Annual Events Open MotoGP Season In Losail

Preparations have begun in earnest for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar on the pre-race Thursday, with some of the traditional formalities ahead of the new season taking place in the paddock of the Losail International Circuit. Riders have been briefed and photographed, bikes examined, the press informed and the 2008 MotoGP World Championship officially declared open for business in a busy day in the Middle East emirate.

Whilst the Grand Prix itself is the first ever to be held at night, Thursday was definitively a daytime affair for pending tasks. Taking place throughout the day was the annual scrutineering process, in which every machine on the grid in all three World Championship categories was rigorously examined under the supervision of MotoGP Technical Director Mike Webb to ensure that they met the required standards for competition.

Whilst their bikes were being given the once over, the riders themselves were also being reacquainted with the rules and regulations to which to adhere in 2008. Individual briefing sessions for MotoGP, 250cc and 125cc competitors were held in the press conference room at Losail, with reminders about warmup and pit lane etiquette amongst the subjects on the agenda. Race Director Paul Butler also used the briefing to clarify what would happen in the event of rain in Qatar, confirming that practice or races scheduled in that moment would be delayed or halted.

The second group photo for both riders and bikes also took place before the start of practice for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, under brighter conditions than those experienced at the MotoGP Official Test in Jerez last month. Resplendent in their full race attire, the riders appeared on the finish line which they will be hoping to cross ahead of their rivals on Sunday night.

Following on from the photographers, journalists were the next in line to get their pre-race dose of MotoGP opinion from five of the premier class' big names. Reigning World Champion Casey Stoner was joined by former five-time title holder Valentino Rossi, 2007 season runner-up Dani Pedrosa, Kawasaki star John Hopkins and veteran force Loris Capirossi to field questions about the coming year, the recent preseason tests and their expectations for the historic night race.

With all these preparatory procedures ticked off the list, only one thing remained for the start of the Grand Prix weekend: The Opening of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship, attended by Messrs. Vito Ippolito (FIM President), Claude Danis (FIM CCR President), Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QMMF President), Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna CEO), and all MotoGP Riders marked the final event of the pre-practice action, in the form of a Gala Evening held at the Sharq Village & Spa in nearby Doha.

Late night events are something to which those present will become accustomed over the course of the weekend, with practice sessions beginning tomorrow ahead of Sunday's race. The first of said sessions takes place at 6pm local time on Friday, with the 125cc class on track, followed by MotoGP and 250cc.

Casey Stoner
"In the end I didn't have a lot of rest over the winter because it has been a pretty hectic preseason, so now I'm really just looking forward to racing. With the injury I stretched the ligaments in my shoulder so the collarbone has been sticking up. It was quite sore when we started testing but I've done a lot of work on it and I think I'm close to 100% now.

"Testing has gone very well and we are hoping to eliminate weaknesses at certain circuits which we experienced last year. I'm approaching this season with more confidence than last season. I have been impressed by some of the rookies in testing but I think the main contenders will be the people alongside me here."