LONDON (Reuters) - Zorro is getting ready for a new off-screen adventure in motorcycle grand prix racing this weekend with the debut of the Moto2 category at the Qatar season-opener.
Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, who plays the swashbuckling masked outlaw in the popular Hollywood movies, is involved in the 250cc replacement class with his Jack&Jones by Antonio Banderas team.
“I am not going to get out Zorro’s whip to demand results. I want things to be done without stress,” he told Spain’s Marca newspaper on Tuesday.
The 600cc bikes all have the same Honda four-stroke engines and Dunlop tyres while the bigger machines will make the category a more suitable training ground and feeder for the top MotoGP class.
“I’m convinced that the birth of the new category, with more modest budgets and similar machines, is a good move,” added Banderas, who will have American newcomer Kenny Noyes and Spaniard Joan Olive riding for him.
“It’s true that MotoGP is like the Formula One of motorcycling but I believe that Moto2... seems more interesting than MotoGP because of the level playing field.
“I got into this because it will resolve the debate over whether the rider or the bike is more important,” said the actor, a keen motorcycling fan who owns five bikes of his own and almost got involved with a MotoGP team a year ago.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, the head of commercial rights holders Dorna, said Moto2 was already looking like a success.
“The result is very clear. We have 40 entries plus two wild cards in any race...last year we had 25 bikes,” he told Reuters.
“The 250cc has been a fantastic category for many years but the price to have a bike capable of winning has become so expensive in recent years that we need to reduce that and to maintain the competition.
“It is important to have as many bikes as possible with the same chance of winning... all the riders who have tested the Moto2 in preliminary tests have said this is a real prototype bike with the 600cc engine,” he added.
“It’s first of all a cheap bike for good performance. Secondly, the bikes must be a prototype because this is very good for development of the skills of the riders for MotoGP. Thirdly, it must be as much equal as possible for all the grid.
“This is a big battle between chassis manufacturers. We have an enormous number of riders on the grid and this is the success of Moto2 for the moment.”
Former MotoGP rider Toni Elias is one of the early favorites for the first Moto2 crown, despite the Spaniard fracturing his left hand and right ankle in pre-season testing.
The entry list includes Mashel al Naimi, the first Qatari rider to step on the world championship stage.
(Additional reporting by Iain Rogers in Madrid)
Editing by Pritha Sarkar