Strong grid for opening race at Losail circuit
TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
DOHA THE presence of eight riders who have won the Grand Prix World Championship once or more underlines the depth that the premier class grid has in the 2012 MotoGP.
Led by Italian Valentino Rossi of Ducati, who has won seven out of his nine world titles in the MotoGP and 500cc class alone, the elite group comprises Jorge Lorenzo (3), Dani Pedrosa (3), Casey Stoner (2), Alvaro Bautista (1), Andrea Dovizioso (1), Stefan Bradl (1) and Nicky Hayden (1). These eight riders have amassed 21 world crowns altogether.
The 21-rider field also contains 14 riders who have savoured victory in at least one of the MotoGP races across all the three categories ( M o t o G P / 5 0 0 c c , 250cc/Moto2 and 125cc). And these winners have stacked an amazing 285 race wins.
Ducati’s Rossi, the only rider in the current lot to have had the world title in all the three categories, leads the winners with 105, including 79 in the highest class.
Rossi is followed by Repsol Honda’s reigning world champion Stoner in the MotoGP title wins. While the Italian has seven under his belt, the Australian has two in his cupboard.
Other two winners are 2010 champion Lorenzo and 2006 winner Hayden.
If late Marco Simoncelli is included, four riders from the 2011 grid are absent this year.
Spanish Simoncelli was killed on the Sepang track in one of the most horrible accidents in MotoGP history, veteran Loris Capirossi retired. The 2010 Moto2 world champion has returned to the intermediate class, Hiroshi Aoyama has joined the World Superbike paddock in the 2012 season.
There are eight newcomers in the MotoGP category this year. They include Moto2 world champion Stefan Bradl, James Ellison, Aleix Espargaro, Yonny Hernandez, Mattia Pasini Danilo Petrucci, Michele Pirro and Ivan Silva.
After the pre-season testing, the top quartet that emerged comprises Stoner and Dani Pedrosa of Repsol Honda and Yamaha pair of Lorenzo and Spies. Of course, the experience of Rossi cannot be ignored and this week’s free practice runs would show where he stands.
But the top riders will have to be wary of one rider - Andrea Dovizioso, who is riding for Monster Yamaha Tech 3. The Italian ended his 10- year-long association with Honda after finishing third on the 2011 standings.
It was quite clear that he would have to go out of the factory team when Stoner joined the Honda last year. He was offered a seat in one of the Honda’s satellite teams but the Italian refused and decided to join Yamaha’s satellite outfit.
Though Dovizioso has yet to start a MotoGP race from the front row in Qatar, he has had some good memories here. In his MotoGP debut race in 2008, he was fourth. His best here has been a third place in 2010.
Last year, he narrowly missed the podium, being less than a second adrift of teammate Pedrosa.
Showing good pace and good results in the pre-season testing in Seapang and Jerez, he is likely to pose a big threat to the top riders not only in Qatar, but also in the whole season.
The MotoGP first free practice will take place on Thursday at 7.55pm. The next two free sessions are scheduled on Friday before the onehour qualifying race on Saturday at 7.55 pm. The 22- lap race will be held on Sunday at 10 pm.