Although no bikes have rolled out onto the soft Losail soil yet, the Qatari circuit was buzzing with activity today. Riders completed menial jobs like media commitments, whilst teams unpacked the crates that their entire operation will revolve around for the next two weeks.
What noteworthy points emerged on the eve of the fourth consecutive opening round in the Middle East? Well, the track is almost identical to what it has been in the past; sixteen corners and eighteen jumps fill the flat area that is overshadowed by no less than four hundred and twenty lights. A few riders, like Ben Watson, have commented that it has been rotovated deeper this year, which will perhaps open up more lines and allow for passing. Obviously we’ll see how that develops as the day wears on tomorrow.
Speaking of Watson, he was a late entry to the MX2 class. His team, Hitachi Revo Tru7 Husqvarna, weren’t planning on making the trip, but he figured things out with the help of the Contract Furniture Group. Everything came together so late that he, of course, couldn’t get his bike from home flown over in time. That has also been sorted out though, thanks to a local dealer, and he brought suspension and a pipe with him. Hey, we saw what he did on a similar bike at Hawkstone! It’s also worth noting that Tanel Leok is on the same sort of programme.
A lot of focus has been on Clement Desalle in recent weeks, as the Belgian enjoyed success at Hawkstone Park before breaking his arm in Valence, but now he’s preparing to get back on a bike two weeks later! There’s no telling how this will go for the luckless Belgian, but when quizzed on the matter he commented; “For me, the goal will be to feel quite comfortable on the bike and then see if I can take some points. I have to see how it will go tomorrow and then that will be the plan. I’m really disappointed about it, but I will try to make it positive. If I can participate and get some points already, it would be great. The season is really long, so I’m looking forward.”
Injuries are obviously a hot topic at the moment, as they have been for the past year. Youthstream and the FIM have made it quite clear that their priority is to minimise the amount of casualties and they have taken steps to achieve this. “We do everything we can to make the track the safest possible to guarantee good racing for all of you [speaking to the riders],” said Giuseppe Luongo. Also this year we have employed a rider part-time to give us advice and also be in contact with all of you other riders.
“We have employed Rui Goncalves to be the link, especially in regard to safety, making the track better and dialogue with the riders. For us, your point of view is very important. We want a great show and we can only have a great show if you are happy and racing in safe conditions. We know that when you feel safe, you can race much better.”
Commenting on the topic, Tony Skillington said; “Our concern, of course, is always rider safety. This year for the first time the body/back protector rule will be enforced. This is really for the health and care for riders.” Changes to ensure the riders aren’t put at risk are certainly being put the place, and the fact that the topic is constantly being looked into seems to be welcomed with open arms.
The first MX2 practice session begins at 15:15 local time tomorrow (Friday), so stay tuned for further updates from the track throughout the day! Remember to follow our various social media accounts, also.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Image: ConwayMX