13 Mar 2018 - 1:03
Stage set for thrilling MotoGP action
By Armstrong Vas / The Peninsula
Doha: MotoGP rider and fans are itching to get the season’s opening race underway from March 16 at the state-of-the-art lighting system at the Losail International Circuit.
It’s that time of the year to see how well the teams and riders have prepared over the winter at the pre-season tests in Sepang, Malaysia; Buriram, Thailand; and Losail, Qatar.
The real time action is just a few days away. Another season of that rollercoaster is about to begin.
Round One of the MotoGP season will kick off with the Grand Prix of Qatar - held in association with Visit Qatar - from March 16 to 18 at Losail.
Ten years have passed since the desert oasis of Losail International Circuit hosted the first floodlit MotoGP race and 15 years since it hosted the first race of the MotoGP calendar.
For the records, the 2018 racing season will feature a whopping 19 rounds over the course of eight full months of racing, starting with the opener in Qatar.
Defending champion Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa have all made headlines over the course of the winter and fans are expecting the series superstars to make to the podium in several races.
Fans are not ruling out Maverick Viñales, Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovisioso, and Danilo Petrucci. With a little bit of luck and smart race strategies, these fellas could very well catch up to the top riders, and even dethrone Marquez.
On the face of it, it’s hard to bet against reigning champion Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). The rider from Cervera is now a six-time World Champion and he’s taken four premier class crowns in five years. Qatar is usually a more difficult venue for Marquez and Honda, and although both will want to begin another title defence on the offensive and at the front, it may be a case of good things come to those who wait for the number 93 and teammate Pedrosa, who makes his 200th premier class start – as well as for HRC test rider and Independent Team challenger Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol).
Ducati begin the season with the statistics stacked the opposite way. Losail is a venue that suits the red machines, and Andrea Dovizioso has proven that with a good number of podiums in recent Qatar GPs. But that was then, and this is now. ‘DesmoDovi’ is a contender from the start in 2018, and it’s not just the podium that Borgo Panigale have in their sights – it’s the top step. That would make for a big opening statement from the Italian on the Italian machine. His teammate Lorenzo will be looking for similar headlines in his second year in red, too – and it’s his pole record that still stands from 2008 when he was a rookie in the premier class. With three wins to his name at the venue in MotoGP, Lorenzo is the second most successful rider at the track on the premier class grid this year - added to another three wins in the lower classes.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Rossi has four MotoGP wins at Losail to Lorenzo’s three, and the rider from Tavullia always has some serious form for race day pace in the desert.
Saud Al Attiyah, Losail Circuit Sports Club President said the excitement is very high ahead of the race.
“Our event is also one of the most anticipated races of the season but this 2018 is a milestone and a very special event for us as it marks 15 years of being the Home of Motorsport in Qatar.”
“We are very excited to celebrate this Anniversary in association with Visit Qatar, teams, riders, spectators, fans and all the international motorsport community as we are planning several activities for all those who come to visit us.’’
“The Grand Prix of Qatar is always one of the highlights of the season, not only for being the very first round of this exiting championship but also for our night racing, making our event one of the most exclusive racing weekends of our calendar.”
Rashed Al Qurese, Chief Marketing & Promotion Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority said: “Over the past 14 years, MotoGP has cemented its position as a key event on Qatar’s sporting and tourism calendars. Through our partnership with LCSC, we hope to help raise the event’s profile internationally to spread Qatar’s message of welcome to the world and attract more visitors.”
“We look forward to welcoming all the riders in Doha and wish them all the success over the coming weekend and a great international race season ahead,” he added.
Tickets are still available for the Grandstand, Losail Club Grandstand, Losail VIP Club and VIP Village for 250, 2.500, 3.500 and 4.500 Qatari Riyals respectively.
They can be purchased at Q-Tickets, Virgin Megastore’s in-store or online platforms and at the Losail Circuit Sports Club during the week of the event.