Anybody who hopes to win the 2010 MotoGP World Championship will have to go through this man. Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi is the defending champion and has posted the fastest time in five out of six preseason tests.
The wail of Inline- and V-Fours will soon reverberate across the Doha, Qatar landscape as the 2010 MotoGP season gets ready for its first race this weekend. The battle will once again be waged under the lights of the Losail International Circuit for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar as ten teams and 17 riders will vie for the title of 2010 MotoGP World Champion and the distinction of being the best motorcycle road racer in the world. The Losail circuit is a stellar course for the first race of the MotoGP season, featuring one of the longest front straightaways on a fast and flowing track.
The biggest question has to be, can anyone dethrone reigning MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi? The Doctor has looked unstoppable in preseason testing, finishing atop the timesheets in every test except the very last session in Qatar. Rossi has already etched his name indelibly in the MotoGP record book with nine world titles. His Fiat Yamaha team has the YZR-M1 dialed in and The Doctor is cool and confident heading into the opening race.
“Finally we’re at the start of the season and we are all very excited. The preseason has gone well for me, our new M1 is good, Yamaha and Bridgestone have done a great job and we have been fast. We have only had six days on track so we still have work to do and things to learn about the new bike, but we are starting in good shape. I expect this season to be a big battle with many riders very strong, and I hope that we will show some good racing to the fans!” Rossi said.
Will this be the year Jorge Lorenzo, who has shown flashes of brilliance mixed with spectacular crashes and inconsistency, puts it all together and depose his Fiat Yamaha teammate? Lorenzo finished second in the final standings last year, winning four races and earning 12 podium finishes. But he also failed to finish four races, ultimately costing him a legitimate shot at the championship. Lorenzo wasn’t 100% during the final preseason test due to an injury to his right hand sustained while riding motocross back in early February.
Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner has won every race under the lights at Qatar. The Australian rider looks healthy and will be one of Rossi’s chief competitors in the 2010 MotoGP season.
If anybody has the inside track to beat Rossi this weekend, it’s Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner. The Aussie has won the opening race at Qatar for the last three years and was the only rider to lap faster than Rossi during preseason. The strange malady that prevented Stoner from competing for the MotoGP title last season appears to be behind him and the Desmosedici GP10’s new ‘big bang’ engine has shown it has the gusto to run with the M1.
“We have always enjoyed great results in Qatar although the track isn’t one of my favorites as a rider. It was good that they changed the race from daytime to night because they’ve made it different to anything else – it’s interesting for the fans and it is good fun for us. Ducati has come up with a much more manageable engine for this season, it is easier for everybody to understand and from my point of view I am finding it easier to ride fast on used tires,” Stoner said.
So far the new Ducati engine has made the formidable Desmo GP10 more manageable for Stoner’s Marlboro Ducati teammate, Nicky Hayden. The ‘Kentucky Kid’ has had a year to acclimate to the demands of the powerful Ducati and looked more comfortable in its saddle while posting the third-fastest time during testing at Sepang. Stoner has proven that the Desmosedici is capable of winning races, so we’ll see if the American rider and former world champion can launch his own assault on the podium this year.
The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad is creating quite a buzz in the MotoGP paddock with its dynamic Texan duo of cagy GP veteran Colin Edwards and rookie Ben Spies. Edwards finished just off the podium in fourth place during last year’s season opener in Qatar and completed the preseason consistently in the 4-5 position. His Monster Tech 3 teammate arrives in MotoGP with great expectations. Spies made the jump to GP after winning the World Superbike title last year as a rookie. Nobody’s expecting him to repeat that feat in MotoGP, but Spies has shown the speed needed to compete with the frontrunners. The young American sat atop the timesheet on the first day of testing in Qatar until late fast laps by Rossi and Stoner knocked him down to third, but that’s good company to be in for a rookie.
It’s do-or-die time for Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. Heading into his fifth MotoGP season, the Spanish rider has yet to live up to expectations for the Repsol team.
It will be interesting to see how the season plays out for the factory Honda team, too. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, an eight-race winner in the premier motorcycle racing league and perennial podium contender, has had his struggles during preseason. If that parlays into lackluster results in the 2010 season, his future with the factory Honda team will be in question. There’s a ton of pressure to perform on the Spanish rider, who is heading into his fifth year in MotoGP. Maybe a return to the No. 26 plate the Spanish rider competed with in his first two years in MotoGP will help change his fortunes this season.
Not only will Pedrosa be battling for a spot on the podium, he’ll also be battling his Repsol teammate as the Number One man in the Honda paddock. Andrea Dovizioso has stepped it up and looks poised to be the man in the Honda garage should Pedrosa not ride up to expectations. Dovi got his first taste of GP glory after winning at Donington Park last year and finished with the third-fastest time in the final pre-season test at Qatar. He’s hungry to add to his victory list and has a couple of years of MotoGP experience under his belt now.
The Rizla Suzuki squad hopes to be competitive with its mixed bag of new blood and time-tested road warrior. Rider Loris Capirossi has been banging bars in GP for 21 seasons. The opening race in Qatar will be his milestone 300th Grand Prix race. Capi finished fifth-fastest on Day 2 of testing in Qatar and is looking to put the GSV-R on the podium this weekend. His Rizla Suzuki teammate, rookie Alvaro Bautista, will be competing in his first MotoGP race but has a 125cc World Champion title on his resume.
The San Carlo Gresini Honda team pins its title hopes on the skills of two Marco’s. Fausto Gresini brought back Marco Melandri to the privateer Honda squad in hopes that the Italian rider can repeat the
Marco and Marco
success he formerly had with the team. Melandri won five MotoGP races competing for the Gresini Honda team in the past but has barely seen the podium since. He will be joined by MotoGP newcomer Marco Simoncelli, who has a 250cc World Championship to his name. Gresini is banking on Melandri’s experience to help groom the up-and-coming Simoncelli, who suffered two big crashes during testing in Malaysia.
Two other privateer teams join San Carlo Gresini in Honda’s ambitious MotoGP venture. LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet is entering his fifth season of competing in MotoGP. The French rider has consistently improved his lap times in each of the three 2010 tests and was the second-highest placing Honda in the final Qatar session in eighth-place. Interwitten Honda will be fielding one rider, 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama. The Japanese rider is in the
history books as the final 250cc World Champion, but has a big learning curve ahead of him as he acclimates to a bigger bike with different tires than he competed on in the past.
Ducati’s privateer contingency centers on two programs. Pramac Racing Ducati has enlisted the services of Finnish rider Mika Kallio and Aleix Espargaro. Kallio earned MotoGP Rookie of the Year honors in 2009 and posted top ten finishes in the final three races last year. Espargaro earned a full-time slot in MotoGP after demonstrating his prowess onboard the Ducati GP9 while substituting for the injured Niccolo Canepa in the last few races for the Pramac Racing team last year.
Paginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati’s Hector Barbera is the last of six rookies who will compete in MotoGP this year. The rookies have their work cut out for them as the MotoGP preseason only consisted of six sessions. Barbera continues Aspar’s 30-year relationship with GP racing which started with Jorge Martinez ‘Aspar’ competing as a rider in 1979 and culminating in his team’s 125cc World Championship in 2009.
The 2010 season-opener marks the debut of the Moto2 class, which replaces the 250cc World Championship. The 61-year history ended in 2009 with Hiroshi Aoyama winning the final 250cc title for Honda, while a new chapter of MotoGP history will be written in 2010.
The Moto2 machines bring a new concept of parity to world championship racing. All riders will compete with one official engine supplied by Honda, ripped from the CBR600RR, and control tires provided by Dunlop. But chassis and suspension specifications are wide open. So far 14 different companies will provide chassis for the huge Moto2 field of 40 riders.
Hiroshi Aoyama etched his name in the record books as the last 250cc World Champion. Who will leave their name in the history books as the first Moto2 champion?
In the final test at Jerez, Gresini Racing’s Toni Elias topped the timesheets. Elias is a seasoned MotoGP veteran and is one of the early favorites to compete for the Moto2 title. The Spanish rider did, however, crash in the final session, fracturing his left hand and injuring his right ankle. He’s had a month to heal but will still have to ride through the pain this weekend.
Blusens STX’s Yonny Hernandez rode competitively in the final preseason test at Jerez as well, posting the second-fastest time to go along with a seventh-best effort on Day 2 of the Valencia test.
The sole American competitor, Kenny Noyes, has also shown promise on the Honda-powered machinery. The Team Jack&Jones by Antonio Banderas rider finished second-fastest after Day 2 of testing in Valencia and backed that up with a third-fastest effort in Jerez.
The Moto2 field is also filled with plenty of MotoGP refugees who have the experience to win races. The list includes RSM Team Scot riders, Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa, who both competed in MotoGP last year, MZ Racing’s Anthony West, who formerly competed for Kawasaki’s GP squad, Italtrans STR’s Roberto Rolfo, Fimmco Speed Up’s Gabor Talmacsi and Tech3 Racing’s Yuki Takahashi.
The kick-off of the MotoGP season also means its Fantasy Racing time. If you haven’t joined yet, do it now. Test your knowledge of MotoGP riders and teams in Motorcycle USA’s Fantasy Racing league. Follow your gut instinct or do your homework and pick who you think is going to win each week’s races. Riders earn points based on finishing position and fastest lap while teams earn points depending on how well their rider’s fare. It’s fun and free. Our office is already engaged in some spirited competition in Fantasy Superbike 2010. This week will be twice the fun as we’re making our picks for Fantasy GP 2010 and the World Superbike races. Game on.