MotoGP Qatar Grand Prix 2015: Five things to expect this season plus what to look out for as Marc Marquez begins title defence

The new season of MotoGp begins this evening with the Qatar GP

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The Independent Online

The 2015 MotoGP season begins this evening under the floodlights of the Losail circuit in Doha, Qatar.

Double World Champion Marc Marquez defends the title after a long winter of training to face rookies from other classes and championships, new teams from returning manufacturers, some new rules and the last year of racing Bridgestone tyres.

Here’s five things to expect for the 66th two-wheel Grand Prix racing championship.

1) Marc Marquez will be hard to beat

Marc Marquez, 22, has not had any injury to recover from like last year, so starting with 100% fitness, a hat-trick of titles is a very real possibility and he’ll no doubt be breaking even more records throughout the year. If winter testing is anything to go by, the competition should be closer than ever and there is hope that repeating his ten consecutive race wins won’t be the story for the legend in the making.

Marquez will seek to win a third straight MotoGP title

Valentino Rossi the nine times World Champion, rejoined the Yamaha factory team two years ago and has gone from chasing podiums, to wins, to aiming for the title this year. He is the runner-up from last season, the oldest rider on the grid, has a two year deal ahead of him and undeniably the greatest talent of this century who’s made a phenomenal comeback.

Jorge Lorenzo fought hard in the second half of the year to make up for the appalling start to last season, but couldn't win the second place in the Championship from his team mate. Now Yamaha have introduced a fully seamless shift gearbox, Lorenzo and Rossi have been working on their cornering with this in testing and the difference in lap times is thousandth’s of a second.

Valentino Rossi.jpg
Nine-time world champion Rossi enjoyed a return to form last season

Fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, a podium frequenter and Honda veteran, has managed to keep injuries to a minimum for the last two seasons and whilst he doesn’t appear as the most aggressive rider on the track, the Repsol Honda shouldn’t be underestimated.

Add to the mix Ducati, who have shown in testing that they have their most competitive package for a few years, having not won a race since October 2010. This could change this year.

Based on practices for the first round, when in FP3 the first 18 riders were within one second of the fastest time, this season should make for very close racing.

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Andrea Dovizioso will start the Qatar Grand Prix from pole

2) More elbows will be on the tarmac

Riding styles have evolved over the years with riders adapting to fit their body with the demands of the bike. The lean angle has increased as tyre technology has improved and typically, you’ll see these riders hanging off the bike at a 64-degree angle.

A common addition to the ‘knee slider’ range is an ‘elbow slider’, that Marquez was first to don but look out for more of these on leathers. Rossi concentrated on changing his style last year and we saw his success as a result.

Dovizioso stunned Honda pair Pedrosa and Marquez to clinch Doha pole

3) Four British riders on the grid this year

Cal Crutchlow, the former Supersport Champion is in his 5th year of grand prix racing and now with his third manufacturer. He has commented that the Honda RC213V is the toughest bike he has ever ridden but improvements were seen as winter testing progressed and we hope to see more appearances on the podium this year.

Bradley Smith has worked his way up through the ranks of Moto3, Moto2 and is now in his third year of MotoGP, with the Tech 3 Yamaha team. He had the most amount of crashes last year in the class, though also achieved his first podium on his YZF-M1. His goal is to be the top satellite rider.

Scott Redding comes in to his second year, with a new team to the MotoGP class but a team he's already familiar with, in Marc VDS. Having spent the pre-season testing building on his working knowledge of the Open Honda, he will certainly aim to be closer to the front runners this year.

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Smith will hope to be the top satellite rider as well as the top British challenger

Irish-born Eugene Laverty is the new addition to the British party and joins former GP Champion Nicky Hayden in the Aspar Honda team.

4) Curtain will rise one last time at Silverstone

The Circuit of Wales is set to host the UK round next year and had lined Donington Park up for this year, however in a last minute change to the calendar, MotoGP will now make its last appearance at the Northamptonshire circuit, Silverstone, before the following five year contract takes MotoGP across the Severn.

5) Where to watch

BT Sport continue to show their extensive coverage of the race weekend, from Friday to Sunday, including all practice and qualifying sessions as well as three races on Sunday. Last years MotoGP Tonight show on Tuesdays is now MotoGP Chequered Flag and will directly follow the race programme live.

You can receive onboard camera angles and more information screens via a subscription to or through the BT App, though you cannot access the BT App if you receive the channel through any other provider. For non-channel subscribers, ITV4 will continue to run a highlights programme on the Monday night post each race weekend.

Other things to watch out for this season

The Rookies

There’s a championship-high of 25 riders starting on the grid this year, two more than 2014, including four newcomers. Most notably the youngest of the pack, Aussie Jack Miller, made the big step from Moto3 to ride the Honda RC213-RS in Lucio Cecchinello’s LCR Honda team, missing out the middle class.

Unusually Moto2 Champion Tito Rabat remains in the category to defend his title, whilst runner-up Maverick Vinales steps up to join the Suzuki GP team after one year in the premier feeder class.

LCR Honda rider Jack Miller

Eugene Laverty debuts in the premier class from the World Superbikes Championship. Laverty isn’t a stranger in the paddock having raced for Honda and Aprilia in the 125 (2004) and 250 classes (2007-2008).

Also from the WSBK Championship, Frenchman Loris Baz is making his debut in MotoGP in the Yamaha Forward Racing team. Baz was the youngest ever rider to win the European Superstock 600 when he was 15 years old and shares his new garage with German, former Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl.

Changes afoot

A few rule changes have taken place for this year, including the bike weight being decreased by 2kgs.

The factories will be unable to develop their own software beyond 1st July in preparation of the standard ECU being introduced in 2016. This is also the last year that Bridgestone will be the tyre supplier for MotoGP, and Michelin will be testing their compounds at all circuits throughout the year ahead of taking up their new contract in 2016.

Returning factories

Having spent the last three seasons in the factory developing the GSX-RR, Suzuki return to the paddock under the management of Davide Brivio, former team manager of Valentino Rossi. They’ve come back with a two-rider team, recruiting Aleix Espargaro and rookie Vinales.

Aprilia are returning to the grid a year earlier than planned, with a four-year deal, after ten years away from the premier class. Along with Marco Melandri who's also returning to the MotoGP grid, the Spaniard Alvaro Bautista, who won the 125 title for Aprilia in 2006, completes the team. Pre-season testing has proved tough for them and this season will be a good long lesson ahead of the more major changes expected to the Championship in 2016.

What can we expect?

This is one of the most highly anticipated seasons in MotoGP, the first race takes place today – with five manufacturers lining the grid, four newbies racing in the premier class for the first time, 12 riders with Grand Prix Championships titles to their name, an impressively competitive Ducati, a circuit where Yamaha has had the most success and the defending Champion on his Repsol Honda. Let the action begin.