After an intensive winter schedule that has taken the team across the world in development of the new 800cc machines, the moment of truth is about to arrive at the Losail circuit in Qatar, which hosts the opening round of the MotoGP World Championship 2007 this Saturday. It is the first of 18 unmissable rounds that will take in fifteen countries across four continents between March and November.
Team Honda Gresini stands on the brink of a new campaign in new livery, with new colours and and ready to take on an entirely new challenge. The 990cc machines that have marked the MotoGP age so far give way to 800cc prototypes this Saturday as the Losail International Circuit welcomes a new era in the sport.
Marco Melandri and Toni Elias can count on the support of an entire squad with the sole focus of winning the title with the Bridgestone-shod Honda RC212V.
Marco Melandri: "I'm really fired up for the start of the new season. We've done a lot of preparation during the winter, working methodically, focusing on race pace as opposed to a single fast lap. I like the bike a lot, especially the cycle part, I've got a good feeling with it and I'm having fun again. I've got a lot of confidence in the Honda-Bridgestone package and complete faith in our partners - HRC and Bridgestone. I'm happy even though there is still work to do. The race will be particularly demanding because the Losail circuit has a long straight and you need horsepower. At least in the test we completed there in February we worked out which way we want to go with the race tyre."
Toni Elias: "I can't wait to get back on track for the first race. I'm really happy to be back with Fausto Gresini, my chief mechanic Cecchini and all the guys in the team. I really believe in continuity and I feel comfortable and well supported here. We're working to find a base that has the best possible balance between the bike and the new tyres that Bridgestone brought to Jerez to suit my riding style. Losail is a tough track because the conditions mean there is no room for error. We tested here in the middle of February but this time I want to get more out of the bike's potential with these new tyres."
Fausto Gresini: "After so many months of preparation it is always exciting to arrive at the first race of the season. This year our team is consolidated, with two young riders who have a lot of potential and whom we have a lot of faith in. We're proud to continue with Marco Melandri in a project we started alongside Honda in 2005. After finishing runners-up in the World Championship in 2005 and starring at the front of the pack throughout last season, we're aiming for even bigger and better things this season. Alongside Marco we have Toni Elias, who is in his second season with our team. There is no doubting his potential and we want to help this young talent grow so that he can continue to reap the fruit of the determination that sets him apart from the rest, something we saw last year on the way to his first victory in MotoGP."
The new rules
The Grand Prix of Qatar, the opening round of the MotoGP World Championship 2007, is the start of a season that promises to be full of surprises. With the advent of a new era featuring more compact 800cc bikes, there is also a host of technical and sporting changes to the rule book - the change in engine capacity being the most notable.
Engine:the maximum engine size has gone down from 990 to 800cc. This has forced the manufacturers to redesign their bikes either partly or completely. It has been calculated that this will lead to 25-30 hp power loss during the first development stage.
Weight: this has not changed. To be exact, bikes with on-board cameras must weigh at least 148 kilos for 3-4 cylinder engines.
Fuel Consumption: the amount of fuel allowed for use during the race has been reduced from 22 litres to 21.
Tyres: there is a major restriction on the tyres allowed in each single race. Every racer has 31 tyres (14 front, 17 rear) available to choose from. All the tyres must be allocation-marked before the first practice session. Rain tyres are excluded from this allocation. This restriction does not apply to manufacturers that have not yet achieved a podium finish.