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MotoGP gets traditionally warm welcome in Qatar

MotoGP gets traditionally warm welcome in Qatar

MotoGP gets traditionally warm welcome in Qatar

After an intense operation to transport the entire paddock almost 6,000 kilometres across Asia in just three days, the MotoGP World Championship teams and riders were today able to begin their preparations for the fourteenth round of the season in the hot and dusty surroundings of the Losail International Circuit. With midday temperatures touching 40ºC and a strong breeze blowing clouds of sand over the arid land separating the circuit from the nearby capital city of Doha, the Marlboro Grand Prix of Qatar looks set to be another tough weekend for the riders after two consecutive races in Japan and Malaysia.

With Valentino Rossi yet to arrive in the country from his World Championship celebrations in his native Italy, talk today turned to the battle for second place in the championship, with his team-mate Colin Edwards the centre of attention after his starring role in last year's inaugural race. The American set the lap record on his way to second place behind Sete Gibernau and currently lies 20-points behind Max Biaggi as he aims to complete a championship one-two for Yamaha.

`The fight for second place is almost like a championship within a championship´, said Edwards. `With four races to go this is definitely not the time to be making any mistakes and we're all pushing very hard. I went well at this track last year and I'm confident about this weekend. At the start of the year I said I wanted to win a race and the next four rounds are all at tracks I like so the top step of the podium is definitely my goal this time´.

On current form Loris Capirossi looks like the man most likely to dislodge Biaggi, having taken two consecutive victories in a blossoming relationship between Ducati and tyre partners Bridgestone. Capirossi failed to finish the race here last season but he is currently in the best run of form of his premier-class career and is looking to seal a hat-trick of victories this weekend. `This is my sixteenth year in World Championship racing and I think I've shown that my potential is still really strong´, he said. `The big issue this weekend will be the sand - if sand gets blown onto the track, like last year, it's a big problem´.

Capirossi's team-mate Carlos Checa was one of a group of riders who had the opportunity to take a camel ride today in a host of traditional Qatari activities arranged within the circuit, including henna tattoos and local dancers. Casey Stoner and Thomas Lüthi also joined the camel convoy as they prepared to continue their chase for the 250cc and 125cc World Championships respectively.


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