2004 Qatar review
Valentino Rossi’s race started the inaugural Qatar MotoGP race from dead last, after being relegated to the last grid position due to a protest made by the competition after his crew cleaned the surface of his original starting position (8th position). After one lap Rossi had scythed through the field to eighth position and continued his scintillating progress until he caught the wrong edge of the track with his rear wheel coming out of the second last turn on lap six and was thrown from his bike, he walked away from the crash unhurt.
While Rossi had his worst 2004 race, his current teammate Colin Edwards had his best. Edwards celebrated his MotoGP career best result with a second place, setting the lap record along the way.
Set-up report YZR-M1
The Losail circuit is located on the western side of the Persian Gulf just outside of the capital city Doha, and was used for the first time last year. Being a desert location the high air temperatures – averaging around 37 degrees Celsius during the day, with track temperatures approaching 50 degrees – play a determining role in the outcome of the race. The weather conditions are not unlike the last race venue Sepang, so the settings from this circuit could be a proper starting point for Qatar as well.
The 5.4km Losail track is of a greater length than most MotoGP venues, and certainly few existing tracks feature quite so many corners, and in such varieties. To their credit the track designers have eschewed the adoption of rhythm-disrupting chicanes, yet have managed to make the layout of the circuit fascinating on paper. Several high-speed corners, plus two tighter hairpins, make Losail a circuit of contrasts. Six left and ten right hand corners are laid on top of a largely flat surface, removing at least one complication to the machine’s set-up, bumps.
But in addition to the intricate circuit layout and the high track temperatures another factor comes into play, sand. As the track is located in a desert, the track surface is covered with fine sand which means that grip levels can be deceiving and inconsistent, certainly on coming Thursday when free practice commences (race is held on Saturday). The relatively fast corners will clearly require stability from chassis and suspension set-up. The track will demand an almost constant agility at the same time as offering stability driving off the sides of the tyres. Although there are no real hard braking areas, front-end confidence will again be paramount as the last two races at Motegi and Sepang have proven that this was one of the main determining factors for a successful race. The riders will need to depend greatly on their front tyre giving enough feel and endurance to prevent low-siding out of the race.
Another target will be a good stable turn-in characteristic and a set-up that offers easy changes in direction. Weight bias will start of as neutral as possible to prevent the front overloading in the midpoint of the turn, while also ensuring good drive off the sides of the rear. A slightly lower center of gravity could be utilized in an effort to improve the rate of pitching and the bike’s ability to change direction quickly. With only two hard braking areas on the 5.4 kilometer layout, being turn one and the turn six hairpin, fork springs will be chosen to maximize rider feedback, biased slightly towards the softer side. It will also be a similar case on the rear with the monoshock’s spring rate. Power delivery will need to be mapped to provide the best midrange torque and predictability to drive off the turns, while still being able to push the M1 past the 320 km/h mark on the one kilometer long straight.