Qatar's brand-new Losail MotoGP circuit was inaugurated today with a ceremony that included an impressive fireworks display and a riding demo by former GP winner Randy Mamola aboard the Ducati Desmosedici two-seater.

In the presence of dignitaries including the Prime Minister of the State of Qatar H.H. Abdullah Bin Khalifah Al Thani, all the Ministers of the Qatari Government, FIM President Francesco Zerbi and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and watched by over 1,500 public spectators, Mamola completed the historic first laps of the circuit.

"I'm astonished by the wonderful welcome the country has given us, it's great to be here as a representative of our sport," said Mamola, who became the first rider to try the track on a MotoGP bike. "There's no doubt in my mind that our sport needs to be racing in the Middle East.

"To be the first rider to try the circuit on a MotoGP bike is a great honour for me and the rest of the Ducati Marlboro Team," added the American. "I'm very impressed, the track is really great to ride. There are some interesting corners similar to those at various different European tracks and there are plenty of good overtaking points."

After Mamola's inaugurating laps, a further sixty Qatari riders got the chance to ride around the circuit, followed by two stunt riders in a special end to the ceremony which was signalled by a spectacular firework show.

Later this year Losail, which has been constructed in a record time of just 12 months, will become the first Middle Eastern venue to host a motorcyling Grand Prix in the 55-year history of the sport. The Grand Prix of Qatar - to be hosted on Saturday, October 2 - will be the 13th round of the 16-race 2004 MotoGP World Championship.

The Losail circuit is 5.4km long and 14 metres wide. Its main straight is 1.068km, 20m longer than Catalunya's, making it the second longest in MotoGP after Mugello.

The track has been constructed from special asphalt, designed to withstand the high temperatures experienced in the region. During the 12 months of construction the Losail project has employed between 800 and 1000 people. Construction costs have totalled $52m US dollars.