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MotoGP heads to Qatar for second race of the season

MotoGP heads to Qatar for second race of the season

MotoGP heads to Qatar for second race of the season

After an action packed season-opener in Jerez, the MotoGP teams head out of Europe for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar. It promises to be a thrilling race in intense heat at the Losail circuit, with riders and teams looking to either continue their good form or rectify problems from the first Grand Prix of the season.

Loris Capirossi, victorious in Jerez, will be hoping to carry on from his triumph in southern Spain. Qualifying on pole and leading right up until the chequered flag fell, the Italian will be hoping to firmly establish his title candidature with a second win. He started at the front in last year's race at the Losail Circuit, and with the new Desmocedici GP06 performing well the odds are favourable for the experienced Italian.

"I had a perfect bike and perfect tyres at Jerez and we have a simple target for Qatar - to do the same all over again. We are quite confident but we know it won't be easy. The toughest thing in Qatar can be the weather. Two years ago it was almost 40 degrees, which made riding really tough. I hope it will be cooler this time because we're there in early April, not early October. The most important thing for this track is to have a well-balanced bike that changes direction well. As always, tyres will be important and the Bridgestone rear has improved a lot since last year, it's got a much better contact feeling."

Team-mate Sete Gibernau, also an impressive qualifier but forced to retire early on through electronic problems, has already seen the potential of the Ducati and has to be expecting a high finish in Losail.

Spanish sensation Dani Pedrosa had the greatest MotoGP debut in history in Jerez, earning second place and challenging for the lead in his first race. The reigning 250cc World Champion has shown no fear upon his introduction to the premier class of MotoGP, and a continuation of the performance would perhaps fuel talk of title contendership yet further for the young rookie.

Finishing third in the GP de España, and lap record holder in Qatar, Pedrosa's team-mate Nicky Hayden is out to continue his streak of podium finishes. The run extends back to 2005's Grand Prix at the Losail Circuit in October, where he completed the rostrum places.

All eyes will be on seven times World Champion Valentino Rossi, as he looks to regain ground lost through his 14th place finish in the season-opener. A victim of a first corner collision with Toni Elias, who rode well to finish 4th, MotoGP's charismatic star has seen the recurrence of a chattering problem on the 2006 M1 stifle his progress, and both he and team-mate Colin Edwards will be keen to solve the problem and get back amongst the points in the Saturday race.

With both Pedrosa and Casey Stoner moving up to the premier class of MotoGP, the 250cc category is witnessing a new generation of stars trying to take the vacant crown. Jorge Lorenzo was impressive at his home circuit, earning his first win in the quarter litre category. Competition for the Spaniard in Qatar could come from any one of a number of riders, including second placed Alex De Angelis, Italian Andrea Dovizioso and Yuki Takahashi. Lorenzo is also sure to be looking over his shoulder for his Aprilia team-mate Hector Barbera, regarded a one of the favourites to take the 250cc crown in 2006.

The always tight 125cc class is jam-packed with contenders this season. With last year's champion Thomas Luthi still suffering the ill effects of a fractured collarbone in the Official Test in Catalunya, retiring from the first Grand Prix of the season after qualifying 16th, Alvaro Bautista took it upon himself to become the title frontrunner. The Spaniard took victory over Lukas Pesek, the first Czech on the podium since 1971, and Mattia Pasini. However any one of a number of riders have a case for winning in Qatar. Mika Kallio, last year's runner-up, Julian Simon, Hector Faubel and Sergio Gadea will all be hoping to improve on their top six finishes at the Losail Circuit.

Dominated by a 1.1km straight, the remainder of the 5.4km Losail track is a sinuous high-speed switchback, with most corners leading into one another, rather than separated by straights. The circuit was designed using elements of other famous tracks.

Windblown desert sand made the circuit treacherously slippery during the inaugural 2004 Qatar GP but the track has since seen improvements. Heat is another factor in Qatar, with last year's race getting underway amidst temperatures of nearly 50 degrees. With the Grand Prix being an April affair this year, cooler conditions are expected.


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