Ducati Marlboro Team press release:
On the evening of Friday 10th April the spotlight will finally fall on the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, figuratively and literally, as the world’s premier motorcycle racing series gets underway with the first practice session of a season of change in Qatar. The restrictions imposed by single tyre rule have already become a familiar part of the teams’ working system within the pit box during the winter tests, although the next major examination will be how they can adapt to the severely reduced track time during a Grand Prix weekend.
The action starts on Friday with a single free practice session of 45 minutes, followed by two further sessions of the same length on Saturday – the second of those deciding the grid positions for Sunday, which retains the same programme of a 20-minute warm-up before the race.
The Ducati Marlboro Team is once again ready to take up the challenge head-on, with Casey Stoner having enjoyed an excellent preseason of testing and feeling satisfied both with the work done by the Ducati engineers on the GP9 and with the recovery of his injured wrist following an operation. Nicky Hayden, set to contest his 100th Grand Prix in Qatar, has worked hard over the winter to adapt to a completely new bike, new tyres and new team. Despite not quite obtaining the desired results in the last test at Jerez, he has made constant progress throughout the preseason and is excited about making his race debut for Ducati.
LIVIO SUPPO, MotoGP Project Director
“At last we’re going racing! It has been a long winter, starting back in October with our worries over Casey’s injuries, having to manage a new situation in relation to the global economic crisis, a new rider coming into our team and the implementation of the single tyre rule. We travel to Qatar with Casey on his way back to full fitness, new regulations in place to reduce costs, Nicky already feeling comfortable with our bike and the single tyre rule working well. We can’t be anything but satisfied and confident about the start of a new season that we know will be difficult because of the high level of our rivals but safe in the knowledge that we can be amongst the frontrunners once again.”
CASEY STONER, Ducati Marlboro Team
“I’m leaving behind the end of the summer holidays in Australia but to tell you the truth I really can’t wait for the new season to start. I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made together with the Ducati engineers behind the scenes and with the tests we’ve done out on the track. Everybody has worked really hard, the bike has improved in a variety of areas and it’s much easier to ride. The power delivery from the engine is better, the carbon frame has improved stability and I’m happy with the carbon swingarm too, even though we have only tried it in the last two tests and it still needs a little more work before we full understand it. So testing has been positive but we know that racing is another story and we simply cannot afford to drop our guard at any point – we have to keep working hard to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes as last season, which we went into with too much confidence. Qatar is not a particularly exciting track, it is very flat, but it’s not too bad. We’re just hoping the temperature is higher than it was for the test.”
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Marlboro Team
“It’s nice to be going racing again. The season is starting out much later than usual this year even though we haven’t been doing much testing. To be honest with you I’d like to have had a little more time with the bike in preseason but this is what we’ve got to deal with and now it’s time to get serious. If I could have chosen anywhere to be making my debut on the Ducati I would have chosen Qatar, where we had a good test session a few weeks ago, so I guess I’m lucky in that respect! I can’t hide the fact that I’d like to be closer to the front than where we’re at right now and further down the road in terms of the work we’ve got to do with the team but I’m still really pleased that the season is starting because I love the races, I love racing and I love competing against those other guys. I’m looking forward to getting out to Qatar, where the temperature should be a bit higher than it was in the test, and we’ll try to start out the season on the right foot by getting a decent result and enjoying myself as much as possible. I can’t believe it’s already been a hundred GP starts – I have really enjoyed them all… well some a lot more than others! But it’s been an honour to race in Grand Prix with all these great riders, sweet tracks, and the awesome fans all over the world! I know it won’t be easy but I really hope my best GPs are ahead of me. Its seems only fitting to start my 100th race with a new bike and team!”
Losail, a fast and flowing but flat track with a long 1.1km start-finish straight, is located on the outskirts of the Qatari capital of Doha and has hosted the opening round of the MotoGP season for the past two years. It is a relatively recent addition to the calendar but it has proved to be one of the most challenging circuits for the teams and riders. The first race there was in 2004 and it took place in October, as it did the following season, when the torrid late summer temperatures made life extremely difficult for the riders, tyres and machinery. In 2006 the date was switched to the cooler springtime, throwing up a different challenge in the shape of high winds that bring sand onto the track surface and significantly alter grip levels. The asphalt itself provides better grip now but the sand is still an issue. The next major change to the conditions came last year, when the race was switched to a night start, making for cooler track and reduced visibility for the riders. However, the work done in illuminating the circuit was exceptional, with a floodlight system powered by 5.4 million watts covering an area equivalent to 70 soccer pitches – reaching a safe level of visibility for the riders and offering a stunning viewing spectacle to the fans.