The 2022 Qatar GP began with a bang on Wednesday as 2021 MotoGP™ Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), runner up Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and 2020 Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) headed to Lusail Iconic Stadium with a very special guest: Cafu.
The four saddled up at Lusail International Circuit and then rode on street bikes – with each rider representing for their factory and Cafu on a BMW M 1000 RR – to the stadium in a unique parade, riding right to the edge of the turf that will host the final of the 2022 World Cup. After a quick photo opportunity there, it was time to hit the changing room and get ready to head out onto the pitch.
The three riders had a personalised national kit waiting for them, with Quartararo representing France, Bagnaia Italy and Mir Spain. Once suited and booted, they headed back onto the pitch with ambassadors of the Super Committee of Qatar: Cafu, Mubarak Mustafa and Khalid Salman, making them the first players to step on the grass ahead of its official inauguration later in March.
Now it's back to familiar turf and the paddock, with the pre-event Press Conference on Thursday prefacing the first track action of the year on Friday morning. Lights out for MotoGP™ on Sunday is 18:00 (GMT +3) – so make sure to tune in!
Cafu: "It's incredible to be in this stadium that will host the World Cup final. Being here with the guys from MotoGP has really been a fantastic experience. Seeing them on the track and what they do, being here with them playing football today has been a day to remember!
"On the football pitch, maybe I have some more experience! But they did really well, and it was a lot of fun, and we enjoyed it."
Fabio Quartararo: "This is the first time I've played at a professional stadium, it's really nice and we had fun with Pecco and Joan, it's a good way to start the GP.
"I'm feeling strong, I feel I'm in good shape to fight for really good results, but we'll see with our bike, we didn't make a big step but I feel like in riding I'm really strong. To be honest we lost a bit on one-lap pace, I lost it a bit in pre-season, but on race pace I've been incredible. We can always improve but I felt super strong so let's hope to have the same pace in this GP."
Francesco Bagnaia: "I enjoyed today, maybe it would be nice to always have pre-events like this! I'd like to see Italy in the final in this stadium, it would be great.
"I feel ready for the season, more than last year, for sure the last part of last season was very good and we start from there. The feeing with the bike is good, the feeling with the team is great and I think we have the potential to do a really good job. It looks like it will be a really nice Championship for the fans, because a lot of riders are fast and competitive with the bikes so I think it'll be good.
"For sure the level is higher than last year, but we're prepared for that. I think we can fight for the win."
Joan Mir: "I enjoyed this a lot, today we got a masterclass and enjoyed it a lot. This place is amazing, before the World Cup it's something special. Football is something I like to practice, although I don't practice a lot, I enjoy it. So thanks for the opportunity! I enjoyed it and I hope to be back when the World Cup's here.
"I think missing the last day in Mandalika isn't something we'll pay for. We've been testing well, maybe we are missing some time attacks to understand the limit of the bike, but I feel great. I think we can make a good start and be prepared. it's always nice to start the season here in Qatar, it's a track I always enjoy and FP1 is always dirty but it's really nice.
"Every year I make a step in physical condition and experience, this is really important. I'm young and every year I have margin to improve, and physically I always have more. I trained a lot and I'm ready. Who knows what will happen, but let's enjoy it."