How the Bookies See it
The first race is on Sunday 18 March at a track that provides one of the most spectacular settings on the MotoGP calendar. The racing takes place at night time under the floodlights of the stunning Losail International Circuit, which is located around 30km from Doha, the developing capital city of Qatar.
Surrounded by the Qatari desert, the Losail circuit staged its first Grand Prix of Qatar in October 2004, which was won by Spain’s Sete Gibernau. Since 2007, the track has hosted the opening race of the season, and in 2008, it held the first floodlit Grand Prix in the history of the MotoGP World Championship.
The track cost $58 million to build and provides a flowing layout of 5.4 kilometres that is surrounded by artificial grass, which is designed to prevent sand blowing from the desert onto the circuit.
The main straight is over a kilometre in length and there is a good mix of medium and high-speed corners, which have proved popular with the riders.
- Marc Marquez arrives in Qatar to defend his title, having registered 298 points last season to become the youngest-ever four-time world champion. He secured six wins and 12 podium finishes last season to win the title by a 37-point margin. His last victory at the Losail International Circuit came back in 2014, so he might find it hard to get this new campaign off to a winning start. He goes in to the race as the second-favourite.
- Andrea Dovizioso had an excellent season last year. He matched the six wins of Marquez but could only manage eight podium finishes; yet that was still enough to see him finish as a clear second in the world standings on 261 points. He has finished as runner-up on the last two occasions at Qatar so arrives as a real danger, and that is reflected in the market as he goes into the race as the favourite.
- Maverick Vinales finished third in the title race last year, scoring 230 points, but he could only manage three wins all season. Seven podium finishes helped him to that top-three finish in the world standings, but Vinales and his Yamaha team will hope for a better return on wins this campaign. He won this race last year and goes into this one as the 9/2 third-favourite.
It’s hard to look past Andrea Dovizioso, who finished last term in excellent form. He has a better record here than Marc Marquez, having finished second the last two years, so can go one better this time to get what could be an even more sensational season off to a winning start.
Sports.net's Top Tip
Valentino Rossi has only missed out on a podium finish once in Qatar since 2012. The year he didn’t make the top three, he finished fourth and actually won here in 2015. He looks good each-way odds at 13/2 to get on the podium again.