Due to their top finishes at the two-day tests earlier this week at Losail International Circuit in Qatar, the Honda RC212V prototypes are the favorites going into the MotoGP season opener this weekend.
Repsol Honda team rider Casey Stoner was quickest both days, and his teammates Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso weren’t far behind.
A win at Qatar would also put much spirit into the Honda teams, considering nobody has won an opening round on a Honda since Valentino Rossi took the checkered flag at Suzuka in Japan in 2003.
The riders will be on the track tonight for the first day of testing (MotoGP has moved back to a three-day test format for 2011). While the riders prep for Sunday’s race, here are some of the statistical numbers ahead of Qatar from MotoGP:
100 – At the Qatar GP, Sandro Cortese is scheduled to make his 100th Grand Prix start, all of which have been in the 125cc class. Cortese made his Grand Prix debut at the opening race of 2005 at Jerez and has competed in every 125cc GP race since then without missing. At the age of 21 years and 73 days he will become the second youngest rider ever to reach the milestone of 100 Grand Prix starts; only Jorge Lorenzo has reached this milestone at a younger age.
63 – This will be the 63rd year that the 125cc class has been part of the world championship Grand Prix series. It is the only class to have maintained the same capacity limit since the world championship racing started in 1949. For 2012 the 125cc class will be replaced by a new four-stroke formula with a capacity limit of 250cc.
35 – Great rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa have both won 35 Grand Prix races across all three classes.
23 – Moto2 rider Ricky Cardus will celebrate his 23rd birthday on Friday of the Qatar GP weekend.
20 – British 125cc rider Danny Webb celebrates his 20th birthday on the Tuesday following the Qatar Grand Prix.
14 – Jorge Lorenzo’s victory at the final race of 2010 in Valencia was his 14th win in the premier-class, which is just one less than the number of career wins for Alex Criville who is the most successful Spanish rider of all-time in the premier class.
12 – Valentino Rossi will be aiming to win in the premier-class for the 12th successive year to equal the record of Giacomo Agostini.
12 – Dani Pedrosa has had twelve MotoGP victories. One more victory would give him the same number of premier class wins as Randy Mamola and Max Biaggi, who are currently the two riders with most premier-class wins without winning the world title.
11 – Qualifying day in Qatar will be the eleventh anniversary of the 2000 South African Grand Prix which was won by Garry McCoy on a Yamaha. This was also the race at which Valentino Rossi made his premier-class debut when he crashed on the 13th lap after setting the fastest lap of the race.
8 – It is eight years ago since a Honda rider won the opening MotoGP race of the year – Valentino Rossi in 2003 at the Suzuka circuit in Japan.
8 – This will be the eighth occasion that a Grand Prix event has been held at the Losail circuit and the fourth under floodlights. Yamaha and Ducati have each had three MotoGP victories at the Losail circuit. Honda’s single MotoGP victory in Qatar was back in 2004 with Sete Gibernau.
8 – There are eight British riders on the full-time Grand Prix entry list for 2011 across all three classes. The last time that as many as eight British riders competed in Grand Prix racing on a full-time basis was 1989.
5 – Aprilia riders have won the 125cc race in Qatar for the past five years. Prior to that Derbi won the 125cc GP at Qatar in 2004 and KTM in 2005.
5 – Rossi will be aiming to win in the premier-class on the fifth different motorcycle, having already won on the Honda NSR500, Honda RC211V, Yamaha 1000cc M1 and Yamaha 800cc M1.
4th – Suzuki’s best result at the Qatar GP is a fourth place finish by John Hopkins in 2007.
3 – Honda have had only three podium finishes in the MotoGP class at Losail since the introduction of the 800cc capacity limit in 2007, and on each occasion the result has been third: Pedrosa in 2007 and 2008 and Dovizioso last year.
1 – Of the seven MotoGP races held in Qatar, only one has been won from pole position: Casey Stoner in 2009 on a Ducati.
1 – Honda have only previously had one MotoGP pole at the Losail circuit: Casey Stoner in 2006 on just his second appearance in the MotoGP class.
1 – New entrant to the 125cc class Sarath Kumar, is the first ever rider from India to become a full-time Grand Prix rider.