This coming Saturday the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship will burst into life under the lights of Losail and the desert night sky, as the very first motorcycle Grand Prix of Qatar launches the eighteen round campaign. It will be a novel and unique way to start the racing season for the premier MX1-GP class (450cc four-stroke machines with the Yamaha YZ450FM as one of the protagonists) and the MX2 division (250cc four-strokes with the fast and capable Yamaha YZ250F and prototype YZ250FM starring).
Monster Energy Yamaha's inaugural visit to the desert
Monster Energy Yamaha will once more have a sizeable, powerful and exciting presence in the paddock with two riders on their 450cc technology (Steven Frossard and Joel Roelants) and four on YZ250F machinery (Christophe Charlier, Maxime Desprey, Dean Ferris and Mel Pocock) distributed between the capable race-team setups directed by Michele Rinaldi (Frossard, Roelants and Charlier) and Steve Dixon (Desprey, Ferris and Pocock).
Among the nerves and anticipation of the series’ inaugural visit to the Middle East, will be the need to adjust to a new race programme, introduced for the first time for the overseas events in 2013 (four rounds in Qatar, Thailand next week, Mexico and Brazil). Instead of the two traditional ‘motos’ per class MX1 and MX2 will run one separate thirty-five minute and two lap sprint each before the top finishers of each category combine to form a forty-racer gate for a ‘Superfinal’ that will see the Grand Prix stars mixed; and scoring points for their respective divisions.
The Frenchman, Steven Frossard, who was runner-up as a rookie on the YZ450FM in 2011, recently took the number two plate in the Elite Italian Championship and is eager to get back to the front of Grands Prix.
Steven Frossard said:
“I’m happy with those Italian races, they were not perfect but they served a purpose because I got faster and more confident each time. I’ve been riding for three months now and I have to be pleased with how I feel and the level of my preparation for Qatar.
The first Grands Prix will be different, for sure, and it feels strange to be starting the championship so early but I think all of us are excited to race again.
I began with a podium in Holland last year and to get in the top three again in Qatar would be a great way to start. I think our potential in Losail will depend on the track we find and what kind of feeling I can get going. If we come away from Qatar with a top five finish and some good riding then this will be a solid way to open the season.”
Frossard had spent over a month in Italy working closely with the Parma-based factory team and new MX1-GP rookie team-mate Joel Roelants not only to get himself in competitive shape but also chisel the YZ450FM.
“We’ve been doing some testing in Italy as well as the races and the team have focused on the character and performance of the engine for this year. There was already a lot of power but we have worked on taking the best of it for the starts, and then also creating an engine that makes the whole riding process easier. It is a long championship with a lot of motos so the idea was to make the bike just a little bit kinder for racing right to the edge.”
Roelants gained valuable mileage in Italy and now stands on the threshold of a memorable season in his career; the first in MX1 and the first as a team works rider.
“Obviously I’m excited but I’m keeping realistic about these first races. I’ve only been riding for a month and a half and we had an intense period of six weeks racing and testing in Italy. I was getting up to speed and it was heavy-going but now I’m back home and focusing on what I need to do for Qatar and Thailand. Together with Michele [Rinaldi, Yamaha Rinaldi Research and Develop and Team Principal] we made a plan not to go too crazy at these opening GPs outside of Europe and get some solid results.”
In MX2 Christophe Charlier starts his second term with the YZ250FM prototype. In 2012 the former European Champion celebrated his first career podium result (in Brazil) and has been leading development on the bike into 2013.
Christophe Charlier commented about his bike:
“During the winter, I made many tests with the team in Italy, Belgium and Sardinia and the YRRD staff have continued to evolve the engine and it is more powerful this season. We also used our time to find the best suspension setting as well I changed the position of the handlebars to improve my riding position. Overall I have a very good feeling with the bike.”
Charlier kick-starts 2013 in full fitness and in decent form having recently celebrated his second Italian MX2 Championship
The Corsican Charlier added:
“I have continued working with my trainer Willy Linden this year and I have applied myself very seriously to his plans and advice. The Italian championship helped to finalise my preparation. Now I know my level and I am ready for the first GP.”
The 21 year old is joined in what will be a tight and unpredictable series for podium positions by Dean Ferris – who already boasts MX1 Grand Prix experience and was close to an Australian championship in 2011 – as well as MX2 European Championship graduates Mel Pocock and Maxime Desprey. Pocock will gather attention as the reigning Euro Champ and after having impressed with wild-card top ten results in the MX2 World Championship last year.
Mel Pocock said:
“I’ve never prepared for a season as well as I have for this one. I had a good month in America and also stepped up my work with Kirk [Gibbons, trainer]. Steve Dixon has made some tweaks to the bike and the suspension to make it handle even sweeter for this season and I cannot be happier with how the YZ250F is feeling. We already had a very quick motorcycle but now it is closer to the complete package. Last year I finished top ten at Valkenswaard in a wild-card appearance. My goal for 2013 is to be a top six rider at Grand Prix so if I can get close to that from the first race then I’ll be happy. It will definitely be different racing in Qatar and I cannot wait to get started.”
The Grand Prix can be seen online at www.mx-life.tv and the first of three motos begins at 19.10 local time (17.10 CET) .
Info from a Yamaha press release Feb 28th