Lorenzo hustles past Hondas in Qatar

MotoGP Commercialbank Grand Prix Of Qatar, April 6-8, 2012

Jorge Lorenzo dives for the win in Qatar

2010 champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) took his first premier class victory at the Losail International Circuit to open the 2012 MotoGP season in the best possible manner, after battling reigning World Champion Casey Stoner and the Australian’s Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa for the duration of the 22-lap race on Sunday evening. It was also a superb start to the new 1000cc era in MotoGP, as the CRT machines also made their debut in an action-packed race. Having Yamaha take the race to the 2011 dominant Repsol Hondas bodes well for a great 2012.

Dani Pedrosa

Starting from pole for the first time since the US Grand Prix last July, Lorenzo held the lead until the third lap before Stoner assumed first position with a pass on the start/finish straight. Lorenzo then followed Stoner for the majority of the race before passing his rival with three laps to go, and he eventually crossed the line 0.852s ahead of Pedrosa who placed second as Stoner ended the race third. “What an amazing race!” said Lorenzo. “I put everything I have, all my energy into the track. This victory is because I never gave up, kept pushing and trying. Casey was very strong at the beginning and opened a gap. Fortunately for us, he struggled at the end and dropped his pace where I could keep mine, so I managed to pass him. I am very grateful to Yamaha because they have made a big step this winter on the YZR-M1.”

Casey Stoner

After a difficult weekend which had seen Pedrosa qualify in seventh the Spaniard shot from row three of the grid into third position on the opening lap, and on lap 20 passed his teammate Stoner with a superb move on the brakes going into Turn 1 to take second. Stoner, who had won in Qatar for four of the past five seasons, took his 16th successive podium finish as he got his title defence underway. “I’m very happy with this result, because we have been able to turn around all the problems we had during the weekend,” said Pedrosa. “After a good preseason, we got here, and everything went wrong. I had flu and a fever. I crashed on Friday. Then the qualifying practice was a disaster. So it’s very good to leave here with this podium, even if I feel little bit sad because I thought I could win this race. I had it in my hands for a while.”

“It wasn’t really the way we wanted to finish the race weekend here,” said Stoner, whose Honda suffered a chattering problem in qualifying. “The bike was working well for us. I definitely had the package and the pace to lead the field, which was really positive. However, I suffered from really bad arm pump. After three or four laps, I felt it, but it gradually got worse. I tried to pull a little gap from Jorge and Dani and put in the minimal effort possible to retain the gap and try and win, but as the race continued it got worse and worse and eventually the muscles had nothing more to give. I couldn’t hold onto the handle bars properly and it made things really difficult.”

With the leading trio involved in an eye-catching contest for the podium positions at the front, an excellent duel between Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mates Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso played out in their wake. The Italian, in his first race on the M1, was in front with his British team-mate all over his exhaust until lap 17, when Crutchlow got past Dovizioso and held out for fourth to equal his best-ever MotoGP result.

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) was the highest placing Desmosedici, beating Álvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) to sixth by just 0.033s on the Spaniard’s debut with the team, and 2011 Moto2 World Champion Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) capped an impressive debut MotoGP ride with eighth place.

Héctor Barberá (Pramac Racing) had been in the hunt for sixth but ran off when he pushed too hard in the closing stages and the Spaniard finished ninth, and the final spot in the top 10 went to Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) who had appeared to be struggling with his Desmosedici GP12 in the early stages of the race.

Texan Colin Edwards was first CRT bike, just behind fellow Lone Star racer Ben Spies

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies ended the race in 11th, apparently not finding the Yami’s sweet spot the way that Lorenzo did. “A tough race, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes,” said Spies. “I tested my airbag twice this weekend; good to know it works well. We’ll go back to Jerez now and hopefully have the bike issue sorted. It was good that Jorge won. We can see the Yamaha is going well. We just had a big problem with chatter, so we have to work out what it was.”

The honour of the highest placing CRT went to Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team). The American held off the challenge of Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) to place his BMW-Suter 12th, with Yonny Hernández (Avintia Racing MotoGP) and Aleix Espargaró (Power Electronics Aspar) taking the last points on offer.

Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing), Danilo Petrucci (Came Iodaracing Project) and Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini) all suffered the disappointment of not finishing the race.


Marc Márquez nips Andrea Iannone at the line

In Moto2 Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) beat Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) to victory by just 0.061s, as the intermediate class put on an absorbing 20-lap encounter.

Following a race-long battle for the lead which involved up to seven riders at one point, Márquez and Iannone came out of the last corner on the final lap neck-and-neck, with the Spaniard winning out in the sprint for the chequered flag by the slimmest of margins. After being enveloped in a tight group of riders scrapping for first position, the two eventually finished over a second clear of the remainder of the chasing pack.

Completing the podium after being involved in the fight for victory for the most part Pol Espargaró (Pons 40 HP Tuenti), who at one stage had led, crossed in third after spending the closing stages of the race locked in combat with his team-mate Esteve Rabat who finished fourth.

Crossing the finish line in fifth position was Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock), who had started from pole position and who spent the entire race in the leading group. The Swiss rider’s challenge for victory ended going into the final lap however, when he ran wide at Turn 1 as he and Márquez went head-to-head.

Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team) rode a strong final few laps to take sixth position from 13th on the starting grid, and he finished just 0.026s ahead Frenchman Mike di Meglio (S/Master Speed Up). Simone Corsi (Came Iodaracing Project) had played his part in the show at the front during the race and eventually ended eighth, with Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing) and Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team) completing the top 10.

Riders also leaving Round 1 with points on the board included Randy Krummenacher (GP Team Switzerland), Moto2 rookie Johann Zarco (JiR Moto2), returning 2010 Champion Toni Elías (Mapfre Aspar Team), Takaaki Nakagami (Italtrans Racing Team) and Julián Simón (Blusens Avintia), who all finished inside the top 15.

Maverick Viñales took the first ever Moto3 win

The debut of the new Moto3 category in the World Championship delivered an excellent spectacle as Maverick Viñales (Blusens Avintia) took victory in the first race of the evening.

The Spaniard, who won the last two 125cc races of the two-stroke machine era and was the Rookie of the Year in 2011, was followed across the line by debutant Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI) who scored a podium in his first ever Grand Prix start. The young Italian led the race for the opening six laps before Viñales overtook him, and the pair traded places again before the more experienced Viñales – still only 17 and now the second-youngest rider in history to have won three successive Grands Prix – pulled away to win by a margin of 4.3 seconds.

The displays of Viñales and 16 year-old Fenati were hugely impressive, and as the pair rode out front for the majority of the 18-lap race a thrilling battle for the third and final podium position raged behind.

In the end it was pole position starter Sandro Cortese (Red Bull KTM Ajo) who prevailed after an intense five-way fight with, in order of their final race positions, Luis Salom (RW Racing GP), Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0’0), Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Airasia-SIC-Ajo) and rookie Arthur Sissis (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Each of the four and Cortese had looked like taking third in an open race, before the German managed his drive out of the last corner on the final lap perfectly to beat Salom.

Completing the top 10 were British rider Danny Kent (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Frenchman Louis Rossi (Racing Team Germany) and another rookie, Spanish prospect Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0’0).

It was a special evening for new talent on the World Championship stage as Alan Techer (Technomag-CIP-TSR) registered points on his GP debut by taking 11th, with Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar Team), Niklas Ajo (TT Motion Events Racing), Alberto Moncayo (Bankia Aspar Team) and Jakub Kornfeil (Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta) also scoring as they completed the top 15 riders across the finish line.

The MotoGP World Championship returns to action in just under three weeks, for the Gran Premio bwin de España at Jerez, which takes place from April 27-29.


Lorenzo/Yamaha edge Stoner/Honda for Qatar pole

The quick way around Losail for Jorge Lorenzo was on one wheel

An enthralling first qualifying session of the 2012 MotoGP season saw Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) take pole position for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, as the Spanish rider beat reigning World Champion Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) to the fastest lap by 0.221s on Saturday evening.

Lorenzo’s time of 1’54.634 gave him the edge over Stoner as the pair swapped the lead more than once in the final few minutes of the one-hour session, as the appetite was well and truly whetted for the first 1000cc race.

Cal Crutchlow pulls it off the corner

The battle for pole was not the only thing which caught the attention as Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) put in his best-ever MotoGP qualifying display to seal the final front-row spot with the third best lap. Crutchlow’s time of 1’55.022 left him just 0.167s short of Stoner in second, and made it two Yamaha M1 machines on the front row.

Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) set the fourth-fastest time before a crash five minutes from the end of qualifying brought his session to a premature close, and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) was the highest placing Desmosedici in fifth. Andrea Dovizioso will start his first race for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team from the second row after going sixth fastest in QP.

Heading up the third row will be Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), who will be accompanied by Héctor Barberá (Pramac Racing) and rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda). Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) had a crash at the very end of the session but had already qualified in 10th place, and the Czech rider will have Álvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) for company on row four.

Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team) took the honour of qualifying as the fastest CRT machine in 13th, 0.831s behind Rossi, with Power Electronics Aspar duo Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaró getting onto the fifth row with the American. The Frenchman escaped a crash 20 minutes from the end unharmed.

Thomas Lüthi

In Moto2 Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock) continued his excellent weekend by securing pole position for the opening race of the Championship. The Swiss rider topped qualifying with a time of 2’00.187, after being fastest in all three preceding practice runs.

Lüthi managed to see off the challenge of Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) by a margin of just 0.072s as the Spaniard took second spot in the session, with Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) completing the front row in a time of 2’00.296 as fractionally more than a tenth of a second separated the top three.

Pol Espargaró (Pons 40 HP Tuenti) posted the fourth fastest time of the 45-minute session, ahead of Mike di Meglio (S/Master Speed Up) and Max Neukirchner (Kiefer Racing), all of whom will start from row two.

Clocking in seventh quickest was Esteve Rabat (Pons 40 HP Tuenti), and Claudio Corti (Italtrans Racing Team) recovered from an early fall in which he appeared to have hurt a hand to qualify in eighth position. Takaaki Nakagami (Italtrans Racing Team) will accompany his team-mate on the third row.

Sandro Cortese

Sandro Cortese (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took the first ever Moto3 pole position after posting the fastest lap at the very end of the category’s qualifying run. The German rider’s final effort of 2’08.188 was enough to seal prime position on the grid by a margin of just 0.016s ahead of Maverick Viñales (Blusens Avintia).

Spanish rider Viñales – whose top time from FP2 was faster than Cortese’s pole – looked set to take first position on the timesheet with his time of 2’08.204 until Cortese’s late salvo, with Louis Rossi (Racing Team Germany) completing the front row following a strong session.

Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) led the session towards the end but eventually had to settle for fourth position, and the Spaniard will be joined on the second row by Niklas Ajo (TT Motion Events Racing) and rookie Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI).

Starting the season-opening race from the third row will be Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Airasia-SIC-Ajo), Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0’0) and another debutant Arthur Sissis (Red Bull KTM Ajo).

Both the Moto3 and Moto2 classes later went out on track to run their warm up sessions in preparation for Sunday’s races.

Lorenzo smokes Stoner in Friday practice

After Casey Stoner had led the first two practice sessions at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, Jorge Lorenzo took control of the final session on Friday to set the best lap in FP3 and raise expectations for an exciting qualifying run on Saturday. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider put in a lap of 1’55.302 to top the timesheet, as he responded to the reigning World Champion’s earlier efforts.

The MotoGP riders, who completed their first practice on Thursday, were out on track twice on Friday evening under the Losail International Circuit floodlights as they undertook the second and third sessions. Completing a superb FP3 display in second position was Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who was just 0.154s off Lorenzo with a time of 1’55.456.

Repsol Honda rider Stoner ended the last practice third fastest in a time of 1’55.674, although he did meet some on-track traffic when trying to put in one last flying lap before the 45 minutes were up.

Andrea Dovizioso complemented his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Crutchlow’s impressive display with the fourth best time, and the Italian was the last rider to run under 1’56”. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), who had a fall in the earlier FP2 session, showed little after effects as he lapped fifth fastest at 0.812s off Lorenzo.

Héctor Barberá (Pramac Racing) was the highest placing Ducati in sixth with factory team riders Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi in seventh and eighth respectively. Rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and Álvaro Bautista of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team completed the top 10.

Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) only rode eight laps in the session, after crashing just 10 minutes in, and the American ended 11th on the timesheet as the only rider unable to improve on his time from the earlier practice. Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) was again the quickest CRT rider in 13th, although the Frenchman had a fall at the very end of the session which left him limping away from his Aprilia machine.

NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, on a BMW-powered Suter, kept the competition with De Puniet close at just 0.049s off his rival.

After completing their first two practice sessions on day one, the Moto2 and Moto3™ classes were out on track just once on Friday for their third and final outing before Saturday’s qualifying.

In Moto2 Thomas Lüthi’s (Interwetten Paddock) strong form rolled on in FP3 as the Swiss rider topped the timesheet with the fastest lap of the weekend so far. Lüthi’s time of 2’00.479 meant he completed a clean sweep in all three Moto2 practice sessions, after leading the first and second outings.

Pons 40 HP Tuenti team-mates Pol Espargaró and Esteve Rabat were also in the mood for setting fast times, as the former clocked in at just 0.040s off Lüthi. Espargaró was the only other rider under 2’01” in the session, with Rabat in third posting a best effort of 2’01.118.

Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team) was fourth in the order in 2’01.230, with Italians Claudio Corti (Italtrans), Simone Corsi (Came IodaRacing Project) and Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) closely grouped from fifth to seventh.

Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing) took a step forward and was the last rider within one second of Lüthi’s scorching lap, and Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) and Alex de Angelis (NGM Mobile Forward Racing) completed the top 10.

Sandro Cortese (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was the fastest Moto3 rider on Friday as the German rider posted a best time of 2’08.342 to top the timesheet in the 40-minute run, and he pulled off a great save at the end to avoid tarnishing his session with a late crash.

Despite being the best of the session Cortese’s time was still not the fastest of the three practices combined. That lap remained Maverick Viñales’ (Blusens Avintia) effort from FP2 (2’08.160) which the young Spaniard set on Thursday.

Second to Cortese in FP3 was Italian rookie Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI), who continued to generate excitement about his World Championship debut with a lap of 2’08.376, just 0.034s off top spot. Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) completed the top three at a tenth-of-a-second off Cortese, with Viñales fourth in the final session and just 0.135s off P1.

Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0’0), Danny Kent (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0’0) were the final three riders within a second of the top time in the practice, and Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar Team), Alexis Masbou (Caretta Technology) and another newcomer Niccolò Antonelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Moto3) completed the top 10.

The on-track action resumes at 6pm local time on Saturday when the Moto3 class qualifies, followed by Moto2 at 6.55pm and MotoGP at 7.55pm.

Stoner leads day 1 in Qatar

The 2012 MotoGP™ World Championship got underway at Losail on Thursday with the first practice session of the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, and immediately into the groove was reigning World Champion Casey Stoner. His best lap of the session – a 1’56.474 – headed the opening 45-minute run of the weekend as the new 1000cc machines made their first outing of the season.

The Australian did not have it all his own way however as the leading spot changed hands a few times in the closing minutes of the session, Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) being one rider who led before settling in second at just 0.174s off Stoner with a 1’56.648.

Making it three different bikes in the top three Nicky Hayden rode his factory Ducati to a best time of 1’56.924, whilst Ben Spies on the second Yamaha Factory Racing machine was fourth and the final rider under 1’57”.

Dani Pedrosa (Respol Honda) was just under seven-tenths of a second off his team-mate Stoner as the Spaniard ended the session fifth, and Cal Crutchlow put in an impressive showing on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine to secure the highest satellite position of sixth in a time of 1’57.395. The Brit was also the final rider to get inside a second off Stoner’s benchmark.

Álvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Héctor Barberá (Pramac Racing), all riding for new teams in 2012, and Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) completed the top ten. The Italian was fractionally under a second off his team-mate Hayden.

Rookie Stefan Bradl, the 2011 Moto2 World Champion, finished his first MotoGP session in 12th place as he began setting up his LCR Honda RC213V machine for Sunday’s race, and the debut of the CRTs witnessed Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) lead the pack as he timed in 13th quickest with a lap of 1’59.985 on his Aprilia.

Colin Edwards was just 0.059s off the Frenchman on the Suter-BMW machine of the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team, with Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Aleix Espargaró (Power Electronics Aspar) close on De Puniet’s trail as the new CRT machines laid down their first World Championship practice session laps.

The MotoGP class returns to the track on Friday for its second and third practices, but the Moto2™ and Moto3™ classes both ran two sessions on Thursday.

MotoGP riders hoping for a glimpse of lovely Eatmyink reader Sophia Al-Maria outside of her classy Pearl digs

Earlier on Thursday MotoGP riders Crutchlow and Barberá were joined by Moto3 youngster Viñales and Moto2 wildcard Nasser Al Malki as the quartet took part in the official pre-event. Embarking the ‘Magnifico’, the riders took in the Doha skyline and had a tour of the luxury vessel, before posing for photographs and discussing their expectations for the weekend.

In Moto2™ Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock) topped both practices and posted a best time of 2’00.767 in the second, to get his weekend off to a strong start.

Lüthi led a top three which included Claudio Corti (Italtrans Racing Team) and Pol Espargaró (Pons 40 HP Tuenti), with the Italian also getting under 2’01” in a best time of 2’00.918. Espargaró and team-mate Esteve Rabat, who was fourth fastest, were the last riders to lap within 0.5s of Lüthi.

Marc VDS Racing Team riders Scott Redding and Mika Kallio were separated by just 0.024s in fifth and sixth positions respectively, with 2011 Championship runner-up Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) seventh.

Mike di Meglio (S/Master Speed Up), Takaaki Nakagami (Italtrans Racing Team) and former Moto2 World Champion Toni Elías (Mapfre Aspar Team) completed the top 10 with Japanese rider Nakagami just under a second off Lüthi.

The new Moto3™ category debuted on day one at Losail as a new era in the World Championship began, and it was last year’s 125cc Rookie of the Year Maverick Viñales (Blusens Avintia) who was the leading rider in both sessions.

Viñales topped the second practice session – in which all riders set their best time – with a time of 2’08.160, which left him 0.498s clear of second place, as the talented young Spaniard set a scorching marker for the rest of the field.

Malaysian rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Airasia-SIC-Ajo) led the charge behind Viñales with a time of 2’08.658, with Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Danny Kent putting a problematic first session behind him in which he had technical issues to time in third quickest at 2’08.967.

Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0’0) was the last rider under 2’09” with an effort of 2’08.979, and his rookie team-mate Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0’0) rounded off an impressive day by placing fifth in the order. With his time of 2’09.107 Rins was the last rider to get within a second of leader Viñales.

Sandro Cortese (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Alberto Moncayo (Bankia Aspar Team), Louis Rossi (Racing Team Germany), Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar Team) and Niccolò Antonelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Moto3) completed the top 10 on a day on which the Moto3 class made its World Championship bow.

The action resumes at 6pm local time on Friday, when the MotoGP riders head out on track for the second practice session. All categories will then complete their third and final practice, before qualifying commences on Saturday.

Qatar welcomes MotoGP opener!

Doha’s Losail Circuit shines at night

MotoGP riders, teams, fans and spectators around the world will finally have their appetites for motorcycle road racing satisfied when the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar gets the 2012 MotoGP World Championship off to a start on Thursday. The first practice sessions of the opening round of the new campaign will bring to an end a lengthy 152-day wait since the final race of the 2011 season in Valencia last November, after an intriguing pre-season which has added to the impatience for racing to begin.

Two major developments in the premier class which have added to the excitement at the dawn of a new era are the introduction of a new 1000cc engine capacity limit, up from the previous 800cc cap, and the debut of the new Claiming Rule Teams, for whom nine of the 21 riders will compete.

Casey Stoner in the light of day at Jerez

Adding to the spectacle of the curtain raiser in Qatar will be the floodlit nature of the first race, and the standout rider in recent years at the Losail circuit has been Casey Stoner. The 2011 World Champion, who was fastest in the final Test at Jerez less than two weeks ago, has won the night-time GP for four of the past five seasons, including last year. His Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa has also been in impressive form in pre-season, and between the pair they took the final four race victories of last season. A win for either, or any Honda rider for that matter, in Qatar would give the manufacturer its longest winning streak since 2003.

Jorge Lorenzo

A large part of the buzz created in pre-season was due to the performance of the M1, and Yamaha Factory Racing duo Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies were both highly impressed with the progress of their prototype. 2010 Champion Lorenzo came second in last year’s race in Qatar whilst Spies will be seeking his first podium at the track, as they look to turn a promising testing display into hard results.

Nicky Hayden

The third factory set-up on the grid this season will be the Ducati Team, another which has worked tirelessly in the intervening five months to improve its package. Riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden will both be hopeful of vastly improved results in their respective 2012 campaigns, as they remain focused on the Italian manufacturer’s project and challenging the other two factories.

Cal Crutchlow

With the six factory riders remaining with the teams they rode for last season, there have been changes elsewhere. Into the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team comes Andrea Dovizioso, as the Italian begins a new chapter in his career, joining Brit Cal Crutchlow who embarks on his second season in the satellite structure. Crutchlow’s pre-season showings in particular have laid the foundations for what promises to be a strong sophomore season.

Another switch comes in the shape of Álvaro Bautista, who has joined the San Carlo Honda Gresini team, and the Spaniard will be accompanied on the RC213V by premier-class debutant and 2011 Moto2 World Champion Stefan Bradl, who rides for LCR Honda in 2012. Remaining on Desmosedici machinery are Héctor Barberá (Pramac Racing) and Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing).

Randy de Puniet

Much analysis has been made of the CRT project’s development but the true measure will come in Qatar, where experienced heads and new faces will compete against one another. Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) and Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing) have 15 seasons of MotoGP™ knowledge between them, and the Frenchman was the quickest CRT rider on his Aprilia machine at the Jerez Test in late March.

Aleix Espargaró joins De Puniet on the Power Electronics Aspar team as he returns to the premier class after a year in Moto2™, and another rider with previous MotoGP™ experience is British rider James Ellison, who rides for the Paul Bird Motorsport team after a five-year absence from the World Championship.

Three riders making their premier-class debuts as they graduate from Moto2™ will be Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Mattia Pasini (Speed Master) and Yonny Hernández (Avintia Blusens), Pirro having won his last race in the intermediate category prior to making the step up.

Hernández’s team-mate on the Avintia Blusens team will be Iván Silva, who has previous MotoGP™ experience, and Danilo Petrucci (Came Iodaracing Project) will make his World Championship debut in Qatar.

Stat sheet for Qatar

The fiercely competitive Moto2 class kicks off its third year as the intermediate category of the World Championship, with a 33-rider field set to make 2012 another hugely entertaining and closely-fought contest. No less than 17 of those competing in the Championship this year are Grand Prix winners, and with 2011 title winner Stefan Bradl having stepped up to the premier class a new Champion will be crowned in 2012.

Any number of riders can lay claim to being well equipped for the demands of a season-long challenge for the Moto2™ title, with many having vast World Championship experience, and all will be confident of challenging for victory as they bid to get their respective 2012 seasons off to the best possible start.

Race winners in the category include Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock), Alex de Angelis (NGM Mobile Forward Racing), Andrea Iannone (Speed Master), Yuki Takahashi (NGM Mobile Forward Racing), Roberto Rolfo (Technomag-CIP) and Marc Márquez (CatalunyaCaixa Repsol), all of whom will be rejoined by 2010 Moto2™ World Champion Toni Elías, who returns to the class riding for the Mapfre Aspar team. Márquez’s recovery from his crash at Sepang last October, which ruled him out for the final two rounds of the season and much of the pre-season, has been impressive and he was amongst the fastest at the final Test at Jerez two weeks prior to the GP.

Added to that list of proven race winners are a number of Moto2™ podium finishers who will be hungry for a first win in the class. Simone Corsi (Came Iodaracing Project), Mika Kallio and Marc VDS Racing team-mate Scott Redding, Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing), Pol Espargaró (Pons 40 HP Tuenti), Julián Simón (Blusens Avintia) and Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP) have all stepped onto the rostrum on one or more occasion over the past two seasons, and will all be pushing to take the next step. Claudio Corti’s (Italtrans) pre-season form has also hinted that the Italian could be ready to feature regularly towards the front.

A selection of new riders fresh into the category will also be added to the mix, as last-ever 125cc World Champion Nico Terol (Mapfre Aspar) again locks horns with Johann Zarco (JiR Moto2). Making his World Championship debut will be Gino Rea, as the British rider competes for the Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 team in 2012, and Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami (Italtrans) returns to the World Championship.

History will also be made as Elena Rosell becomes the first female rider to compete in Moto2™, riding for the QMMF team, on which she will be joined by Australian rider Anthony West. The set-up will also field a wildcard rider for this round, Nasser Al Malki.

A new era begins at the 2012 Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar with the debut of Moto3, the 250cc four-stroke bikes brought in to replace the former 125cc machines which had been a part of the World Championship since its beginnings in 1949. The pre-season has hinted at an exciting new generation of machinery and an intense level of competition, with 32 riders competing for the honour of being crowned the first-ever Moto3™ World Champion.

A core of riders will be labelled as favourites following their exploits in both the 125s and pre-season, with the likes of Maverick Viñales (Blusens Avintia), Sandro Cortese (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) being three such names. All Grand Prix winners, the trio will be accompanied by a number of promising talents in trying to start the season with a strong result in Qatar.

Danny Kent (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has been impressive in pre-season, whilst Alberto Moncayo (Bankia Aspar), Luis Salom (RW Racing GP), and Jonas Folger (Iodaracing Project) all have solid experience.

Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0’0) makes a return to the World Championship after debuting last year, and Efrén Vázquez (JHK T-Shirt Laglisse), Danny Webb (Mahindra Racing), Zulfahmi Khairuddin (AirAsia-SIC-Ajo) and Jasper Iwema (Moto FGR) all know their way around the World Championship circuits well.

Joining the World Championship for their first seasons will be 11 new riders, as the talent continues to filter through to the big stage. 2011 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup runner-up Arthur Sissis rides for the Red Bull KTM Ajo team in 2012, and his fellow former Rookies Cup riders Frenchman Alan Techer (Technomag-CIP-TSR) and South African Brad Binder (RW Racing GP) also make the step up to Moto3™ as they attempt to get off to good starts at Losail.

Other new faces will include Italian prospects Niccolò Antonelli (San Carlo Gresini Moto3) and Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI), the latter of whom took the Jerez Test by storm, and Japanese rider Kenta Fujii (Technomag-CIP-TSR).

Prior to the action kicking off on track, MotoGP™ riders Cal Crutchlow and Héctor Barberá will participate in the official GP pre-event on Thursday afternoon, when they test out some jet-skis with the spectacular Doha skyline as the backdrop. Moto2™ wildcard Nasser Al Malki and Moto3™ rider Maverick Viñales will also take part.

The Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar adopts a different format to the remainder of the rounds this season, stretching across four days from April 5-8. The first practice session starts at 6pm local time on Thursday when the Moto3™ bikes head out onto track, with the MotoGP™ first practice commencing at 7.55pm local time. The MotoGP™ race is scheduled to begin at 10pm local time on Sunday.

courtesy of MotoGP