The third pair of brothers in MotoGP with Luca Marini on the left and Valentino Rossi on the right at the start test in Losail, even if the two are “only” half-brothers and have the same mother. The two Marquez brothers, on the other hand, will not be back on the track together for the second time after the 1st race in Jerez 2020, this has already been confirmed (© MotoGP).

It starts on Friday – 1st MotoGP weekend without Marquez!

The double race in the second Corona year has a stale aftertaste for many observers. On the one hand, it is about the Dorna, of all things, placing the start of the season on a venue that can only be reached by flight. This automatically implies a high risk of infection, which practically all governments currently advise against. Everywhere warnings were made about unnecessary travel and the start of the season, including tests, could have taken place in Europe with much less financial outlay. Four days before the first free practice session, what our readers had already known two weeks before was finally officially confirmed. On March 8th, 2021 we had already made it clear that a comeback of Marc Marquez before the 4th round in Jerez is unthinkable, see here

The Autodromo do Algarve near the coastal town of Portimão – here, as in Jerez, during the Losail tests and now also the double race, the conditions were perfect. But because the organizers there can pay less than the Qataris without spectators, the Dorna followed the call of the money and jeopardized the health of all paddock members.

The inexpensive alternative was not used
In Jerez and Portimão the conditions were optimal the whole time and there was no sandstorm that would have prevented the 5th day of MotoGP, and there was never any rain. There would have been no overlap in tests and races there. The next official WSBK test is in Barcelona. The embarrassing limitation of the test laps in Moto2 could also have been saved through the associated savings in transport and travel costs. Air travel would not have been necessary for this. As it was, however, the drivers were not allowed to drive an average of 13 laps in 9 sessions of over 1 hour each so as not to come under the total of a maximum of 111. Behind the scenes, some in the paddock called this a bad joke.

Lorenzo Baldassari (MV Agusta Forward Racing) in front of the main grandstand of the Losail International Circuit – the 2019 winner is not one of the podium candidates after the tests. But the man with the number 7 in Moto2 may still have some arrows in his quiver (© MV Agusta Forward Racing).

The previous winners of the Qatar Grand Prix

With 4 wins each, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner still lead the MotoGP winner statistics since the first race in 2004. This will hardly change unless the old master wins his first race in many years on March 28 or April 4, as a complete surprise. To put it more precisely, it has been almost four years since his last victory in Assen in 2017 that the darling of the masses is waiting for his next triumph. Neither Marc Marquez nor Maverick Viñales can overtake him, even if the latter wins twice in a row. The former will only enter Qatar if, as recently, he only came to Doha as a vaccination tourist. However, the Covid-19 syringe is of no use to his right arm, which is still unusable to ride a MotoGP bike.

Losail has been the season opener of the MotoGP since 2007, except of course in the first Corona year 2020. The future world champion only won the Grand Prix of Qatar four times (2 x Stoner, 1 x Marquez and Lorenzo) during this time. What nonsense when so-called experts from the Losail performance want to predict the coming world champion against this background! In addition, there is the fact that tests are not useful for any other route in the calendar, as various drivers and team members publicly emphasized.

Where should Marc Marquez dare to make a comeback?
Even though he recently did his laps again at the Autodromo do Algarve, a 5-day test deficit by the Repsol Honda driver in Losail was considered questionable from the start. Now he’s waiting until at least the third race in Portugal. This means that he loses another 3 days of practice against his Honda brand colleagues and all opponents per race weekend. In any case, it should be clear to his fans that his intervention in the fight for the title is almost unthinkable. In other words, the 2021 World Championship was almost over for Marc Marquez even before the first race.

The statistics compared with the MotoGP attendance figures. When we were there in 2019, we would have signed at any time that the alleged number of over 30 thousand visitors in Losail was exaggerated by a factor of 5 to 10. By the way, hardly anyone was there on Friday and Saturday and the huge parking lot in front of the only entrance was almost empty even on Sunday.
The only refreshment stand for visitors behind the main grandstand was photographed by us in 2019 around half an hour before the MotoGP race. Absolutely unthinkable for any viewer that this is enough for thousands of spectators and there is no other area accessible to them than the main grandstand.

The International Circuit of Losail

The only race that has taken place here since March 9, 2008, four years after the first MotoGP was held, is a night race. The race is considered very spectacular, but it has many disadvantages for spectators. The most important thing is that the only accessible area for mere mortals is the main stand and its rear with a sufficient number of clean toilets. An inspection around the course is not possible here and the video screen above the pit building is pitifully small. In relation to the huge effort for everything else on site, actually a pitifully bad joke. The electricity for the night lighting is generated by huge diesel generators that can be heard humming loudly during breaks.

The most dangerous corner is the 2, because after the 15 it is the first left turn and in between the left tire flank threatens to cool down. With a little less grip, numerous drivers fell in the second corner during the test drives.

Features of the Losail International Circuit
The route is varied, has a good layout and, at 1068 m, a very long start-finish straight. The course has 6 left and 10 right turns. Marc Marquez has held the all-time lap record since 2019, but then lost to Andrea Dovizioso in the race. WorldSBK ace Jonathan Rea proved before our eyes in 2019 that despite a top speed of around 10 mph you can still win here. He drove away from his opponents in the 16 corners, although the lightning-fast Ducatis of Davies and Bautista were able to catch up significantly every time on the long straight. That is why Maverick Viñales also wants to copy the Northern Irishman’s strategy and seek his salvation in flight right from the start.

A good start is the hope of Monster Energy Yamaha rider Viñales. Here is our photo from October 2019 by Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki, in the front of the picture), who demonstrated how this works. Behind Alex Lowes and Sandro Cortese (both Yamaha).

The MotoGP debacle of 2009 and WorldSBK 2018
In 2009 the event was marked by bad weather conditions. Due to the dangerous light reflections caused by the artificial lighting of the track in wet conditions, the races could not be held in the rain from the outset. The 125cc GP had to be stopped after four laps due to the onset of rain and was not restarted. After that, the race in the 250cc class was shortened from 20 to 13 laps. The MotoGP class did not even start due to heavy rain and storms and took place on Monday, which was a disaster. In the WorldSBK, the race on Sunday had to be canceled nine years later. On the 5th day of the MotoGP test, many who had witnessed the WSBK debacle of 2018 were reminded of the sandstorm at that time.

We photographed the evening atmosphere in Losail behind the main stand. At the start of MotoGP it is already dark, while Moto3 usually starts before dusk.

The favorites for the Qatar Grand Prix

We already presented our point of view on the search for favorites for the world title a week ago, see in the report There are numerous drivers, but at least in Qatar they are eligible for victory. We think it’s wrong to name Jack Miller as the main favorite in the Losail test only because of his good pace. Eighth place four years ago was the best result of the Ducati works driver. Certainly the Ducati is a good weapon on the long straight at Losail, but most of the time the race was decided there in the corners.

Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo) – the fast Italian is one of the favorites and feels ready. Like his teammate Miller, he is undisputedly one of the very hot candidates for a podium (© MotoGP).

The most convincing drivers of the last event
Only Rossi and Viñales, but this one not in the race, were able to do with Fabio Quartararo. The latter had convinced with the fastest race lap in 2019 in Qatar after he had to start from the pit lane. Before the warm-up lap, the French rookie stalled the engine of his Yamaha in the excitement. We hope there aren’t too many falls, and we are just as excited as all the fans to see who will be the winners and who will be losers in the first race.

Photographed by us in Losail a few seconds before the start of the first MotoGP race 2019. Fabio Quartararo’s starting position 5 was unfortunately empty. The two drivers in 2nd and 3rd position (Dovi and Marquez) are definitely not part of the game this time.

The schedule for the races in Losail

The provisional calendar 2021 with many question marks

In addition to the overseas races, there are justified doubts about races such as Assen, Sachsenring and Silverstone. The same restrictions will probably apply to all events in the second Corona year as in the previous year, especially with regard to a visitor ban for major events. In contrast, there have already been signs in countries like Austria that make ticket sales a bad joke for Spielberg. At the moment there is little hope for travel restrictions and overseas races. Instead, more double events like 2020 can be expected again, preferably again in Spain and Italy.