Get, Set, Race….
MotoGP is set for action, with the Qatar Grand Prix kicking off the season in 2022 with a bang!
The top 15 finishes in the previous year’s season were among the closest in the history and every manufacturer took the podium home in 2021. New records were made, and more champions were crowned. For the first time, France got its Premier World champion. We said our goodbyes to racing's champions and icons. And after closing the 2021’s chapter on a good note, here we are - turn the page for 2022 and embrace it for the new. The title has a very simple message - welcome aboard to the greatest shows of all time. All hands and each foot inside the rollercoaster all the time!
The host for the floodlit opening round will be the Lusail International Circuit. There will be 24 riders this time and 14 riders among them are the world champions. This in itself is a new record. 12 have won races in the premier class, 5 are the premier class’ rookie. Eight World Championships have been won by one person. One bears the crown. Another one took home momentum. And still more have recharged for the fight in 2022.
As not just the reigning Champion in 2021, but also as the track winner, Fabio Quartararo should be at the top of the headlines. Yamaha is undoubtedly Lusail’s most accomplished manufacturer. This bodes really well for Quartararo, Andrea Dovizioso (won two times in Qatar), Franco Morbidelli and Darryn Binder - the new teammate. However, there were some glances of dissatisfaction during pre-season testing for the Iwata marque in their constant battle to enhance the top speed, and it also appeared that reviews were kind of mixed. So what does Yamaha have in store? Will harmony be maintained between man and machine? We will see the final proof in the racing.
That harmony was symbolised somewhere else for several races in the second part of 2021, and frighteningly at times: Ducati. Francesco Bagnaia suffered a few missteps and had to face some obstacles on his journey to the top of the premier class podium, but once there, he just could not stay away. The expectations for 2022 are high. Testing may not have been the all-out attack on the timesheets that some had hoped for, but cards may still be kept close to chests. Bagnaia, Miller (Team Ducati Lenovo), Martin (MOTOGP Pramac Racing), Bastianini (Gresini Racing), Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), and Marini ( Racing Team Mooney VR46) form a formidable fleet for the Bologna factory, with Lusail tied for second place. Marco Bezzecchi who belongs to the Mooney VR46 Team and Fabio Di Giannantonio belonging to the Gresini Racing, both appear to be fast, adding to the increased curiosity for the fight for 2022 Rookie of the year.
What about Suzuki then? The Hamamatsu factory had a rather good preseason, especially when compared to Yamaha. For Joan Mir and teammate Alex Rins, grins, wins, and cautiously optimistic progression seemed to sum it all up in the MotoGPTM World Championship 2022, with one item on their shopping radar - greater power – presumably delivered. Suzuki hasn't finished higher than fourth in Qatar. So, a podium might be a nice way to highlight their progression and lay some foundations. Mir and Rins, both of them will be keen to prevent a repetition of last year's incident where Mir was pipped to the post by two Ducatis.
Marc Marquez, who has garnered the World champion position for eight times, knows how it feels in Lusail. Number 93 has managed more victories than all other grids combined. We can only wait for the time to unfold the success and victories of the year 2022. Facing down the long recovery journey for the Honda rider in itself can be an extreme challenge for other grids. Pol Espargaro, belonging to the Team Repsol Honda appears to have taken a significant stride forward with the latest RC213V, while Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami will also be out to prove it.
Lusail is not really the best venue for KTM to begin the season because it hasn't always been nice to the RC16. P8 is the greatest track for the Austrian manufacturer. Nevertheless, Francesco Guidotti, the new racing team manager of the Red Bull KTM Factory, remarked during testing that now the goal is to discover a new base to build, therefore Qatar being a very different track is beneficial in and of itself. Both Brad Binder as well as Miguel Oliveira are still with it at the KTM racing, and they are expecting to be the premier class winners for a straight third time in a row. There will be two newcomers - Remy Gardner who is MotoGP champion 2021 and Raul Fernandez, who came close to beating him to the title. They'll want to get started right away.
Final one - Aprilia! The Noale factory stole lots of headlines since they are now MotoGP podium finishers and coming into the season 2022 with a new, slimmer, and apparently improved RS-GP. Aleix Espargaro has been able to establish himself as a frontrunner for the marque, with a sixth-place finish at Lusail being the factory's best performance, while Maverick Viales has also settled in. Besides winning the 2021 season opener, number 12 has also won in Lusail in the past, although with some different manufacturer. Will Aprilia be a strong comer? Will it be a race for the best five or race for the podium? Who will emerge victorious? We'll find out soon enough!