Yamaha team-mates Jorge Lorenzo of Spain and Italian MotoGP giant Valentino Rossi unveil the team livery at Losail International Circuit yesterday.
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: World champion Marc Marquez of Spain will be under pressure to launch the new season with points but compatriot and title threat Jorge Lorenzo is determined to secure a spot on the podium when the MotoGP riders kick-off the 2014 season under lights at Losail International Circuit this Sunday.
Marquez, still feeling the effects of a broken right leg nearly four weeks ago, won’t commit to going full throttle in the opening round but Yamaha star Lorenzo knows the first race will dictate how the riders fare in the 18-stop racing season.
“We will be going step by step,” 21-year-old Marquez said at a pre-event news conference yesterday. “I hope that the injury will be okay on the bike,” the Repsol Honda Team rider said.
“It will be difficult at the beginning because I have to search for the rhythm,” the former Moto2 world champion explained.
“Yes, I have ridden the bike but now I feel better now. If I can work on the bike, everything will be okay,” he added.
Lorenzo, the chief rider for Yamaha, said a sluggish start to the 2014 season won’t make for healthy reading.
“The first three races are important but the first one is most important,” Lorenzo said.
“You have a little bit of pressure in the second or third (races) if you don’t have points (in the first race). It is important at least to be on the podium. The world championship is very long but we want to start well,” the 26-year-old Spaniard said.
“Yes, it is a big year (for Yamaha),” Lorenzo admitted.
“I think it is good for MotoGP and for sport in general. I and Yamaha are very motivated to start the season. I am becoming better and better physically,” the 2011 World Champion said.
Lorenzo said winter break was spent recuperating from corrective surgeries after the 2013 season where he finished just four points behind champion Marquez.
“It has been a little tough - I had three operations (in the winter) so I could not start soon,” Lorenzo said. “I have arrived well for the first race. Qatar has always been good for Yamaha and for my style of racing. I want to start in a good way. Everything will be clear after the first race.”
Lorenzo explained the surgeries by saying: “I had a broken collarbone, one finger and back issues. I think the anaesthesia has been too much for my body. I have taken longer time to recuperate from my surgeries. I think I am not 100 percent but I am close to 100 percent physically. So I feel I am ready to start.”
Marqeuz’s Honda team-mate and compatriot Dani Pedrosa can’t wait for the start of the new season. Pedrosa will try to better his third-place finish in 2013.
“It has been a little long time, from the last race (in 2013) to now,” Pedrosa said.
“But we are here now. I am really looking forward to the race.It is a new season where many things have to come together. We hope to start in good shape,” the 28-year-old added.
“Not just for me but for everyone (it is important to start with points),” Pedrosa said.
“The world championship is very long. You have 18 races. You have to find the best from those races so don’t forget the championship is long,” Pedrosa said while warning those only looking at the first race this week.
“No, it is not one of my favourite circuits but I like it here because we have done good results. We did some good races here. I am looking forward to this one. We hope to find the right setting,” Pedrosa said.
MotoGP’s face Valentino Rossi - who rides with Lorenzo at Yamaha - is looking forward to starting his 19th consecutive season.
“Yes, it is a long, long time. I can take a license,” Rossi, 35, said with a smile. “I have said a lot of times that I want to continue. I want to be competitive with others so the results will be important,” the affable Italian added.
“Yes, testing went well. I am satisfied with testing in the pre-season. It was quite a strong testing in Sepang and Phillip Island. We are in good shape. I am happy with the work in the garage. We have improved some weak points from last year. I think we are ready for the start,” Rossi, who finished fourth last season, said.
Racing numbers in Qatar
249 Honda need just one more MotoGP victory to become the first manufacturer to reach the milestone of 250 wins in the premier class of Grand Prix racing.
112 Jorge Lorenzo’s victory at the final race of 2013 marked his 112th podium appearance across all Grand Prix classes. This is the same number of podium finishes that Mike Hailwood achieved during his Grand Prix career. Only five riders have finished on the podium more often in Grand Prix racing: Valentino Rossi (183 podium finishes), Giacomo Agostini (159), Angel Nieto (139), Dani Pedrosa (125) and Phil Read (121).
52 Jorge Lorenzo’s victory at Valencia was the 52nd time he had stood on the top step of the podium in Grand Prix racing: the same number of wins that Phil Read achieved during his 15-year Grand Prix career. Only five riders have stood on the top step of a GP podium more often than Lorenzo: Giacomo Agostini (122 GP wins), Valentino Rossi (106), Angel Nieto (90), Mike Hailwood (76) and Mick Doohan (54).
35 At the age of 35 years and 35 days on race day in Qatar, Valentino Rossi will become the oldest former premier class World Champion to take part in a premier class race since Giacomo Agostini in 1977.
33 Dominique Aegerter’s 10th place finish at the final Moto2 race of 2013 signalled the 33rd successive race at which he has finished in a point-scoring position. The last race at which he failed to score points was when he finished 18th at the opening race of 2012 in Qatar. Should he achieve a top 15 finish in Qatar this year, Aegerter will equal the longest sequence of successive point-scoring finishes in the intermediate class of Grand Prix racing; this was first achieved by Luca Cadalora, with 34 successive point-scoring finishes in the 250 class in a period across the 1990-92 seasons.
28 Andrea Dovizioso celebrates his 28th birthday on race day in Qatar.
20 Spanish riders have won the last 20 races across all three classes; a record for the longest sequence of successive GP wins by one nation. The last non-Spanish GP winner was Scott Redding, in the Moto2 class at Silverstone last year.
11 This will be the 11th occasion that a Grand Prix event has been held at the Losail International Circuit and the seventh under floodlights. Yamaha has been the most successful manufacturer in MotoGP at this circuit (five wins); Ducati has had three victories and Honda two.
8 This will be the eighth successive year that the Losail International Circuit has hosted the opening Grand Prix event of the year; it first did so in 2007.
5 The two riders with most GP victories at Losail, with five wins apiece, are Casey Stoner (4 x MotoGP, 1 x 250) and Jorge Lorenzo (2 x MotoGP, 2 x 250 and 1 x 125).
3 Jorge Lorenzo won the last three MotoGP races of 2013 and a win for him in Qatar would mark the first time in his GP career that he has achieved four successive victories.
2 After four seasons of the Moto2 class, there are now just two riders who have competed in all 68 races that have taken place: Dominique Aegerter and Simone Corsi.
“We need to try and see the level once the races start as we have been more competitive in testing. I believe Aleix (Espargaro) and the Ducati riders will be strong both in terms of lap times and their race pace. The races could be different to last year especially at the start and in the first part of each race.”
“It’s great news that Movistar have joined our team and we are really excited to go racing. Physically I am close to 100 percent but I have had three operations over the winter and I’ve had to work really hard to get my fitness back. The first race is crucial, you don’t want to make a mistake here and crash out, it’s so important to be on the podium at least.”
“It’s getting better but we won’t see my level until I get on the bike. It might take some time to get on the pace. It’s difficult because I’ve lost over a month of training and five days ago I couldn’t even walk. I can walk now and I think if I can do that I should be OK on the bike.”
“I have a very competitive package and I’m really excited to start racing. The million-dollar question is whether we can show our good pace in testing over race distance. Our race simulations have shown the we can. The end of last year was hard for me, I lost some focus and it was a hard decision to change team. But I’m very happy now with the decision I made.”
“I’m trying to learn a new bike and I’m having to adapt my riding style. I have to stop and turn more than carrying the corner speed and we’re making progress. Andrea Dovizioso showed the competitiveness of our bike over one lap in Sepang testing so let’s see if we can do it in a race.”
“The first race is key of course but the championship is long and you have 18 rounds to prove you are the best. Of course I want to make the best start possible but so does everyone else.”