The MotoGP™ paddock will arrive at the Losail International Circuit this week for the start of the 2015 season. After months of waiting the first round is upon us and what a season it promises to be, as already during preseason testing a few surprises have been thrown up with some big stories making the headlines.
Ducati have dramatically come back with a competitive machine for 2015, with the Luigi Dall’Igna designed Desmosedici GP15 dominating the final preseason test in Qatar. The new machine is not only fast, but the Italian factory team seemed to have finally cured the understeer problem that affected previous versions of the bike. While the GP15 has shown good pace since it debuted at the second test in Sepang, it will be interesting to see how it performs over the race distance under the floodlights at the Losail Circuit in the hands of the Ducati Team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone.
Suzuki have returned to MotoGP™ with an all new factory squad, featuring riders Aleix Espargaro and class rookie Maverick Viñales. They have been developing the GSX-RR machine over the last year, and already it has proved competitive, plus the team believes there is a lot more potential to unlock in the bike throughout the season.
On the subject of comebacks, Aprilia have also returned to the MotoGP™ grid for 2015, although this year will be more of a season-long test for riders Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri, as they look to develop the RS-GP bike to be competitive in 2016.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez will be looking to defend his title once more, having claimed back-to-back championships in the past two seasons. The young Spaniard believing that the serious challenge for the title will not come from Ducati, but his own teammate Dani Pedrosa and the Movistar Yamaha’s.
Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will be desperate to wrestle the title form Marquez’s grasp, and with 11 world titles between them plus a renewed determination this season, the Movistar Yamaha team will be looking to claim the Championship once more. Rossi experienced a resurgence last season, having made some changes behind the scenes, while his teammate Lorenzo ended the season brilliantly, after a disastrous start to 2014 effectively cost him any chance of the title.
There is also the interesting battle of the satellite teams with riders Cal Crutchlow on the CWM LCR Honda RC213V, Scott Redding on the factory spec Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing Honda, the Tech 3 Yamaha’s of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro plus the Pramac Ducati’s of Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci all set to do battle in Qatar.
In the Open class it was Karel Abraham who ended on top at the final preseason test, but it should prove to be an interesting season-long battle between the Drive M7 Aspar Honda RC213V-RS’s of Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty along with the Avintia Ducati’s of Hector Barbera and Mike Di Meglio, and the Athina Forward Racing Yamaha’s of Stefan Bradl & Loris Baz. Plus Jack Miller, the runner-up in the Moto3™ Championship last year, will be looking to impress on the Open spec CMW LCR Honda, while Alex de Angelis is on the Octo Ioda Racing ART Machine.
In 2015 the number of riders competing in the MotoGP™ class has increased to 25 – up from 23 in 2013 – and this season there will be more riders on the grid that have won Grand Prix World Championships than ever before. Twelve riders, who have won a total of 18 titles between them, will line up under the lights in Qatar to compete in the first round, along with 4 rookies to the class in the shape of Viñales, Miller, Laverty and Baz.
The schedule for the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar differs from other rounds in that it is spread over 4 days, with two days of free practice commencing on Thursday, qualifying on Saturday, and the MotoGP™ race scheduled to start at 9pm local time on Sunday night.