Thursday in Qatar is totally different to any other pre-race Thursday.
There’s always a hint of excitement, respect, and anticipation when a team member says “Qatar Thursday” out loud, as we all know that it is something special.
The riders are asked to wear their leathers for many hours even though they won’t even get close to a bike with the engine running. The purpose is to take part in the pre-season ritual of photo and video shooting. The atmosphere is almost like a groom getting dressed on his wedding day: the suit is taken out of its protective cover, the fresh graphics on the helmet are shining under the sun, the new gloves are tight and in need of breaking in. Everything feels crisp and fresh, everything except the weather…
Qatar is not the friendliest place in terms of conditions, with temperatures easily reaching 36°c, which makes the hours of shooting even tougher for the riders. The photo and filming set is full of people that have a specific storyboard to follow, as everything must be shot fast and sharp. There’s no room for mistakes, with 22 riders queueing up in the heat and one chance to get it right.
There’s no tolerance, it’s pure science and measurements: anything less or anything more and you’re out of the entry list for the first race.
If bikes were people they would be under pressure as well, as they have to follow specific procedures to check that everything is compliant with the regulations. The pit lane becomes as crowded as a highway to the sea on the first day of spring sun, with mechanics and machines from all classes queueing up in front of the technical staff: first comes the sound check, with the exhaust noise measurement; then comes the weight: no less than 157kg is permitted for MotoGP machines; finally the aerodynamic fairings are measured and checked with templates. There’s no tolerance, it’s pure science and measurements: anything less or anything more and you’re out of the entry list for the first race.
Riders’ equipment is not spared this procedure: leathers, airbag systems, helmets and all the gear must be homologated and verified by the stewards.
These procedures may look pretty boring from the outside, but there is always a subtle thrill that runs up the mechanics’ spines when they show up in front of the FIM stewards: although it’s not like going onto the grid for the GP, it’s still the first big step towards the season start.
No matter how experienced the riders are, they all have one compulsory meeting to attend: the pre-season Riders’ Briefing. Motorcycling is a dangerous sport where sportsmanship and correct behaviour is key to preserve everyone’s safety. That’s the main goal of the FIM Stewards, together with highlighting the new rules being brought in for the season. This year there are no major changes apart from the first implementation of two brand new systems; one is having light signals (as well as the flags) to better notify riders of an issue on track. The other is a kind of tennis-style ‘hawk eye’ that emits a signal to Race Direction every time a rider exceeds track limits.
No matter how experienced the riders are, they all have one compulsory meeting to attend: the pre-season Riders’ Briefing.
The Official Press conference and all the media appointments conclude the super hectic first day of racing. Riders, separated by 2 meters of social distance, give their first impressions in front of the media and fans before getting down to business. This new generation of warriors is made up of young, extremely talented, and yet fiercely ambitious guys that hold back in front of the cameras like horses at the starting gate. They are all aiming to knock the reigning World Champion from his throne, and this year the defendant is Joan Mir, with his Suzuki GSX-RR. Team Suzuki Ecstar’s other rider, Alex Rins, isn’t any less eager to claim his personal glory, making the Suzuki duo not only the one squad that hasn’t changed line-up since 2020 but also one of the most ambitious and competitive overall.
The Thursday of Qatar is over and so are the talks. Now a momentary quiet falls over the circuit, and the voices will be drowned out by the roar of the engines that will scream through the Qatari night, with the race against the clock being the only true judge for everyone.