2019 Qatar MotoGP Preview

The 2019 MotoGP Championship officially gets underway this Sunday at Losail International Circuit in Qatar, round one of 19.

Heading into the season opener, Yamaha, Honda and Ducati split the top times in preseason testing.

The results were:

  • Valencia, Maverick Vinales, Yamaha YZR-M1
  • Jerez, Takaaki Nakagami, Honda RC213V
  • Sepang, Danilo Petrucci, Ducati GP19
  • Qatar, Maverick Vinales, Yamaha YZR-M1

Now that the bikes are tuned and many of the riders are at full health, the real competition begins.

2019 Qatar MotoGP Preview Honda Marc Marquez
Honda’s Marc Marquez

Following are some facts and stats ahead of 2019 Qatar MotoGP.

1. As Losail International Circuit begins its 16th appearance in MotoGP – the 12th under the floodlights – Jorge Lorenzo is the most successful rider in Qatar with six wins (3X MotoGP; 2X 250cc; 1X 125cc). The five-time World Champion begins his first season with Repsol Honda, and arrives in Qatar following scaphoid surgery. He appears fully fit to compete at a level typical of a three-time MotoGP Champ.

2. Lorenzo’s Repsol Honda teammate, seven-time World Champion Marc Marquez, also underwent surgery over the winter break for his shoulder. Marquez, the reigning MotoGP Champion, only has one win at Qatar – 2014 – but finished second last season.

Yamaha Maverick Vinales 2019 Qatar MotoGP Preview
Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales

3. Yamaha has the most MotoGP wins at Qatar with eight, and Valentino Rossi claimed four of those. His teammate Vinales has a single MotoGP win there with Yamaha from 2017.

4. Vinales was fastest in the final preseason test in Qatar, posting a quickest time of 1:54.208. To put this time into perspective, the fastest lap (across all sessions) at Qatar is a 1:53.680, which was posted by Johann Zarco last season (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).

5. Mission Winnow Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso was the quickest during preseason testing as he adapted to the new GP19, but he has two things on his side: he’s fully fit, and he won at Qatar last season. Dovi, who finished second overall in the past two years behind Marquez, has finished on the podium at Qatar every year since 2015.

2019 Qatar MotoGP Preview Ducati Dovizioso
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso

6. Dovizioso’s teammate Petrucci was strong during Sepang testing, the Italian leading the time sheets. But he struggled at Qatar testing, finishing ninth overall, over a half-second behind Vinales. Since joining MotoGP in 2012 Petrucci’s best finish at Losail is fifth (2018).

7. Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and rookie teammate Joan Muir showed some consistent speeds throughout the preseason. Rins impressed when he led the second day of testing at Qatar. The Spaniard claimed ninth last year at Qatar during his rookie year.

8. For 2019, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Esparagaro is joined by Johann Zarco. Espargaro adapted quickly to the KTM during Sepang testing, finishing consistently within the top 10 and just over a half-second off the top time. As for the Frenchman Zarco, he joins KTM after two years aboard a satellite Yamaha YZR-M1; he has some adapting to do.

2019 Qatar MotoGP Preview KTM Pol Espargaro
KTM’s Pol Espargaro

9. In regards to rookies, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) impressed during the Qatar test, claiming second overall just 0.233 of a second behind Vinales. He has never finished better than second at Qatar since joining the Grand Prix series in 2015 (Moto3).

10. BeIN will provide live broadcast coverage of 2019 Qatar Grand Prix beginning at 8:50 a.m. ET and ending at 1 p.m. The actual MotoGP race should begin around noon ET.

2019 Qatar MotoGP Preview: Rider Quotes

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: Finally, it’s time to go racing once again! This winter has been different due to the surgery, I worked hard with five hours of physio per day with only one goal: arrive in the best conditions in the first race of the year. At the Qatar Test I felt much better than at the Malaysia Test and now I can say that I arrive almost 100%. Honda have done a lot to improve the bike and in the test we were feeling strong, especially for a circuit which usually isn’t the best for us, but we have to keep improving. Qatar is always a special round, not just because it is the first of the year but also because of the conditions. We will have to pay special attention to the temperature and consider everything before the race.”

Yamaha Maverick Vinales 2019 Qatar MotoGP Preview
Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales

Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda: “Lining up on the grid in Qatar is something I have been picturing during the entire off-season. It’s a new era for me and for the team, it is a special moment to be riding for the Repsol Honda Team. I am ready to give everything to achieve the best results I can on the Honda. Unfortunately I am not yet at my maximum with the bike, but I still believe we can achieve a good result here in Qatar. As with every year, MotoGP is looking very competitive and we certainly have the package we need to fight with the best after some more time. I know we can achieve greatness.”

Valentino Rossi, Monster Energy Yamaha: “Finally, the first GP of the season is about to start! The preseason tests were very important. Both in Sepang and in Qatar we’ve taken steps forward and we can say that we’ve done positive tests. We still have to improve a lot, but the road we’re on is the right one. This Friday we’ll begin the first 2019 race weekend and we’ll be able to understand many things better. We’ll have time to improve the bike during the free practice sessions and we’ll do everything to get ready for the race. I feel good, I have trained well this winter, and I’m ready to start this new season with my team and all the Yamaha staff. We will do our best!”

Maverick Vinales, Monster Energy Yamaha: “I‘m so excited to come to Qatar and start the new season. I can‘t wait! The conclusion of the winter tests was very positive. I felt I was going very fast on the three days of testing here in Qatar, so I come to the first race with a positive mindset. We have a good rhythm. The first round in Losail is going to be very important to see if all the work that was done during the winter has served us well. Our bike has many strong points at this moment. I felt very good riding the bike during all the winter, I pushed my M1 to the limit. We have taken a step forward compared to last season, I think I’m riding my M1 in a very good way again. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I feel strong enough to fight for the podium at this circuit this weekend. Above all, I feel very excited to start a new season with Yamaha. We just need to keep working and focus on improving the bike as much as possible to fight for the podium and, of course, for the victory. I can‘t forget that I won my first GP with Yamaha here, so I have very special memories of this circuit and that gives me extra motivation.”

Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati): “We worked positively and methodically during the winter break, and I’m confident we’ll be ready to put up a fight from the very first round. The lap times from the tests, especially in Qatar, don’t really show the whole picture since most riders mostly worked on race pace. As for us, we collected plenty of interesting data and we analyzed it into great detail to come up with the best possible strategy ahead of this round. We’ll be able to assess our level and that of our opponents more in depth only once we take it back to the track, but what matters is that our feeling with the bike has been very good up to this point.”

2019 Qatar MotoGP Preview Aprilia Aleix Espargaro
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro

Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati): “I’m happy with the way the tests went and ready to begin a new season. From the very first outing with the team, I’ve been trying to further optimize my approach, both physically and mentally, to make the most of this opportunity. I’ve also made some important changes to my training and dietary regimes, and I feel as ready as ever for the upcoming battle. We managed to be fast in each session during the winter tests, but in the end it’s the race that matters, and that’s usually a different story. We have a lot of competitive rivals, especially on this track given the recent tests done here: it won’t be easy to put them behind us, but I’m confident we have some good cards up our sleeve.”

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Gresini: “Preparation for the season was positive overall. The new bike is definitely a step forward in the right direction. I found a good feeling and I think there is still margin to work with. Especially in a few areas, we can definitely improve. The data collected in the simulations during the tests helped us to understand a lot in terms of the strong and not-so-strong points of the new project. Like every year, I can’t wait to get on the track and start getting down to business.”

Andrea Iannone, Aprilia Racing Gresini: “During the last tests on this track, we worked well, focusing on our priorities in anticipation of the race. At the end of the three days, we reached a good base to start from for this weekend. I am feeling positive, although keeping my feet on the ground. This is all new to us, so it won’t be a walk in the park, but I am confident that, if we are able to take 100% advantage of the available potential, we’ll be able to start on the right foot.”