In the first grand prix of the season in the Qatar desert, all eyes were on Ducati to see if Andrea Dovizioso could turn his pole position into a great result. What nobody would’ve predicted, was it being the two factory Yamaha’s battling it out at the front with the two Ducati’s and the Repsol Honda’s far behind in the distance.
Dovizioso, having achieved his third pole position in eight years of MotoGP launched off the line in blinding form and immediately took the lead. Defending World Champion Marc Marquez from the front row of the grid, ran wide on the first corner and found himself at the back, battling from last position in 25th to 5th place within the first eleven laps. It was later reported Marquez had set the fastest ever recorded speed in MotoGP on his charge up the grid, at one point reaching 217.66mph
Jorge Lorenzo, quick off the mark, flew past from Dovi on the second lap, held the lead for seven laps and then proceeded to exchange positions ten times, before losing second position to his teammate Valentino Rossi. Rossi who had fought to the front from 9th on the grid, was immediately on Dovi’s tail and swapped the lead eleven times in a nail-biting last four laps. Iannone managed to pass Lorenzo and make it an all-Italian podium when Rossi crossed the line to take the chequered flag.
“This is one of the best races of my career, it was a difficult start but the bike was fantastic, step by step I didn’t give up, passing the two Ducati’s and Jorge was difficult, but in some places where I am strong and very good in the line - I’m so happy for this win, for the team, for Yamaha” said a beaming Rossi from Park Ferme.
Although the Ducati’s are classified as Open Factory machines, and many might’ve expected tyre degradation halfway through the race, all the front-runners were in fact racing on medium rear tyres so the advantages Ducati are entitled to are not what catapulted them to the front over the weekend. Both Ducati’s ran with winglets and from the aerial camera it was clear to see the horsepower they have on the straights as Dovi overpowered the Yamahas each time, barely using a slipstream to boot.
“I’m really happy to come back and fight for the victory, I pushed really hard and was 100 per cent on the last lap, but I didn’t have the grip on the edge and it was impossible to pass Valentino in the braking. It is better in acceleration, but 2nd position in the first race is really good” Dovi said as he thanked his team for their hard work.
The Losail circuit has traditionally been a kind track to Yamaha, and neither rider topped the list for fastest speeds throughout the race suggesting their cornering is even more impressive with the full seamless gearbox.
The Repsol Honda’s were a good five seconds from the front runners for most of the race, Marquez closed that gap to 3.8 seconds but finished in 5th place, behind Lorenzo with teammate Dani Pedrosa having a relatively lonely race finishing in 6th. Top Brit was Cal Crutchlow who dropped from 12th on the grid and then fought back to finish 7th just in front of fellow Brit and Yamaha Tech 3 rider Bradley Smith. Pol Espargaro and Yonny Hernandez complete the top ten. The competition between teams has clearly become much closer from last year when the gap between 1st and 10th place was 43.3 seconds, this year the distance between 1st an 10th place was just 17.4 seconds.
Over in Moto2, Brit rider Sam Lowes qualified in pole position but unfortunately crashed out on the second lap. Zarco looked to win the race but with three laps to go, a technical problem with his bike meant he suddenly dropped back into the pack leaving the race open for Jonas Folger to take his first ever win in Moto2.
The next race will take place at the Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas, in two weeks time, on 12th April. (8pm BST)Reuse content