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Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Saturday, 10 April 2010 08:46 UK

Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

Qatar MotoGP, Losail
Date: 10-11 April
Saturday 10 April: Qualifying: 1950-2300, BBC Red Button/online
Sunday 11 April: 125cc and Moto2 races: 1750-2005, BBC Red Button/online Race live: 2045-2200, BBC Three/online; Rerun: 0000-0130, BBC Two

By Matt Roberts
BBC Sport MotoGP reporter in Qatar

Valentino Rossi
Reigning champion Valentino Rossi notches up the laps under the lights at Losail

A night of blockbusting premieres took place in Doha on Friday as an exciting new cast took to the MotoGP stage and the Moto2 class stepped into the spotlight for the first time.

Ben Spies, Héctor Barberá, Álvaro Bautista, Hiroshi Aoyama, Marco Simoncelli and Aleix Espargaró all launched their challenge for the Rookie of the Year title.

Meanwhile, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi outlined their intentions to dominate the top three positions by doing exactly that - and in that order - in the opening free practice session.

The battle of the debutants provides an intriguing sub-plot to what looks certain to be a three-way battle for the main prize this season.

But there is quality throughout the grid, with 13 of the 17 contenders in 2010 boasting world championship titles at either Grand Prix or World Superbike level.

Spies, who won both races on his first visit to this track in the production series last season and has some MotoGP experience as a wildcard, was unsurprisingly on the pace with the sixth fastest time, so perhaps the most impressive newcomer was Bautista in seventh place on the Suzuki.

Loris Capirossi
Capirossi's enthusiasm shows no signs of waning at the age of 37

Whilst Rossi has expressed his concern that the influx of youngsters is making him feel old he expressed gratitude and admiration for a man that puts a spring in the step of any paddock veteran.

Loris Capirossi makes his 300th Grand Prix appearance this weekend. Having made his debut in the 125cc class in 1990 this will be his 21st season at world championship level - an unprecedented achievement.

"When I look at the age of my rivals I feel old," smiled Rossi. "But then I look at Loris and I see the motivation he still has to ride a bike on the limit at the age of 37 and it gives me power."

Capirossi gave an example of that spirit when he went slightly beyond the limit, crashing his Suzuki at over 100mph before returning to the track to improve his best lap time. Lorenzo also crashed in the closing stages and was also uninjured.

The competition is equally fierce in Moto2, with no fewer than 19 GP winners in a field of 41, including former MotoGP stars Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis.

With Elías nursing a broken ankle De Angelis was predictably the pacesetter but the shining light was Britain's Scott Redding, the 17-year old lapping second fastest in the opening session.

Shooting up to just short of 6ft tall, Redding rapidly outgrew the 125cc class last year and had a torrid season as a result.

However, he's wasted no time in demonstrating the ability that made him the youngest Grand Prix winner of all time at Donington Park two seasons ago.

Redding's performance also gave a rowdy contingent of British fans in a small crowd something to shout about as title tip Bradley Smith struggled to 12th place in the 125cc session due to an engine problem.

Fellow Brit Danny Webb fared slightly better in 10th.

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see also
Lorenzo 'not 100% fit' for Qatar
08 Apr 10 |  MotoGP
What makes Rossi great
08 Apr 10 |  MotoGP
All set for Rossi v Stoner again
02 Apr 10 |  MotoGP
Redding aims for top five finish
07 Apr 10 |  Motorsport
MotoGP keen to expand into Asia
06 Apr 10 |  MotoGP
Stoner sets pace in Qatar testing
19 Mar 10 |  MotoGP
Rossi dominates testing in Sepang
26 Feb 10 |  MotoGP
Rossi sets pace in opening test
05 Feb 10 |  MotoGP
Hungarian MotoGP cancelled again
18 Mar 10 |  MotoGP
New date for Silverstone MotoGP
17 Nov 09 |  MotoGP
Cool Rossi crowned world champion
25 Oct 09 |  MotoGP
Hungarian MotoGP axed from list
12 Mar 09 |  MotoGP
Bulgarians to host MotoGP racing
28 Feb 09 |  MotoGP
Hungary added to 2009 MotoGP list
25 Jul 08 |  MotoGP

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