Ducati confirmed that they are “back” in Qatar, completing the reversal in the Italian manufacturers fortunes since Luigi Dall’Igna joined the factory team as Sporting Director from Aprilia at the end of the 2013 season. The new GP15 showed that it was not just a “one-lap wonder” on the softer tire option and Dovizioso will fancy his chances after he claimed his first podium for Ducati in Austin last season. One change for the Ducati Team and Pramac Racing, is that they will now have to make do with 22 liters of fuel as opposed to 24, after achieving three podiums in the last two seasons.
Valentino Rossi was the focus of the world’s media after taking a spectacular race win under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit. Can Rossi produce the same in Austin? There is no doubt that the nine-time World Champion still has the same hunger for success as when he made his World Championship debut 20 years ago, although his best finish in Austin is a 6th place back in 2013. His teammate Jorge Lorenzo had to make do with 4th in Qatar, after he experienced an issue with his helmet that ruined his chances for the win. The Spaniard had actually led the race at times and was dicing with the Ducati’s until the problem, but believes he can be battling it out for the race win in Austin where he has a best place finish of 3rd.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez got his title defence off to the worst possible start in Qatar, when he ran wide at the very first corner, eventually finishing the race in 5th. Marquez will be confident he can respond in Austin having won the previous two races held at the circuit. In fact the Spanish rider actually left COTA last year having topped every practice session, qualified on pole, and led every lap of the race on the way to his win, setting a new Circuit Record in the process.
Dani Pedrosa confirmed he will miss the Austin & Argentina GP’s due to the arm pump issue that he revealed after the Qatar race, which has been affecting him for the past year. Hiroshi Aoyama, who filled in for Pedrosa before at the Dutch TT in Assen in 2011, will replace the Spaniard. HRC test rider Aoyama has 64 races under his belt in the MotoGP™ class, and finished 12th last year in Austin on the Aspar Honda RCV1000R.
Suzuki made their return to MotoGP™ in Qatar, and as to be expected there were some teething problems for the Japanese manufacturer, with both Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales down on power compared to their rivals. Team Suzuki Ecstar have never raced at COTA before, as the track was added to the MotoGP™ calendar after the Japanese manufacturer left the class in 2011.
CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow won the battle of the satellite riders during the first round, finishing 0.5s ahead of his compatriot Bradley Smith on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. Crutchlow crashed out of the Austin race last year, but in 2013 he managed a creditable 4th place. These two look set for a season long battle and it should be close once again as Smith also seems to like the track, finishing 5th at COTA last season as the leading Yamaha. His teammate Pol Espargaro should also be in the mix having only lost out to the British rider by just 0.1s in Qatar.
Expect to see more from Scott Redding on the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V after he crashed out on the 2nd lap of the Austin GP last year, plus don’t forget the Pramac Racing bikes of Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci which once again could perform well in qualifying as they make use of their softer tire option.
Avintia Ducati’s Hector Barbera was the top Open class rider at Losail, although he should face a tougher fight from German Stefan Bradl on the Athina Forward Racing bike this time around, with the German taking 4th at COTA in 2014.
CWM LCR Honda’s Jack Miller will be hoping to improve his fortunes after he crashed out of his MotoGP™ debut in Qatar, and he has tasted success at COTA before having won the 2014 Moto3™ race in Austin from pole position.
One man who will be looking for a good result in Austin is Aspar MotoGP Team’s Nicky Hayden who will be his starting 200th MotoGP™ race in front of his home fans, with his previous best finish at the circuit being a 9th place two seasons ago.
The Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas takes place between 10-12 April, with practice on the Friday, qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.