The Most Memorable Moment
Of the three victories Ducati has racked up in Qatar, the 2007 win is undoubtedly the most memorable in the heart of the Ducatisti. That year the opening "race in the desert" started a season marked with important rule changes. The engines saw their displacement reduced from 999 to 800cc, the number of tyres per race was limited, and the capacity of the fuel tank was set to 21 litres. It was Casey Stoner's first race with Ducati ... and the result could not have been better.
The long straight at Losail turned into a test of new engines, a test in which the Ducati was victorious every time. It didn’t matter where it exited the last corner onto the straight: in a few meters the Desmosedici passed all its rivals with an incredible display of power. That day, Stoner won his first race in MotoGP, starting down a path that would finish with him being crowned World Champion.
It is the 15th time a GP will be held in Qatar, the 12th time this race opens the championship, and the 11th time it will be held at night. The spotlights of the only permanent circuit in the world with artificial lighting illuminate an area equivalent to 70 soccer fields and require 5.4 million watts of power - equivalent to the electricity supply of 3,000 homes. Ducati took the record of being the first motorcycle to win a night GP when Casey Stoner clinched the win in 2008.
The 1068 metre straight clocks top speeds of 350 km/h -217mph- and Ducati has been the fastest bike in the Qatar GP no fewer than nine times. Last year, the first five bikes that topped the speed list were Ducatis. The braking at the end of the straight is the second hardest in the entire championship, requiring brake lever pressures of 8 kg over 5.1 seconds crossing a distance of 290 meters -317 yards-.
Qatar belongs to the group of circuits with the highest consumption of gasoline and has the peculiarity that the wind blows desert sand onto the asphalt, dirtying the track and making the grip outside the race line questionable and creating a tremendously abrasive surface for tires.
When Qatar joined the MotoGP calendar in 2004, no one expected that rain would be a problem, but it has been and it still is a serious complication for the race organization. The glare of the spotlights on the wet asphalt hinders visibility, and together with mud that forms by the sand on the asphalt, has prevented the race from being held in wet conditions. In 2009, it began to rain moments before the start of the race, and an unprecedented decision was made to delay the race until Monday night. For the first time in history, a GP was held outside of the weekend ... and the winner was Casey Stoner on his Desmosedici.
The Overtaking Points
The front straight and the braking at the end of it are an ideal place to gain positions in Losail. The slipstream allows for the necessary inertia to pass a competitor or to get close enough to attempt a pass under braking. This, together with the different race lines that are possible in the first corner, make it the major overtaking area. Dovizioso is an expert on this point: last year he overtook Iannone, Márquez and Viñales twice. Turn 6, the slowest corner in Qatar which is taken below 70 km/h -44mph-, is another favorite place to recover positions. The last corner should also be considered, a point where for years no overtaking was made, but where lately some exchanging of positions happened.
The Critical Point
If there is a corner in Losail that all riders have a certain respect for, it is turn 2. A left the riders arrive at 38 seconds after the previous left hander, causing a drop in rubber temperature that reduces grip. This was the cause of Zarco’s crash last year when he led the GP.
Of the 14 crashes that occurred at the race last year in MotoGP, five were in turn 2; two in turn 4, 10, 14 and 16, and one in turn 5.
Dovizioso in Qatar
Andrea finished second in the last three races disputed in Qatar. In 2015, he was fighting for the win over Rossi until the final flag. In 2016, he won second position over Márquez in the last corner, and last year, he fought with Viñales for the victory until the last lap. He has seven podiums in Qatar, the track where he has climbed onto the podium the second highest number of times after his eight podiums at Le Mans. His best position on the grid is the pole position he achieved in 2015, the only time he started from the front row of the grid in Qatar; he has started from the second row nine times. Although he has never managed to win at Losail, he is the favorite to win.
Lorenzo in Qatar
Jorge has 6 victories in Qatar. He is the rider with the most wins at this circuit and the only rider who has won in three displacements (2004 in 125cc, 2006 and 2007 in 250cc and 2012, 2013 and 2016 in MotoGP). He is also the rider who has been on the podium the highest number of times –11—with a total of 8 pole positions, with the highlight being 2008 which was his first race in MotoGP, something that no other debutant rider has managed since. The Qatari layout adapts perfectly to Lorenzo’s style and therefore makes him one of the favorites for the win.
10 things to know
1. Jorge Lorenzo has been on the podium in Qatar the most, 11 times in 14 GPs.
2. Lorenzo is also the rider with the most victories in Qatar with a total of 6, and the only rider to win in the three categories (2004 in 125cc, 2006 and 2007 in 250cc and 2012, 2013 and 2016 in MotoGP).
3. Dovizioso finished second in the last 3 races disputed in Qatar, and has managed to get on the podium seven times.
4. Lorenzo and Dovizioso recorded the same time at the finish line in 2004. The photo finish showed the two riders in the exact point side by side on the finish line, so the victory was decided by the best fastest lap, giving the victory to Jorge.
5. Ducati has won the first race of the season on four occasions: With Capirossi in 2006, a season that started at the Jerez circuit, and with Stoner in 2007, 2008 and 2009, at the Qatar circuit.
6. In 2004 the first GP of Qatar was held with Sete Gibernau taking the victory. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, that triumph was the last of his sporting career.
7. The race starts are signaled with red traffic lights going out, a system that was installed in 2001. Previously, the starts were signaled by the traffic lights changing from red to green.
8. Randy Mamola was the first rider to use the tyre-warmers at the 1987 Japanese Grand Prix. That race was held in the rain and Mamola won the victory in part because he was able to start the race with tyres that were hotter than those of the rest of the grid.
9. This season there will be nineteen races held, the highest number of races that the Championship has ever hosted in a season.
10. The Championship starts on March 18 and ends on November 18, lasting exactly 8 months, making it the longest World Championship in history and with the latest end date. The earliest date a championship started was in 1964, with the United States Grand Prix held at Daytona on February 2.