This Thursday sees the long wait come to an end and one of the most eagerly awaited MotoGP™ Championship in years get underway at the 2013 season opener under the floodlights at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. Yamaha Factory Racing’s reigning world champion will have a tough task ahead defending his title this year, not only in the face of tough competition from Repsol Honda Team rival Dani Pedrosa, but also from an on-form returning teammate Valentino Rossi. Throw exciting rookie Marc Márquez into the mix, who has already shown masses of potential on his Repsol Honda, and the season is set for some fantastic battles. The satellite Yamaha and Honda contingent is looking stronger than ever after some highly competitive pre-season testing, where in fact Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow ended the final Jerez test on top. His fellow countryman and rookie teammate Bradley Smith has already shown he is adapting well to his M1, whilst LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, last season’s Rookie of the Year, looks set to be fighting for podium positions from the off. GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, who unfortunately damaged some fingers in a crash in Jerez, will also be one to watch in Qatar, as he looks to have found some favourable settings on his RC213V. The Ducati Team may not have lit up the pre-season after its management reshuffle, yet has arguably made some very big strides following a very tough first 2013 test. Factory riders Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso will line up on the new Desmosedici that features a greater mass centralization among other upgrades, and will both hope to build upon their increase in pace throughout the season. Their satellite riders, Ignite Pramac’s Ben Spies and Energy T.I.’s Andrea Iannone, both on factory bikes, could prove a threat, as the Italian has proven capable of some strong performances, whilst Spies is yet to show his full potential due to a recovering shoulder injury. As the CRT class enters its second year, its collective performance has already improved drastically, and will be further aided by the use of the spec Magneti Marelli ECU by some. The Power Electronics Aspar duo of Aleix Espargaró and Randy de Puniet had seemed like the certain favourites, but with impressive showings from the likes of Avintia Blusens’ Héctor Barberá in testing, it will make an unpredictable spectacle. And with Barberá’s teammate Hiroshi Aoyama, NGM Mobile Forward Racing pair Claudio Corti and Colin Edwards, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and Lukas Pesek, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, GO&FUN Gresini’s Bryan Staring, as well as Paul Bird Motorsport’s Yonny Hernandez and Michael Laverty all in the mix, 2013 promises some fireworks. In addition to this, the class is strengthened by a softer-spec rear tyre option, which will solely be available to CRTs. Another big change is this year’s brand-new qualifying format. The timesheets of the three practice sessions will be combined, from which the ten quickest riders will immediately pass through to Q2. Prior to that, the rest of the field will contest Q1 in order to fill grid positions 13 and downwards; the best two riders in Q1 will be awarded an entrance to Q2, providing a top-12 showdown for the first pole position of the year. As Moto2™ embarks on its fourth season once the red lights go out in Qatar for the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar there will be one favourite on people’s minds in the form of Tuenti HP 40’s Pol Espargaró. And whilst pre-season testing has confirmed the hype, it has also shown a raft of new and old contenders that once again promise to be at the sharp end and challenge for a win in one of the tightest fought championships in the world. Compatriot Julián Simón on his Italtrans Racing Team Kalex, as well as Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2’s Nico Terol on his competitive 2013 Suter already look like contenders, whilst Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding and Italtrans’ Takaaki Nakagami will certainly be in the mix. The NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team lines up with a strong package this year, as it fields four riders on a Speed Up chassis in the shape of Alex De Angelis, Simone Corsi, Mattia Pasini and Ricky Cardús. Having shown glimpses of good pace throughout testing and a raft of data to share, the team is one to watch as the championship gets underway. Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi, who last year was leading the race for a period, has not recovered from his big crash in the Valencia test, and is replaced by returning Sergio Gadea. The field also sports some promising rookie prospects, most notably 2012 Moto3™ World Champion Sandro Cortese, who lines up with his newly formed Dynavolt Intact GP team on-board a Kalex, and Tech 3 Racing pair Danny Kent and Louis Rossi. And with a newly enforced minimum combined bike and rider weigh of 215kg for 2013, the narrowly aligned class is only going to get even more exciting. The hard-chargers in Moto3™ will descend on Qatar for only the second time since the class’ introduction last year, and will arrive with yet further promise and high expectations. With some of the closest racing witnessed in 2012, and further improvements to the bikes across the class during pre-season, the 2013 season opener under the Losail floodlights in eagerly awaited. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Luis Salom finished Jerez testing fastest, and with Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins and Team Calvo’s Maverick Viñales close behind, the KTM has been confirmed as the package to beat. Viñales will start in Qatar with a slight handicap as he lost a fingertip during the final test, yet he will still be viewed as one of the season favourites. Rins’ teammate Alex Márquez starts the season in from as well, and will be hoping to emulate the success of his older brother Marc in the lower classes. Fighting with the front runners will also be Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger, who finished last season very strongly, whilst San Carlo Team Italia’s Romano Fenati will be hoping to repeat, or better, his second place at the Qatar circuit from last year. Throw into the mix a reshuffled Mahindra Racing team with Suter-developed technology and a strong rider line-up with Efrén Vázquez and Miguel Oliveira, and he list of potential winners is a long one. Salom’s teammates Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Arthur Sissis or Racing Team Germany’s Jack Miller and John McPhee all have the possibility to be in the mix after impressing in testing, whilst with newbies such as Red Bull MotoGP Rookies champion Florian Alt on his Kiefer Racing bike or Marc VDS Racing Team’s Livio Loi, the season opener promises to be spectacular.
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