Miller and Rabat eager to get 2017 underway in Qatar
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Jack Miller and Tito Rabat will kick off their 2017 MotoGP World Championship campaigns under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar this weekend.
Miller heads into the opening race of the season off the back of positive preseason tests in Malaysia, Australia and, most recently, Qatar. The 22-year-old Australian's confidence was boosted by top ten finishes at the first two tests and his rapid adaptation to the latest version of Honda's RC213V during his third and final preseason outing.
While he is under no illusions about how tough a challenge he faces this weekend, Miller is determined to carry the momentum from testing into the opening race in Qatar, where he's looking to kick off his season with a strong result.
Despite still recovering from injuries sustained in his Sepang testing crash at the beginning of February, Rabat also enjoyed a positive three-day test at the Losail International Circuit earlier this month.
The former Moto2 World Champion has been training hard back home in Spain ahead of the opening race and he heads to Qatar confident that his injuries will not be a hindrance this weekend.
The only dark cloud on the horizon, quite literally, is the weather forecast. Rain and high winds disrupted two of the three days during last week's Moto2 test in Qatar and more of the same is predicted for all four days of the race weekend.
“It's been a long winter break, but it all kicks off again this weekend in Qatar and I'm really looking forward to getting back into the racing again. We've had a really positive preseason, with three good tests in Sepang, Phillip Island and Qatar, so we're in a strong position going into the first race. It's not going to be easy this weekend. As we saw at the last test, Qatar isn't a track that particularly suits the characteristics of our bike and the long straight isn't ideal, but we'll give it everything like always and push for a good result. We need to keep working because I think when we get to Argentina and then Texas we'll really start to benefit from the performance of the new bike.”
“The test in Qatar was better than I was expecting given my physical condition after the Sepang crash. Since then I've been working hard with the physiotherapist to improve my fitness and the results have been positive. I still have some inflammation of the knee, but I have full movement in the joint and it is no longer painful on the bike so it won't be an issue this weekend. The latest version of the Honda RC213V will also help me in Qatar, as it is much less physically demanding to ride than last year's bike, especially out of the corners where it is a lot smoother. I like it a lot and my feeling with the new engine and chassis was good during the Qatar test. Free practice will be all about conserving energy for qualifying and the race, making every lap count as we refine the set up of the bike. It will be a hard weekend, but it will be good to finally get down to racing after a difficult preseason.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“We head into the opening race of the 2017 season in a much better position than this time last year. Both riders are happy with the new package from Honda and Jack in particular has had a strong preseason, including here in Qatar. He still has some work to do to close the gap to the guys at the top of the timesheet here but, despite this track not really favouring our bike, I'm confident there is more to come from him this weekend. Tito has had another 10 days to recover from his injuries since the test and there is a definite improvement in his physical condition. However, he is still not fully recovered and this is something we will need to take into account during free practice to ensure we don't place too many demands on him ahead of qualifying and the race.”