Valentino Rossi will compete in his first race this weekend aboard the Ducati Team GP11 at Losail International Circuit in Qatar, round one of the 2011 MotoGP Championship.
The nine-time world champion has struggled adapting to the Ducati throughout the MotoGP pre-season, and also has complained of a weak shoulder, which he injured last year in a Motocross training accident.
But the Italian will other incentive also, considering the first day of practice in Qatar, Thursday, is also when Italy will celebrate its 150th Annivesary of Unification. To help celebrate the anniversary, Rossi and his teammate Nicky Hayden’s Ducati GP11s will don three Italian flags that represent the "three Jubilees of 1911, 1961, 2011 , a link between generations."
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP11) says: "For the first practice session in Qatar, we’ll start with the settings that we found on the last day of the test, because our final lap time notwithstanding, they weren’t bad. In fact, I think I could have gone faster if the strength hadn’t left my shoulder almost without warning before I had even tried the soft tires.
"The race weekend has sessions of 45 minutes and one hour, so it should be easier from that point of view. Naturally, my shoulder isn’t the only issue: if we want to have a good race, we know that in addition to me being physically ready, we’ll have to find some solutions that will help us be faster and improve our pace. In any event, the debut with Ducati brings a lot of motivation, and Sunday will definitely be very emotional.
"A greeting to all the Italians who will be celebrating the 150th year of Italy’s unification tomorrow: we know there are a lot of you supporting us, and although we probably won’t yet be at our best by Sunday, we’ll give it our best effort. I’m also thinking of everyone in Japan who is living through this very difficult moment. What happened is truly frightening, but Japan’s people are very strong and capable of reacting. We’re all behind you."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP11) says: "Well, it’s time to go racing now! We obviously wouldn’t have minded a bit more testing, but I’m looking forward to starting another season. We’ll have four days here for the race weekend, so there’s still time to check some more options.
"During the test, there were parts of the track where I was pretty fast, and a couple of long, fast corners where I was losing a pretty good chunk of time. Our focus will be to try and get the bike to steer a bit better through those spots.
"Hopefully as the track gets cleaned up more, it will help us a bit more than some of the others. Everyone is really tight on times, and I think that’s pretty cool. I like how competitive it is, and we know it’s going to be like that all season. Finally, I’d like to let everyone in Japan know the world is with them in this difficult time. I’ve worked with many Japanese companies over the years, so I have a lot of friends and fans there. Stay strong; we’re thinking of you".
Vittoriano Guareschi (Ducati MotoGP Team Manager) says: "Tomorrow, practice starts for the Grand Prix, and we’ll try to apply everything we’ve learned during winter testing. With Valentino, we weren’t able to completely use all of the days at our disposal, and because of that, we still haven’t found all the solutions for an optimal setup for him.
"He still won’t be at 100% physically for a couple more months, but we know that when the starting light goes off, he’ll give everything he has and more! In the meantime, we’ll continue working without pause to improve the bike, because the others have made a lot of progress and the level is very high.
"Nicky is progressing and compared to Malaysia, he has found some promising solutions here in Qatar that we can work on for the race. Sunday will be very important and emotional for us and for all motorcycle racing enthusiasts-Italian and otherwise-and that gives us even more motivation and desire to do well."
The first of three practices will be a 7:55 p.m. Thursday evening under the floodlights at Losail International Circuit.
Following are some Qatar stats from Ducati:
Losail Circuit Records:
Circuit Record: Casey Stoner (Ducati – 2008), 1’55.153, 168.193 Km/h
Best Pole: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha – 2008), 1’53.927, 170.003 Km/h
Circuit Length: 5,380 km
MotoGP Race 2011: 22 laps (118,360 km)
MotoGP Schedule 2011 : 22:00 Local Time
Number of laps: 22
Total race distance: 118,360 km
PODIUM 2010: 1st Valentino Rossi, 2nd Jorge Lorenzo, 3rd Andrea Dovizioso
POLE 2010: Casey Stoner ( Ducati – 2010) 1’55.007 – 168.407 Km/h
DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM’S BEST RESULTS AT LOSAIL
2010: 4th (Hayden)
2009: 1st (Stoner)
2008: 1st (Stoner)
2007: 1st (Stoner)
2006: 3rd (Capirossi)
2005: 6th (Checa)
DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM – RIDER INFO
Age: 32 (born 16 February 1979 in Pesaro, Italy)
Residency: Tavullia (Pesaro, Italy)
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP11
Racing Number: 46
First GP: Malaysian GP, 1996 (125cc)
GP Appearances: 240 (180xMotoGP, 30x250cc, 30x125cc)
First GP Win: Czech Republic GP, 1996 (125cc)
GP wins: 105 (79xMotoGP, 14x250c, 12x125cc)
First Pole: Czech Republic GP, 1996 (125cc)
Pole: 59 (49xMotoGP, 5x250cc, 5x125cc)
World Titles: 9 (1 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 6 x MotoGP)
Rossi’s MotoGP track record at Losail
2010: Grid: 2nd; Race: 1st
2009: Grid: 2nd; Race: 2nd
2008: Grid: 7th; Race: 5th
2007: Grid: 1st; Race: 2nd
2006: Grid: 6th; Race: 1st
2005: Grid: 3rd; Race: 1st
2004: Grid: 23rd; Race: DNF
Age: 29 (born 30th July 1981 in Owensboro, Kentucky, USA)
Residency: Owensboro, USA
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP11
GP Appearances: 134 (134xMotoGP)
First GP: Japan, 2003 (MotoGP)
GP wins: 3 (3xMotoGP)
First GP win: USA, 2005 (MotoGP)
Pole positions: 5 (5xMotoGP)
First pole: USA, 2005 (MotoGP)
World titles: 1 (MotoGP, 2006)
Hayden’s MotoGP track record at Losail
2010: Grid: 9th; Race: 4th
2009: Grid:16th; Race: 12th
2008: Grid: 6th; Race: 10th
2007: Grid: 9th; Race: 8th
2006: Grid: 4th; Race: 2nd
2005: Grid: 8th; Race: 3rd
2004: Grid: 4th; Race: 5th