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MotoGP grid lines up for 2007 curtain raiser in Qatar

MotoGP grid lines up for 2007 curtain raiser in Qatar

The wait is finally over for MotoGP participants and fans alike. Just four months on from the final race of 2006, the MotoGP World Championship returns for 18 rounds of breathtaking action, starting this weekend at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.

The wait is finally over for MotoGP participants and fans alike. Just four months on from the final race of 2006, the MotoGP World Championship returns for 18 rounds of breathtaking action, starting this weekend at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.

The preseason has been one of the busiest to date, as all involved in the MotoGP class have had to adapt to the new 800cc bikes brought in this season. On track since the morning after the Valencian race, and only pausing for an enforced six-week testing ban, both riders and machines have come on leaps and bounds since their early developmental stage. The Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar will be the first chance to see an all-800cc grid go tooth and nail in a race setting, but early indications point to an extremely competitive playing field in MotoGP.

World Champion Nicky Hayden will be looking to start his title defence with a bang at a track where he finished second last year. His latest visit to the Losail International Circuit saw him crashing twice in testing and concluding the test low down on the timesheets, and this is sure to provide the already motivated ‘Kentucky Kid' with added incentive to push for victory and answer the critics.

He will have a tough task ahead of him though, as he tries to beat 2006 runner-up and five-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi at a circuit where the Italian has quite a pedigree. ‘The Doctor' has won the last two visits to Losail, and is renowned for starting the season well. Last year's opening Grand Prix at Jerez was the first time since 2000 that he had failed to win the opening race of the campaign, and recent Official Test performances at Qatar and Jerez- where he took the BMW M Award for the fastest lap in a 40-minute timed session show that both he and the Yamaha M1 are shaping up well for 2007.

Second at the timed shootout, and fastest last time out in testing at Qatar, Dani Pedrosa is also one of the form riders of the moment. The Spaniard's 250cc experience seems to be a perfect compliment to the riding style required by the Honda RC212V, and Pedrosa's recent results and impressive debut season make him a serious title contender this year.

Other riders and teams to shine during preseason include Colin Edwards, a regular at the business end of the timesheets over the past few months, Honda satellite rider Marco Melandri and the Suzuki duo of Chris Vermeulen and John Hopkins. The latter will be making his return to the track where last year he suffered mechanical failure in the race, and which in turn gave him a huge highside at last month's Official Test, causing injuries which ruled him out of the final preseason test.

Changing teams for 2007 are last season's Qatar pole position man Casey Stoner (Ducati), Makoto Tamada (Yamaha), Carlos Checa (Honda) and Shinya Nakano (Honda), whilst there are MotoGP returns for veterans Alex Barros (Ducati), Jeremy McWilliams (Ilmor), Andrew Pitt (Ilmor) and Olivier Jacque (Kawasaki). After last year's influx of young talent, only one newcomer, Yamaha satellite rider Sylvain Guintoli, undertakes his rookie season this year.

In 250cc, reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo returns to the scene of his 2006 victory with a number of riders aiming to knock him off his pedestal. Old rivals Andrea Dovizioso and Alex de Angelis have the Spaniard in their sights, alongside other impressive quarter-litre contenders such as Hiroshi Aoyama, Hector Barbera and Roberto Locatelli. This season sees an invasion of 125cc standouts in the class, with World Champions Alvaro Bautista and Thomas Lüthi, alongside twice runner-up Mika Kallio and Spanish talent Julian Simon, taking the next step up on the world stage to challenge for the top spots.

With the exodus of last year's frontrunners, the 125cc category will also be an extremely closely fought championship this year. Hector Faubel, Mattia Pasini, Sergio Gadea and Gabor Talmacsi lead the Aprilia charge, but should be pushed for glory by the likes of Derbi's Czech standout Lukas Pesek and KTM's Tomoyoshi Koyama. The official Honda team continue to put their efforts behind British youngster Bradley Smith, this year teaming him up with Spaniard Esteve Rabat.

The Losail International Circuit lies on the outskirts of Doha, the capital city of Qatar. Built in little over a year, the track cost $58 million USD and required round-the-clock dedication from almost 1,000 workers in order to get it ready for the inaugural event on October 2nd 2004. The track itself is a flowing layout of 5.4 kilometres, surrounded by artificial grass designed to prevent sand from the neighbouring desert from blowing onto the circuit. The main straight is over a kilometre in length and there is a good mix of medium and high-speed corners, including a couple of quick left-handers which have proved particularly popular with the riders.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2007, Commercialbank GRAND PRIX OF QATAR

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