The 2009 MotoGP field head to the Losail International Circuit in Qatar this weekend to commence their second test since the winter break, with three evening sessions awaiting them under the floodlights at the desert track from 1st-3rd March.
World Champion Valentino Rossi will be hoping to further familiarise himself with his 2009 Yamaha M1 machine and the new-generation Bridgestone tyres at a circuit where he found the going tough last year, during MotoGP’s first ever night time Grand Prix.
Rossi qualified seventh and finished fifth in last year’s season-opening Losail race, just one of two non-podium finishes for the Italian in 2008, and is therefore keen to increase his competitiveness around the Middle Eastern circuit. The MotoGP title-holder started 2009 in good form at Malaysia despite stitches in his left hand and foot following a domestic accident.
The man who got closest to Rossi in 2008 and the fastest rider at the aforementioned first test of 2009 at Sepang, Casey Stoner, will be testing the condition of his left wrist which was operated on last November and which caused him discomfort in Malaysia, preventing him from undertaking long runs on the Desmosedici GP9. Stoner is a top performer at Qatar having won the last two MotoGP races there.
Another rider looking to increase test his stamina levels at Losail is Dani Pedrosa, the former 250cc and 125cc World Champion, who left Sepang on the second of the three days of the test, due to pain in his left knee which he hurt in Australia late last season and had surgery on in December.
Pedrosa’s compatriot Jorge Lorenzo aims to up his game too having made improvements on the last day of the Malaysia test. Last season in Qatar Lorenzo sensationally took pole at his very first MotoGP event and rode a brilliant race to finish second, so he will be looking forward to making further improvements to his Fiat Yamaha M1 package there as of Sunday.
Andrea Dovizioso was also impressive in Qatar last year, finishing fourth on his MotoGP debut, and he anticipates the second test of 2009 as a chance to further evolve his new factory Honda RC212V package.
Having impressed in his first two tests with Ducati Marlboro at the end of 2008 in Valencia and Jerez, Stoner’s new team-mate Nicky Hayden was off the pace in Malaysia and will hope for an improved rhythm this time out.
Colin Edwards, meanwhile, was highly satisfied with the test results at Sepang as he finished the last day in fourth place, just 0.370s off pace-setter Stoner’s best, as the Tech 3 Yamaha squad got their first experience of the new M1 prototype. Edwards was more than 2.5 seconds quicker than his colleague James Toseland who had a heavy crash on the first day in Malaysia and now looks to rebuild his confidence.
The opening test of the year was considered a positive outing for Rizla Suzuki colleagues Loris Capirossi (fastest on the first day) and Chris Vermeulen, who now strive to confirm the apparent increased competitiveness of the GSV-R800 at a second track.
Although veteran rider Sete Gibernau misses the test due to a recurrence of a shoulder injury his fellow satellite Ducati riders Mika Kallio and Niccolo Canepa will be present, alongside San Carlo Honda Gresini pair Toni Elias (the fastest Honda rider at Sepang) and Alex de Angelis, LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet and Scot Racing Team rookie Yuki Takahashi.
In addition, Marco Melandri gets back on Kawasaki machinery for the first time since his Valencia and Phillip Island practice runs at the end of 2008, as he returns to MotoGP testing. Although Kawasaki announced the withdrawal of their factory team from the World Championship early in January, they will nonetheless provide material for Melandri to run in MotoGP this season and the Italian star will therefore test the 2009 bike which Olivier Jacque recently debuted in a private test at Eastern Creek.
The 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship will commence in Qatar with the first GP of the year on 10th-12th April.