Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar 2016

Posted on Mar 14, 2016 by Nick Harris


MotoGP™ explodes into 2015
Can it possibly be more exciting than last year? We are about to find out. The long wait is over on Sunday when the 2016 MotoGP™ season explodes into action under the floodlights at the opening round in Qatar. The four British MotoGP stars are ready for the first battle of the year at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix, around the 3.343 miles Losail International circuit.

Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith was the top Brit and non-factory rider last year. As always he put in a massive number of testing lap on the Monster Tech3 Yamaha. Despite problems fully adjusting to the new Michelin tyres he made good progress, which will stand him in good stead in the 22 lap opening clash on Sunday.

Scott Redding was second fastest behind World Champion Jorge Lorenzo at the final test in Qatar. After two tough seasons on Honda machinery Redding has adapted brilliantly to his new mount, the Octo Pramac GP15 Ducati and to the new electronics and Michelin tyres.

It’s been mixed results in testing for the three other British riders. Isle of Man – based Midlander Cal Crutchlow has experienced up and downs on the LCR Honda. He suffered a painful crash on the final day in Qatar but has made progress despite Honda struggling with the new electronic regulations.

Irishman Eugene Laverty started the season with a crash on the opening day of the first test damaging his wrist. Since then he’s made steady progress and like Redding has switched from Honda to Ducati power on his Aspar MotoGP machine.

Kent and Lowes head to head
Two British riders could be fighting for the Moto2™ World Championship. Moto3™ World Champion Danny Kent and Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes have impressed in pre-season testing and should be head to head for the title starting in the opening round on Sunday.

Wiltshire-based Kent brought Britain their first world championship for 38 long years when he clinched the Moto3 world title in that dramatic final round in Valencia last year. The 22 year old is still adjusting to Moto2 on the Leopard racing Kalex but his previous Moto2 experience will stand him in good stead as he prepares for the next step in his career.

Lowes has been very impressive in pre-season testing after switching to the Kalex framed Federal Oil Gresini machine. Last year Lowes won the Red Bull Americas Grand Prix at Austin on the Speed Up machine and has already adjusted brilliantly to the Kalex frame to be a real Championship contender. The Lincolnshire – based rider led the way in the final test this week in Qatar to set himself up brilliantly for that first clash at the same circuit.

Scotsman John McPhee is Britain’s only representative in the competitive Moto3 class. It’s not been a an easy start to the season for the 21 year old who is supported by the Racing Steps Foundation on the Peugeot MC Saxoprint machine. He broke his left index finger when he crashed the Peugeot badged Mahindra in Jerez. He will be fit for Qatar and will be seeking a points winning start to the long season.

Rossi pulls on the football boots to lead his team
Nine times World Champion Valentino Rossi puts on the football boots to lead his VR46 Academy team against the Aspire Academy in Qatar on Thursday. Rossi is a big football fan but will have to be at his best with the former Barcelona star Xavi Hernandez leading the Aspire team in the game at the Aspire Dome in Doha.

Carry on with exactly the same - please

The 2016 MotoGP season kicks off in Qatar on Sunday looking to carry on where it left off last year. After the most dramatic season in the 67 year history of grand prix racing the very same gladiators return to the arena to continue the battle.

World Champion Jorge Lorenzo has looked ready to defend that hard won title with some impressive pre-season testing performances on the Movistar Yamaha. The Spaniard knows he can’t afford to make the same poor start to the season he experienced last year if he’s going to win that fourth MotoGP world title. His team-mate, 37 year old Valentino Rossi, pushed him to the limit last year in that controversial end to the season. The Italian nine times World Champion is as focused and enthusiastic as ever as he starts his 21st season in grand prix racing. Rossi wants a repeat of last year where he won the race in Qatar after a tremendous fight with Andrea Dovizioso

It was a tough year for double MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez and the Repsol Honda team after winning the title for the two previous years. He eventually finished third and in pre-season testing has shown both the rider and the team are getting to grips with the new electronics and Michelin tyres. Team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who had a brilliant finish to last season with wins in Japan and Malaysia, has struggled with the changes and will be seeking improvements in practice before qualifying.

Ducati roared into Qatar last year with their new GP15 machine. Andrea Dovizioso finished second from pole position, which he followed up with two more consecutive podiums. He returns with the Ducati GP16 machine together with team-mate Andrea Iannone who had such a brilliant season last year. He eventually finished fifth in the Championship two places in front of Dovizioso.

The big surprise of pre-season testing has been 21 year old Maverick Vinales on the Ecstar GSX RR Suzuki. The former Moto3 World Champion in just his second MotoGP season led the time sheets at Phillip Island in Australia and in the final Qatar test was third fastest. Suzuki starting just their second season back in MotoGP have made big strides including a seamless gearbox and could be pushing for a long awaited podium finish on Sunday.

Danilo Petrucci is fighting to be fit after breaking his hand in a Phillip Island crash.

Frenchman Johann Zarco starts his campaign to become the first Moto2 World Champion to successfully defend his title but it will be tough. The likes of Sam Lowes, Alex Rins, plus Danny Kent and Miquel Oliveira up from Moto3 will give the impressive Zarco a hard time.

The top two may have left but the Moto3 Championship promises to be another cracker. Throw in all the usual candidates including Romano Fenati, Jorge Navarro, Fabio Quartararo, Niccolo Antonelli, Enea Bastianini and Brad Binder the sparks are certain to fly for the next eight months, starting in the 18 lap race on Sunday.

Did you know?
High level maintained in the MotoGP class

The top nineteen riders of the 2015 MotoGP world championship continue in the class for 2016. The full time entry list for this year contains twenty one riders, with the following changes from last year:

  • Out from last year have gone – Nicky Hayden, Mike di Meglio, Alex de Angelis, Karel Abraham and Marco Melandri.

  • The only Rookie in the MotoGP class for 2016 is the 2014 Moto2 world champion Tito Rabat.

  • The strength of the MotoGP grid can be illustrated by the following facts about the riders lining up:

  • There are ten riders who have won a Grand Prix World Championship.
  • These ten riders have won a total of twenty-seven World Championship titles between them.
  • Five riders on the list have won races in the premier-class. These five riders have between them won a total of 179 premier-class GP races – the highest number of accumulated premier-class GP wins ever assembled on the entry list at the opening race of the year.
  • Fifteen riders on the MotoGP entry list have had race victories in at least one of the three classes of Grand Prix racing, with a combined total of Grand Prix victories of 386.
  • The oldest rider on the MotoGP full-time entry list is Valentino Rossi, who celebrated his 37th birthday in February. The youngest rider for the second year running is Jack Miller, who will be 21 years 62 days old when he lines up on the grid in Qatar; Miller is just six days younger than Maverick Viñales.

    Sixteen Grand Prix winners on Moto2 entry list
    Eighteen of the top 20 riders in last year’s championship continue in the Moto2 class in 2016, including Johann Zarco who will be defending his world title. Also joining the Moto2 class this year are the top two riders from the Moto3 class in 2015. The main changes in the full time entry list for this year are as follows:

  • Out from last year have gone: Tito Rabat, Mika Kallio, Randy Krummenacher, Anthony West, Azlan Shah, Ricky Cardus, Louis Rossi, Florian Alt and Thitipong Warokorn.
  • Into the Moto2 class as full-time entrants in 2016 come the following riders: Efren Vazquez, Luca Marini, Ratthapark Wilairot, Isaac Viñales, Alessandro Tonucci, Miguel Oliveira, Danny Kent, Mattia Pasini, Edgar Pons and Xavi Vierge.

  • The strength in depth of the Moto2 grid can be illustrated by the following facts about the riders lining up:

  • Sixteen of the riders on the full-time entry list have previously won Grand Prix races
  • Between them, these sixteen riders have scored ninety-five world championship race wins.
  • Five of the riders competing in Moto2 in 2016 have won the 125cc/Moto3 World Championship: Thomas Luthi, Julian Simon, Sandro Cortese, Alex Marquez and Danny Kent.
  • The youngest rider in the full-time Moto2 entry list is Luca Marini, who was just 21 days old when his maternal half-brother Valentino Rossi clinched his first world title in the 125cc class at Brno in 1997. Marini is one of five riders in Moto2 who will start the season as teenagers, along with Jesko Raffin, Alex Marquez, Lorenzo Baldassari and Xavi Vierge. The oldest rider is Mattia Pasini, who returns to grand prix racing in the Moto2 class having made only two wild-card appearances last year. Pasini is the only rider in the Moto2 class who will have passed his 30th birthday at the opening race of 2016 in Qatar.

    Influx of new young riders into Moto3
    The Moto3 class has a total of ten rookies in the field in 2016. The main changes to the entry list compared to last year are:

    Out from last year have gone: Remy Gardner, Efren Vazquez, Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Tonucci, Ana Carrasco, Stefano Manzi, Niklas Ajo, Isaac Viñales, Miguel Oliveira, Danny Kent and Zulfahmi Khairuddin.

    Into the series as full-time riders come the following: Fabio Spiranelli, Fabio di Giannantonio, Adam Norrodin, Nicolo Bulega, Joan Mir, Stefano Valtulini, Aron Canet, Bo Bendsneyder, Lorenzo Petrarca and Khairul Idham Pawi.

    This addition of new young talent into the Moto3 class means that at the opening race of the year only three of the riders on the full-time entry list will be aged 22 or over: Jakub Kornfeil (22), Hiroki Ono (23) and Alexis Masbou (28). Of the thirty three riders on the Moto3 full-time entry list, twenty two will still be teenagers at the opening race of the year. The youngest rider competing full-time in Moto3 in 2016 is Fabio Spiranelli, who will be 16 years 106 days old at the opening race of the year.

    Five of the riders in the Moto3 entry list have grand prix victories to their name: Romano Fenati (6 GP wins), Alexis Masbou (2), Nico Antonelli (2), Enea Bastianini (1) and Livio Loi (1).

    Michelin return to MotoGP
    After a seven year period during which Bridgestone have been the exclusive tyre suppliers for the MotoGP class, next year will see the return of Michelin as the control tyre. Below are a few facts and stats about this change of tyre supplier:

  • Starting in 2009 Bridgestone have been the exclusive tyre supplier to MotoGP; previous to 2009 there had been no restriction of which tyre manufacturer each rider could use.
  • The last Michelin victory in a MotoGP race was when Dani Pedrosa won the Grand Prix of Catalunya in 2008. The remainder of the races in 2008 were won by either Casey Stoner on a Ducati or Valentino Rossi on a Yamaha, both using Bridgestone tyres. Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo also won a race in 2008, in Portugal, but he was using Michelin tyres.
  • After the San Marino GP in 2008 Dani Pedrosa made the unusual step of switching tyres manufacturers in mid-season and used Bridgestone tyres for the final five races of the year.
  • Of the 118 MotoGP races that took place from when the class was introduced in 2002 to the end of 2008, Michelin won 83 races, with Bridgestone taking 35 wins.
  • The very first Michelin victory in the premier-class of grand prix racing was with Australian Jack Findlay riding a Suzuki at the Isle of Man TT races in 1973.

    Television Times
    BT Sport 2
    Thursday 26th March 15.00pm – 19.45pm (practise)
    Friday 27th March 14.45pm – 19.00pm (practise)
    Saturday 28th March 14.30pm – 18.30pm (qualifing)
    Sunday 29th March 14.45pm – 20.00pm (races)
    ITV 4 Highlights
    Monday 30th March 20.00pm – 21.00pm

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