Morbidelli and Lüthi ready for MotoGP debut in Qatar
Franco Morbidelli and Tom Lüthi will make their MotoGP debut this weekend in the opening race of the 2018 season at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
Of the two Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rookies it's Morbidelli who's enjoyed the most extensive preparation for his premier class debut, with two successful post-season tests in 2017 backed up by three equally successful pre-season tests in Malaysia, Thailand and Qatar.
The reigning Moto2 World Champion made significant progress adapting to the demands of Honda's RC213V MotoGP machine and the Michelin tyres on which he'll race for the first time this season. While the Italian has refrained from setting himself any specific goals this weekend, finishing ahead of the four other MotoGP rookies would be a solid result in his first premier class race outing.
Lüthi's approach to the Qatar weekend is slightly different, with the Swiss rider still playing catch up after missing the two post-season tests in 2017 through injury. Like his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS teammate Lüthi made significant progress during preseason testing, but he heads into the first race weekend still facing a steep learning curve, albeit slightly less precipitous than it was two months ago.
The former 125cc World Champion is excited to make his MotoGP debut in Qatar, but will use this first race weekend to continue his familiarisation with the Michelin shod Honda RC213V, as he looks to make up the track time lost to injury at the end of last year.
“I have a good feeling. I’m looking forward to my first race weekend in MotoGP. I really want to enjoy it, to work well with my team, to be very precise; in fact to do everything in the right way! I don’t have any in expectations particular, but it will be important to start where we finished testing, by restarting this weekend with a similar gap to the top guys and to the top Honda riders. After that it would be nice to improve my pace and also improve a couple of things in the set-up. One objective this year, of course, is to be top rookie. I’m setting up with several of my Moto2 ‘classmates’, so of course the aim is still be strongest of your classmates, so that’s an objective that comes by itself and for sure I will give everything to achieve it. Perhaps in MotoGP will change the balance between the rookies, but we have a great package, so we are ready to fight.”
“I am very excited to make my MotoGP debut this weekend. It's come around quicker than I was expecting, with the time since my first test aboard the Honda RC213V in Sepang seeming to fly by so fast. After three tests and none days aboard the MotoGP bike I have some experience, but I still need much more. So while I'm happy to finally get the season underway, my first in the premier class, I know that I still have many things to learn and I need to use the first races more like an extended test, to gain more experience with the bike and with the tyres. That process starts this weekend in Qatar.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“It doesn't seem like four months have passed since we were finishing off 2017 in Valencia and now, here we are, in Qatar ready to start the 2018 season. It promises to be an interesting year. Both Franco and Tom are new to MotoGP and they've had so much to learn in the limited amount of testing time available to them, especially Tom, who has had even less time on the bike than Franco. What is important is that both riders are patient and methodical in their approach. While they have occasionally been frustrated during testing when progress wasn't as fast as they felt it should be, they were able to reign in this impatience and remain focussed. They both understand that yes, we're racing, but for them these early races are also a chance to continue their adaptation to MotoGP. Their only goal this weekend is to finish the race and continue the improvement we've seen from them during preseason testing. If they do that then I'll be satisfied regardless of their final position on Sunday.”