Marini 'one of my favourites', Bezzecchi 'waiting for this day since Valencia'

Valentino Rossi may have retired, but VR46 starts a new era as an official MotoGP team with Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi in Qatar this weekend.
Marini 'one of my favourites', Bezzecchi 'waiting for this day since Valencia'

Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix will be the first premier-class season-opener without Valentino Rossi since 1999.

But as one chapter closes another begins, with Rossi's VR46 Ducati team making its official MotoGP debut as a full two-rider project after overseeing Luca Marini at Avintia last season.

Marini failed to score in either Qatar rounds as a rookie on 2019-spec Desmosedici last year, but returns with much higher expectations after VR46 secured the very latest GP22s for his second season.

The Italian took his new machinery to the top of the timesheets on day two of the final pre-season test in Indonesia and, while there is still some tuning needed to get the most out of the new engine, Marini heads into the new season confident in his time-attack speed.

"I’m quite competitive, like the other Ducatis," Marini had said upon leaving Mandalika. "Quartararo is maybe the fastest. It  also looks like the Hondas are really strong…"

But real race pace won't be clear until the lights go out on March 6.

"Two tests is not enough to understand. You don’t know the tyres the other riders are using. You don’t know how many litres of fuel they have in the bike," Marini said. "For the qualifying lap, I’m ok. In a good position, I can be in Q2 every time. That is the goal for now. For race distance we will see.

"All the riders are fantastic, great workers and from the first day to now they improved a lot. It will be a tough season for everybody. For all 24 factory bikes more or less, it will be really tight.

"This year, everybody has a fantastic bike. from first to last, every rider can achieve good results this year. There is no more difference between bikes and manufacturers in my opinion.

"You can make the difference with the small details and achieve a great result with some tenths in the pace. We will see."

Speaking of Qatar he said: "This race always has a special atmosphere: the first GP, the unique setting of the desert and a really beautiful track, one of my favourites on the calendar.

"This year will be different because I will be riding the Ducati of the Mooney VR46 Racing Team which will make its debut in MotoGP. The atmosphere in the team is excellent, the air is positive. We just have to keep working and doing our best starting from this Sunday."

Marini 'one of my favourites', Bezzecchi 'waiting for this day since Valencia'

While Marini concluded testing in the top three, team-mate Marco Bezzecchi was the fastest rookie in 20th, lapping within 0.830s of the top on the year-old GP21.

"The long wait is over: I've been waiting for this day since the last race in Valencia and can't wait to get out on track," Bezzecchi said. "The first MotoGP race will be special, something I will always remember. Racing with the strongest riders in the highest category of our sport is a dream for every rider.

"We arrive here after a good pre-season, I worked well with the team and with Ducati, but the first GP will be another story. There will be the new bike with the colours of the VR46 and Mooney. I want to do well and enjoy the moment."

Team manager Pablo Nieto added: "Luca and Marco arrive here motivated to do their best, they have different goals, different experiences. The Doha race means the start of a new season, always has a special charm, and for us, as a team making its debut in the top class, it will have an even more important meaning”.

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