This weekend Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales get to fire up their YZR-M1’s engines again, signalling the start of the 2018 MotoGP season at the Grand Prix of Qatar.
It was only about a week and a half ago that the riders were at the Losail International Circuit to complete the final pre-season test. Rossi and Viñales finished in second and fifth place respectively in the combined Day 1-2-3 results and find themselves in good shape for this season’s title challenge.
Nine-time World Champion Rossi is known for his love of close racing and he can’t wait to get the show started in Qatar. He holds an impressive record at the Losail circuit of four wins (2005, 2006, 2010 and 2015), four second places (2007, 2009, 2013 and 2014), and one third place (2017), but he feels there is room for more trophies. This weekend he will go all out to start the 2018 season fighting at the front of the pack.
After the intensive winter testing season, Viñales also arrives in Doha eager to fight for victory at the opening race. The young Spaniard knows his way around the track, not only due to the many laps he completed during the winter test at the Losail circuit, but also because of his previous racing experience and successes in Qatar. He added a Moto3 victory to his resume in 2012, he secured second place in the same class one year later, and he took a brilliant MotoGP win on his debut race with Yamaha last year.
The 5.4km-long Losail International Circuit is located on the outskirts of Doha and was added to the MotoGP calendar in 2004. Four years later the track became the first and only circuit in MotoGP to host a night-time Grand Prix, held under the floodlights. Besides the special mood of an evening-race, the Losail circuit also offers a mix of medium and high-speed corners (six left, ten right turns) and an over a kilometre long main straight, that are guaranteed to make for an exciting race, with many overtakes.
The Qatar GP time schedule for the upcoming race weekend slightly differs from the usual. The Free Practice 1 session will take place on Friday afternoon from 14:45 – 15:30 local track time (GMT+3) followed by FP2 at 19:05 – 19:50. On Saturday FP3 starts at 14:35 – 15:20 and FP4 is held at 18:40 – 19:10, before the qualifying sessions from 19:20 – 20:00. On Sunday the warm-up is held at 14:40 – 15:00 and the race starts at 19:00.
“After a long winter, we’ve finally arrived at the first race of this new season, and after many tests, getting to the first race is always nice. The pre-season tests were important, we understood our weak points and the strong ones. We have to keep working, but everyone at Yamaha wants to improve, to do nice races and win. We prepared for this first race during the last tests, but we still have the free practice sessions to improve, to do another step. I feel good, I trained well this winter and I’m ready to start this new season together with my M1, my team and the Yamaha staff. This will be an interesting season, it seems that there are many fast riders, but we are ready to do our best!”
“I’m so excited to come to Qatar and start the new season. I can’t wait! Last year was difficult for me with many ups and downs, but above all I learned a lot during the season with my M1, and now I feel that we can do great things this year and that we can fight throughout the championship to win the title. I’m sure that we’ll always be challenging at the top. The pre-season has helped us to try many things and finally we found a good set-up. We still have some small problems with the electronics, but I think we will reach our 100% at the first GP. Qatar is a track that I really like, I won my first GP with Yamaha there, so I have very special memories and I will do my best to be on the podium again this week.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“After the three pre-season tests we’re finally kicking off the 2018 season this weekend. The team and the riders are just as excited as the fans, because we have been working hard towards this moment for months. Losail is a track that suits the Yamaha well, so we are looking forward to returning to this circuit for the opening round, especially since the floodlights have become a tradition – it adds a special atmosphere to an already intense event. On Friday we are going to pick up from where we left off at the end of the Qatar test. We had made some changes that gave Vale and Maverick a good feeling on the bike, and this will be our starting point. Both our riders have been preparing hard to be in great physical shape and the team is ready too, so let’s get started!”