The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team is traveling to Qatar for the first MotoGP Grand Prix of 2019, held this weekend under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit. Riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales return to the 5.4 km track – where they completed the final preseason test two weeks earlier – feeling ready to bring the heat to another highly anticipated MotoGP season.
Rossi is looking forward to riding at Losail, which is historically a good circuit for him. The Italian is a known fan-favourite and he plans on making the spectators cheer this weekend. At the conclusion of the Qatar Test he was feeling very comfortable aboard his YZR-M1. He is confident his – and his crews’ – hard work this winter will pay off, as he aims to further improve his already great results in Qatar of four wins (in 2005, 2006, 2010, and 2015), four second places (in 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2014), and two third places (in 2017 and 2018).
Viñales doesn’t need any time to adapt to the saddle after months of testing, he is already 100% into the racing mindset. Last year he fought his way to sixth place in Doha. This time he returns with full motivation and is looking forward to battling as one of the top contenders and return to the Losail podium. He previously secured a win in the premier class in Qatar in 2017 (his very first race with Yamaha). He also scored a first and second place there in the Moto3 class, in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Built on the outskirts of Doha, the Losail International Circuit was added to the MotoGP calendar in 2004 and became the first and only circuit in MotoGP to host a night-time Grand Prix four years later. The track’s flowing midsection suits the Yamaha, thanks to its mix of medium and high-speed corners (six left and ten right turns). It forms a strong contrast to the iconic, over a kilometre long, main straight that ends in a steep first corner, where fans can expect to see many classic Qatar overtakes.
As the VisitQatar Grand Prix is the only night race of the year, the schedule of the upcoming race weekend differs slightly from the usual. The MotoGP FP1 session will take place on Friday evening from 15:40 – 16:25, local track time (GMT+3) followed by FP2 from 20:00 – 20:45. On Saturday, FP3 and FP4 will be held from 15:15 – 16:00 and 19:20 – 19:50, before the qualifying sessions from 20:00 – 20:40. On Sunday, the warm-up is held from 15:40 – 16:00 and the race starts at 20:00.
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“After months of testing, we’re finally about to commence the 2019 season. The first race is always very interesting, because it gives us a more detailed impression of where we stand. The Sepang and Qatar tests have been very positive for us, so we’re curious and excited to start racing. Vale and Maverick are in great physical shape. Their feedback has been very helpful over these last few months and we’re happy both riders feel comfortable with the package we’ve prepared for them. Our findings have showed us that we’re on the right track, but now it’s time to really put it to the test and see where we can make further steps, as there is always room for improvement. We look forward to a thrilling race and will give our all to make a strong start to the season.”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
“Finally, the first GP of the season is about to start! The preseason tests were very important. Both in Sepang and in Qatar we’ve taken steps forward and we can say that we’ve done positive tests. We still have to improve a lot, but the road we’re on is the right one. This Friday we’ll begin the first 2019 race weekend and we’ll be able to understand many things better. We’ll have time to improve the bike during the free practice sessions and we’ll do everything to get ready for the race. I feel good, I have trained well this winter, and I’m ready to start this new season with my team and all the Yamaha staff. We will do our best!”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
“I‘m so excited to come to Qatar and start the new season. I can‘t wait! The conclusion of the winter tests was very positive. I felt I was going very fast on the three days of testing here in Qatar, so I come to the first race with a positive mindset. We have a good rhythm. The first round in Losail is going to be very important to see if all the work that was done during the winter has served us well. Our bike has many strong points at this moment. I felt very good riding the bike during all the winter, I pushed my M1 to the limit. We have taken a step forward compared to last season, I think I’m riding my M1 in a very good way again. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I feel strong enough to fight for the podium at this circuit this weekend. Above all, I feel very excited to start a new season with Yamaha. We just need to keep working and focus on improving the bike as much as possible to fight for the podium and, of course, for the victory. I can‘t forget that I won my first GP with Yamaha here, so I have very special memories of this circuit and that gives me extra motivation.”