Fiat Yamaha press release:
The triple-crown winning Fiat Yamaha Team of last year returns to action this weekend for the opening round of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar. For the second year in succession the first race will be run under floodlights at the Losail International Circuit in Doha and reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi and last year’s Rookie of the Year Jorge Lorenzo will be lining up alongside 16 other riders all out to claim motorcycling’s biggest prize.
2008 saw Valentino Rossi return to the top after two difficult years, winning nine races, taking his eighth World Championship and ensuring that Fiat Yamaha took the Teams’ title and Yamaha the Manufacturers’. He starts the season on 97 career wins – the second highest total in Grand Prix history – and although the all-time record of 122 wins, held by Giacomo Agostini, still stands some way off, with Rossi already signed with Yamaha for next year it is not too distant a target. The irrepressible Italian turned 30 in February and has put in a strong showing during testing, finishing second in the Jerez ‘qualifying’ shoot-out. He has two previous wins at the Losail desert track but last year saw him finish fifth, his second worst result of the season, in his first race with Bridgestone tyres. With a successful season on the Japanese rubber already behind him however there is nothing to hold him back this time and he will be out for victory this weekend.
Jorge Lorenzo blasted onto the scene in Qatar last year with a blistering pole position and a mature ride to second, belying his years and the fact that it was his first race in MotoGP. He went on to set successive poles at the next two races before riding to victory at just his third premier class race in Portugal. The middle part of the season saw him run into some difficulties with a couple of spectacular crashes and a series of injuries but he recovered well in the latter stages and took a total of six podiums in the season, enough to secure him the leading rookie title. With a year of experience now under his belt and having shown good form during preseason, including running second fastest at the Qatar test last month, the 21-year-old is undoubtedly a contender for race wins this year.
2009 sees several rule changes brought in, the most major of which is a single-tyre rule with all riders now on Bridgestone tyres. Each rider will have a maximum of twelve rear and eight front tyres per weekend, excluding rain tyres, with just two different compounds available to them at each race. In an effort to reduce engine mileage and therefore costs Friday morning practice has been cancelled and all other practice sessions have been reduced to 45 minutes. Post-race tests have also been outlawed, meaning that last week’s test in Jerez was the last chance the teams will have to test this year’s bikes outside of a race weekend this season.
The floodlit Qatar circuit features 3,600 light fixtures using 250, 1500 and 2500-watt bulbs and the system needs 13 megawatt generators to produce the required 5.4 million watts of power – creating enough light to cover an area equivalent to 70 football pitches. The bulbs are fixed on 1000 poles with mounting heights from 3 to 36 metres, all linked together by almost 500 kilometres of wire and supported by 300,000 kilos of concrete.
“WE’RE IN GOOD SHAPE”
“Qatar isn’t one of our strongest tracks but we still have a few cards to play and I hope that a little more work will see us improve for the first race. Tests really mean nothing once you get to raving, the situation is totally different and really we have little idea what will happen until we get there, it’s very exciting! I’m feeling confident, we’re in good shape even if we’re going to what was our worst track during testing, but I am happy about the performance of my M1 in general; Yamaha have done a great job and so this makes me happy. With the new single tyre rule the tactics will become clearer race by race. I think a lot of new factors will come into play and strategy is going to be quite important to determine where you start the race. I think luck will also be a factor in qualifying, more so than previously! In fact, I am quite curious to see what will happen in a 45 minute race with so few tyres, it’s going to be interesting. I’ve used the last week to relax, recharge and train. It’s going to be a very long season and we need to be consistently at 100%. We will take it race by race and keep focused on the target, which is of course winning the championship once again.”
“EAGER TO START”
“I am feeling good and I’m eager to start the championship. Preseason has been hard work, but finally I understood how to be fast with the new Bridgestone tyres and the last day in Qatar and the test in Jerez have left me feeling confident and hopeful for a good start to the season. The tyres are very different and I have had to adapt my riding style, but step-by-step we have become accustomed to them. For qualifying it’s a bit of a pity because I was a rider that was always strong on qualifying tyres, but it’s the same for everyone so we will get used to it. I feel much more experienced than this time last year and much stronger as well, even if I was on pole for this race last year! My target for the season is to improve on my fourth position of last year; I want to make sure I improve year by year. The championship is too big to think about yet, for now I am just concentrating on Qatar. I also have a new number, 99, which I think looks good on my M1 and I hope that it will bring me luck!”
“CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY”
“As a team we’re very excited to be finally going racing. Valentino has been strong during testing and we’re not worried about Qatar, we still have some things to try and we’re confident we will be fast enough to challenge there. The new tyre rule is quite exciting, it adds something new to the first race, but we’re very confident because we’ve had a year on the Bridgestones and it’s also clear that they’ve done a good job with the new tyres. It will be strange not having Friday practice, and we will have to make sure we’re very focused and concentrated throughout to use the time in the best way. Luckily we have the most experienced team in the paddock! For the season in general, the key to winning the championship will be consistency. Our aim is to start on the right note in Qatar.”
“A FRIENDLY TRACK FOR US”
“Finally we’re approaching the first race and in quite good shape after our reduced winter test time. The main aim of winter testing was to find a good base for the new Yamaha M1 for Jorge and we have managed to do this, so we’re confident that we can achieve a good result in Qatar, especially after the last setting changes we made in Jerez. We need to keep working however because it’s clear that our rivals are very strong this year. Qatar is a friendly track for us after Jorge’s great debut there last year both in qualifying and in the race. I think if we could repeat that then it would be perfect! It’s the first time we’re racing with the new tyre rule and we’re definitely going to need to optimise tyre use especially for qualifying, but it’s not a big problem because as I said we already have a good base. The team is excited to be starting again and now we’re just waiting for Friday afternoon to get to work!”