Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar 2015

Posted on Mar 23, 2015 by Nick Harris


The prospect for the 2015 MotoGP™ season which starts in Qatar on Sunday is mouth-watering with the top 14 riders in the final test session last week separated by less than one second. The top 22 riders were separated by two seconds in the Qatar test. Never in the 67 year history of grand prix motorcycle racing has it been closer as the riders line up under the floodlights at the 3.343 miles Losail International circuit in Qatar on Sunday for the first round of the 18 round championship.

Fierce best brit battle from the very start
The battle for the best British rider in the championship will be a fierce patriotic fight with so much at stake. Last year it was Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith who came out on top riding the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. His first ever MotoGP podium finish in Australia kept him ahead of the opposition headed by former Moto2™ runner up Scott Redding. After a year in the Open class the 22 year old Gloucestershire rider returns to ride the factory supported Honda for the Estella Galicia 0, 0 Marc VDS team.

Cal Crutchlow, the Isle of Man – based Midlander, rode for Ducati last season and had a tough time after so much previous success with Yamaha. The former World Supersport Champion switches to the factory supported CWM-LCR Honda team this year and has already looked much happier in testing. Smith, who has recovered from damaged ankle ligaments sustained in a moto-cross training accident, and Crutchlow could hardly be separated on time in the three pre-season test sessions and that fight will continue until the final round at Valencia in November.

Completing the British foursome in the premier class is Eugene Laverty who makes his MotoGP debut in the 22 lap race on Sunday. The World Superbike and Supersport star made significant progress riding the Aspar MotoGP Honda and will be looking for some moral boosting, points scoring finishes in the early rounds.

It’s a big season in the Moto2 class for Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes.  Despite too many crashes the former World Supersport Champion impressed in his debut season last year. He continues with the Italian – based Speed-Up Racing team in the Kalex dominated class but has shown a podium finish in the early rounds is well within his grasp.

Wiltshire - based Danny Kent switches to Honda power in the very competitive Moto3™ class. Already a two times Moto3 race winner, Kent switches to the Leopard Racing team and could be a real championship contender if he makes a good start, commencing in the 18 lap race on Sunday.

He’s joined on the grid by Scotsman John McPhee who starts his third full season in the class riding the Racing Steps Foundation supported  SaxoPrint RTG Honda. The Oban – based 20 year old came so close to a podium finish on a number of occasions last year. Once he does a grand prix victory is within his grasp.

Can Ducati end five year wait in Qatar
The Italian Ducati team arrive in Qatar chasing their first grand prix victory for almost five years buoyed by their success in pre-season testing. When rain brought the final test to a halt in Qatar last week, the former 125cc World Champion Andrea Dovizioso topped the time sheets on the brand new Ducati GP 15 machine.

Not only did Dovizioso lead the way but he also beat Casey Stoner’s old lap record and with his new team-mate Andrea Iannone in third place Ducati arrives at the first battle with great confidence.

However, they will have to beat a certain Marc Marquez and Repsol Honda to end the drought and that will not be easy. The combination of the 22 year old Spaniard and the Japanese giant has won the title for the last two years. Marquez won the race last year and then went on to win the next nine grands prix and his second successive MotoGP World title to go with his Moto2 and 125cc crowns. His team-mate Dani Pedrosa finished fourth in the championship last year with one race win.

Movistar Yamaha will mount a considerable challenge with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Thirty six year old Rossi had an amazing season last year finishing second in the championship and winning two grands prix. The nine times World Champion pushed Marquez to the limit in Qatar last year and will look to go one better on the M1 Yamaha with the new seamless gearbox. Double MotoGP World Champion Lorenzo had a wretched start to last season, crashing in Qatar but he showed in the second half of the year just what a threat he will be this time round if he makes a good start.

The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha duo of  Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will be looking to give the factory riders a tough time in the early rounds while it will be interesting to see how Stefan Bradl fares on his Yamaha debut riding the Forward Racing machine. His replacement at CWM-LCR Honda Cal Crutchlow has looked impressive in testing.

Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP make a welcome return to grand prix racing after a three year absence with former Moto3 World Champion Maverick Vinales and the impressive Aleix Espargaro. Testing has gone well for the team and consistency and points will be their aim in the opening races. Aprilia also return to MotoGP with the very experienced Gresini team. Former 125cc World Champion Alvaro Bautista and former 250cc World Champion Marco Melandri have found the going tough in testing and will see the opening half of the season very much a development period.

Moto2 World Champion Tito Rabat remains in the class to defend his title and it promises to be a massive battle with the established stars and the top riders from Moto 3. Leading the newcomers charge is Moto3 World Champion Alex Marquez, younger brother of Marc, who joins Rabat in the Estrella Galicia 0, 0 Marc VDS team. Also stepping up is Alex Rins who joins Luis Salom in the Paginas Amarillas HP 40 team. Despite the newcomers don’t rule out some of the Moto2 established stars including Mika Kallio, Dominique Aegerter,Simone Corsi, Tom Luthi and Johan Zarco to name but a few.

The Moto3 World Championship is wide open with the top three from last year departing. Grand Prix winners Romano Fenati, Efren Vazquez, Alexis Masbou and Danny Kent must fancy their chances but last year the likes of Enea Bastianini, Brad Binder and Isaac Vinales came close. Enormous interest will focus on 15 year old Frenchman Fabio Quartararo who makes his debut on Sunday replacing Marquez in the Estrella Galicia 0, 0 Honda team. Last year he won the prestigious FIM CEV Repsol Championship and has looked mighty impressive in testing.

2015 MotoGP Schedule
29 March – Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. Losail, Qatar.
12 April – Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas. Circuit of the Americas, Austin, USA.
19 April - Gran Premio Red Bull De La Republica Argentina. Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina.
3 May – Grand Premio bwin De Espana. Circuito de Jerez, Spain.
17 May – Monster Energy Grand Prix of France. Le Mans, France.
31 May – Gran Premio D ’Italia Tim. Autodromo De Mugello, Italy.
14 June – Gran Premio Monster Energy De Catalunya. Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya, Spain.
27 June – Motul TT AssenTT Circuit Assen, Netherlands.
12 July – Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. Sachsenring, Germany.
9 August – Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, USA.
16 August – bwin Grand Prix Ceske Republiky. Automotodrom Brno, Czech Republic.
30 August – British Grand Prix. Silverstone, Great Britain.
13 September – Gran Premio TIM Di San Marino Della Riviera Di Rimini. Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Italy. 27.
September – Grand Premio Movistar De Aragon. Motorland Aragon, Spain.
11 October – Motul Grand Prix of Japan. Twin Ring Motegi, Japan.
18 October – Australian Grand Prix.Phillip Island, Australia.
25 October – Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix. Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia.
8 November – Gran Premio De La Comunitat Valenciana. Comunitat Valenciana – Ricardo Tormo, Spain.

Television Times
BT Sport2
Thursday 26 March  3pm – 7.45pm  (practice)
Friday 27 March  2.45pm – 7.00pm  (practice)
Saturday 28 March  2.30pm – 6.30pm  (Practice and qualifying)
Sunday 29 March  4.00pm – 9.15pm  (races)

ITV 4 Highlights
Monday 30 March 8.00pm – 9.00pm

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