The 2012 MotoGP World Championship gets underway this weekend at Losail in Qatar, the small peninsula off the Persian Gulf, noted for hosting the first and only race of the calendar under floodlights.
Months of development, testing and hard work have gone into the preparation for this season - all with a view to Sunday, April 8.
Casey Stoner, the current MotoGP World Champion, has been the man to beat in pre-season, dominating both tests in Malaysia and Jerez while his team-mate, Dani Pedrosa, has also been one of the fastest riders in the premier class which this year will witness the switch to 1000cc bikes.
26-year-old Stoner was in a class of his own last season, winning 10 of the 17 races on his way to 350 points and his third World Championship but will face considerable competition, not just from his team-mate.
The Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo will be hot on his heels, and perhaps his closest challenger, while American Ben Spies has what it takes to secure a place on the podium during the course of the year.
British rider Cal Crutchlow has also been in good form during winter testing, while Valentino Rossi's unrivalled experience could yet see the veteran Italian spring a surprise.
Keep up-to-date on all matters MotoGP on redbull.com, including more in the build-up to Sunday's season start.
Casey Stoner (Honda)
"After good pre-season tests in both Sepang and Jerez, we head to Qatar feeling positive, although we still have some work to do. This will be the first time with the new bike on this circuit so we will need to spend some time on the set-up to put ourselves in the best position. We've always enjoyed good results at the Losail circuit but this is a new season and there are more competitors contesting for victory this year. I'm excited to get the season started and fight for another World Championship.”
Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
“Each year is different and there are always various obstacles to go through during a season. I’ve had good and bad races in the past, but a big part of these results are determined by how you have prepared yourself in the winter. I’ve worked very well this year, I had a good pre-season with the bike and with my physical training; I hope that luck is on my side this time, so we can have a good championship. Qatar is important because it’s the first race of the season, but you have to minimise risks. If you don't win this race you can still win the championship, but on the other side, a mistake can make it difficult for you for the rest of the year. I’m ready. Let’s see how everything goes and where everyone is.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
“I’m very excited to finally get to the race and see how we are compared to our rivals. Qatar was a good race for us last year but I think this season we have a slightly more competitive bike so I am hoping for good things to happen. Because of my hand injury it has been a long time since I was in a race so I am really excited for Sunday. I have been training a lot for this season; I’m feeling very good and very happy with the bike as well.”
Valentino Rossi (Ducati)
“We worked hard over the winter, and although we went in the wrong direction at one point, we once again managed to find the good feeling with the GP12 that we’d had in the first test. With those settings, which we’ll start with in Qatar, I was able to get good feedback from the bike. At Losail it will be very important to work well during the sessions leading up to qualifying so that we can increase our confidence step by step as we approach Saturday, always trying to maximize our potential. I’m a realist, and I know well that our times are still a long way off and that there are still some things to fix. We won’t be able to address some of them right away, but it’s also true that we know the direction in which we're working, and we must try to do as well as we can. We won’t completely re-do the bike during the season, but we’ll try to progress little by little.”
Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
"Finally we're hitting the track for the first race after pre-season testing at Sepang and Jerez! I am early looking forward to racing again because testing is pretty stressful and, with so much work to do in and out of the box, the days are endless. Now is the time for the real action, for us to give everything and experience that adrenaline that only racing provides. This will be my first race with Team San Carlo Honda Gresini and it's exciting because the guys are working well and I think we have made the connection we need for me to exploit my potential in Qatar. I like the circuit, it's fast and flowing and has a nice long straight. Unfortunately I am still not keen on the idea of racing at night, even though the track is well lit, it is still not the same as racing in the day. It is also usually quite humid, which makes the track surface slippery and even though the race takes place earlier this year I still think it will be a problem. Anyway, it is an interesting event and I have the machinery to be fighting at the front so I will be giving my best to do that."