Team Suzuki Press Office – March 14
Battle is about to commence at Losail circuit in Qatar for the opening round of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship. Team SUZUKI ECSTAR riders Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins arrived in Doha with a lot of enthusiasm following a productive winter season, where they found effective improvements in the technical package. Suzuki’s engineers worked hard to deliver a better performing GSX-RR; improved in terms of engine, chassis and electronics.
Losail International Circuit is a pearl in the desert, with thousands of floodlights illuminating the iconic track. As has been the case for the past 10 years, the race will take place in the evening. But this year it will be 2 hours earlier than usual, with the red lights going off at 17h00 GMT+3. Another novelty this year is that the rules now state that the race will be held under any weather conditions – even in case of rain. In fact, in order to be ready for this eventuality, the track was artificially flooded at the test two weeks ago, and all the MotoGP riders did a few test laps. These new rules were devised to avoid the situation which happened last year when both the FP4 and Qualifying sessions were cancelled due to rain.
Last year’s debut on the GSX-RR was a positive one for Andrea Iannone, who put together a strong run of practice sessions, being consistently fast and ending the combined classification after FP3 in 2nd place, which actually gave him 2nd place on the grid after the cancellation of Qualifying. But he then crashed out of the race.
The 2017 GP of Qatar marked the debut race in the top class for Spain’s Alex Rins, who was the youngest rider on the grid at the time – a record he continues to hold this year. His skills have hugely improved since last season and he shown very effective riding and strong lap times during the 2018 pre-season.
Davide Brivio – Team Manager
“Finally we go into the first race after a lot of work and testing we’ve done over the winter. Since last year, after the Valencia test, we did several tests and we could complete a big amount of work, selecting different parts. We are all curious now to see the results of our work in a real race. Tests are always hard to interpret, for sure our competitors did great steps forward but at the same time we feel we did improve as well. Both Alex and Andrea performed well here in Losail, Alex grew a lot during the winter and has been very consistent, also Andrea took the benefits of having more experience with the GSX-RR and is now more aware of the potential of the project. The first race will be interesting to understand where we are and see what else we need to do next. We are about to start a long Championship with 19 races, and I hope we’ll enjoy it.”
“I’m happy that we are finally starting the season, the tests have been very long and I’m eager to get on the bike in a racing mode. The winter has been positive for me, I could work intensively on my physical condition but also the bike has had some important improvements. In the last test here in Qatar the feeling was positive, we still have some things we can improve and we will take time during the early sessions this weekend to do that. But the base is good and this is a very important thing.”
“Finally we had a normal preseason. I could work on my physical condition, and I was feeling very good in every test. In Japan they did an awesome job and the bike is working pretty well. We’ve been in good shape, working day by day and focused on trying to get a good base set up to use during the season. I’m pretty confident and I feel ready for the first race in Qatar.”
The Losail International Circuit lies on the outskirts of Doha, the capital city of Qatar. The track itself is a flowing layout of 5.4 kilometres, surrounded by artificial grass designed to prevent sand from the neighbouring desert from blowing onto the circuit. The main straight is over a kilometre in length and there is a good mix of medium and high-speed corners, including a couple of quick left-handers, which has proved particularly popular with the riders.
In 2008, Qatar celebrated the first night time Grand Prix in history, following the construction of permanent outdoor lighting. The switch to night time racing was a success and has continued to be so, with the Qatar event now established as one of the most spectacular on the MotoGP calendar.
Qualifying: 2nd – 1’54.848 (+0.532)
Qualifying: 18th – 1’56.179 (+1.863)
Race: 9th – +14.788
Story Issued by: Team SUZUKI ECSTAR