The 2008 MotoGP season saw a spectacular inauguration ceremony yesterday, at the Losail circuit, where the Qatar Grand Prix will be held on the 9th of March. This will be the first MotoGP race ever to be held at night, on a floodlit track. A thousand poles have been erected around the 5.38km long circuit, and lighting specialists have been trying to ensure that the five and a half million watt lighting arrangement is such that shadows are minimized during the race.
During yesterday’s official test session at night, reigning MotoGP world champ Casey Stoner was the fastest, putting in a lap time of 1:55.330. ‘The first impression is like playing the Need for Speed videogame! It's definitely a lot different to what we're used to. It's not better or worse, just different. The most interesting thing is that with lower visibility, at least with regard to the imperfections on the track, you have to have more confidence than your instinct tells you to have. It's not a bad start though,’ said Stoner.
Five-time MotoGP world champ, Valentino Rossi went 1.4 seconds slower than Stoner, ending up in ninth place. At 1:56.749, The Doctor was slower than MotoGP newbies James Toseland, who was in fifth place, and Jorge Lorenzo, who was second-quickest overall! ‘I have to say that I am quite satisfied. I think they have made a great job with the lights and you can ride quite normally. The visibility is quite good so there is no danger for us – it’s really no more difficult than riding in the day,’ said Rossi.
‘Maybe it would be better to move this night race to a period when the temperature is a little bit higher however, because at the moment it's very cold here. We have worked a lot on the bike setup, but we were not so fast and we are still missing some grip in acceleration. We tested several different tyres and settings, but I am still sliding a bit when I open the throttle and the front is going a bit wide. We know that this track doesn't have the best grip, but other riders are going faster, so we must do better,’ admitted Rossi, who must indeed ‘improve’ in double-quick time if wants to take on Stoner this year.
The third serious contender for the 2008 MotoGP world title, Dani Pedrosa was a smidge quicker than Rossi. With a best lap time of 1:56.621, Pedrosa was in eight place, but apparently not very happy with the night race. ‘The track seems to be well lit, but there are a lot of shadows and it's very tiring on the eyes. I rode on my own throughout most of this evening's session, so I don't yet know how the floodlights will be in a race situation,’ said Pedrosa.
‘Compared to the last test session in Jerez, my physical condition has improved. I still feel pain when I'm braking and the hand has swollen a bit, but it's better than it was at Jerez. It's been quite a difficult evening, we are struggling with the bike, and we haven't found the right set-up, so tomorrow we will continue working to prepare a base set-up for the race weekend here, which is next week,’ concluded Pedrosa, who, according to Stoner, will be the biggest threat this year.
Catch all the action here on Faster and Faster on the 9th of March, when the 2008 MotoGP season kicks off in Qatar!
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