In the fast lane

Shereen D’Souza chats with MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi

In the fast lane

The Grand Prix of Qatar is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular events on the MotoGP calendar with all the tyre-screeching action taking place at night under the floodlights of the impressive Losail International Circuit.

The circuit, located around 30km outside Doha in the Qatari desert, held its first Grand Prix of Qatar event in 2004, and in 2008, the track made history by hosting the first floodlit Grand Prix ever for the MotoGP World Championship.

The 15th edition rolls into town from Friday March 16 to Sunday 18 and promises to be the most exciting one so far, with new activities and dedicated fan zones not just for enthusiasts, but for the whole family.

Fifteen years since the first race also means 15 years of Valentino Rossi in the driving seat – a long time of working. But he’s extremely fit and very competitive. “Honestly, I have never trained so much in my career. After so many years of racing I can say that the rider lifestyle has changed drastically. Today riders are incredible athletes and physical training has become essential, like in football. Before, it wasn’t. You didn’t have to train or go to sleep early,” says Rossi.

The changing face of motorsport
The races have changed over the years. Earlier, during the race, riders would study each other, but today, record times have to be set in the first lap, and riders have to continue to hold an incredible pace during the race. “You have to be more focused,” Rossi says. “As for me, I only had to change a few things. I like sport fortunately.” For his training, Rossi mixes going to the gym with bike practise, but admits, “The gym is a bit boring. I need to stay on the bike as much as possible.”

Early start
Rossi’s career began in 1996, but he has always loved racing and has been riding motorcycles since he was very young. “I love motorcycle racing, but I also love rally cars and racing cars in general. I like to compete in go-karts, on dirt bikes, motocross bikes… basically anything that has an engine,” he says.

Trouble in 2017
Rossi has competed for 22 seasons in the World Championship and despite running into trouble last year with the bike’s rear tyres, which caused issues for the Yamaha team, he still continues to work hard. “Last year we had some problems and we couldn’t really be competitive. But pre-season tests on the bikes have gone well. We’re more confident and we think that we’re on the right path. But we still have a lot of work to do. We completed three very important tests and we can still improve,” he tells us.

On the right track
Losail International Circuit is not only one of the largest in Qatar, it’s also one of the best in the Middle East. It’s the only circuit in the region with both FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and FIM homologation licenses.

“I really like the Qatar circuit,” Rossi says. “This race track is so different compared to others and competing in the night has a thrill of its own. The Losail track has an interesting layout and it’s one of the few tracks that I really love riding on.”

Outlook for 2018
Rossi is looking forward to this year’s season, but it hasn’t been an easy ride. “If we had done the race after the tests in Malaysia, I think it would have been a very hard one, with many riders competing – at least six or seven. We still have a lot of work to do to improve the bikes and I hope that this season we will be competitive and fight for victory at every race,” he says.

Rossi concludes on a positive note. “All it takes for a positive career is to love racing and riding bikes, and really enjoy yourself when doing it.”

Don’t miss out all the fun at the Losail Club Arena from the giant screen to stay in the know and live music to the food court and several other entertainment activities.
QR250 (Grandstand tickets for three days, starting), QR3,750 (VIP Village, starting). March 16-18, 1pm onwards (race timings vary). Losail International Circuit,

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