Spain’s double world champion Jorge Lorenzo drew first blood by taking the MotoGP floodlit season opener from pole in Qatar yesterday as Italy’s Valentino Rossi stormed to second.
Lorenzo finished 5.990 seconds ahead of his Italian team-mate, the seven-times world champion, who had started seventh on the grid.
“I’m very happy because Valentino came back to Yamaha. It’s the best result for Yamaha,” Lorenzo said.
Rossi, back on a Yamaha after two years at Ducati, won a great tussle with 20-year-old Honda new boy Marc Marquez. They exchanged daring passes in the closing stages before the 34-year-old held off the Spanish hotshot on the final lap.
“This was my target to arrive on the podium from November of last season. It could have been easier apart from the mistake at the beginning with [Dan] Pedrosa,” said Rossi, clearly elated after two miserable years away from Yamaha. “The bike was fantastic and I think we can enjoy this season.”
Marquez was also grinning from ear to ear after pushing his boyhood idol all the way in a thrilling opener. “It was so nice to be with him, a great battle,” said Marquez.
Fellow Spaniard and title favourite Dani Pedrosa came fourth, 9.473 seconds behind Lorenzo while Briton Cal Crutchlow was slumped in the non-works Tech 3 Yamaha garage after finishing fifth, having started second.
James Ellison secured the second race win at the opening round of the British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch yesterday after last season’s champion Shane Byrne began the campaign with victory.
However Kawasaki rider Byrne will be left kicking himself after a mistake with three laps to go let his Milwaukee Yamaha rival take the chequered flag. Alex Lowes claimed second, with Byrne third - five seconds off the pace.
Byrne was ahead after the opening lap of the race from Ellison and the pair were inseparable until, with three laps remaining, Byrne was forced to run on at Surtees to avoid a collision.
In the first race Byrne held off Lowes and Josh Brookes to claim victory on his home circuit.