our tests were definitely positive, but the race is another thing. During testing we’ve learned a lot about the new tyres and electronics, but there are many other things to discover and this first race will be really important to understand the real potential of the bikes and the riders. Last season for me began very well. I don‘t know if I will be able to repeat that result but I will try to get on the podium for sure. It will be important to start to work well from the first sessions and get ready and have clear ideas going into the race. I feel ready and motivated and so does the team, so let’s go!”
“The season is finally about to start, and I’m looking forward to it. When we came here two weeks ago we did a big step forward with the setup at the very end of the test, and I really felt at ease with the bike, especially in my last run that was quite late in the evening, with the dew already starting to form. That’s positive in view of the race, even if we’re not yet where we’d like to be and still have a margin for improvement with the setup. The Losail layout may not be the most favourable of the season for our bike, but in the past we’ve scored a podium and a win here with the RC213V, so we’ll fight to get the best result on Sunday. This year there are a few variables that aren’t yet completely predictable, such as tyre wear at race distance, for example, and the bike’s behaviour with the new electronics. Still, Honda never cease to work hard, as is the case for me and the whole team, so I’m positive and look forward to the action starting!”.
“I’m going to Qatar with a positive attitude, even if the test we did there wasn’t completely satisfactory. We’ve made some progress with the electronics, but we have to improve further with the chassis setup and make the tyres work better. I expect things to go a little better for us this week compared to the test. We’re probably not yet where we’d like to be, but it’s important to remain positive, especially because with the many changes that have been introduced this year, I expect a greater balance among the performances of the riders compared to the past, at least in the beginning. Losail isn’t among my favourite tracks, but I’ve got five podium finishes here so we must stay focused, work to improve our bike setup and be ready to get the most from what we have and from the situation”.