Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo (above) proved too strong for his competitors in The Commercial Bank of Qatar Grand Prix, held under lights on Sunday evening at the Losail International Circuit. Teammate Valentino Rossi was an impressive second, with Marc Márquez (Repsol Honda Team) taking third place on debut.
Having started on pole once again, the World Champion pulled away from the charging field, at that point headed up by 2012 championship rival Dani Pedrosa. As the Repsol Honda Team rider began to fight with the likes of Márquez, Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and Rossi, Lorenzo disappeared at the front.
Rossi enjoyed a strong start to the race but an early error at Turn 1 saw him drop back to seventh once again. By lapl 17 Rossi had moved up the field again and stormed past Crutchlow in a brave move that saw the Tech 3 man misjudge his braking point and run off-track at Turn 1.
Rossi would come out on top by just two tenths of a second, with Márquez becoming the first MotoGP rookie to seal a rostrum result in his first race since Lorenzo finished second position at Losail five years ago. Tonight, Lorenzo’s eventually winning margin was 5.9 seconds.
Márquez qualified sixth but a poor start saw him drop to eighth place off the line. His recovery involved the 20-year-old rising to as high as second position, battling with Repsol Honda Team teammate Dani Pedrosa as well as multiple world champion Valentino Rossi. After the race, the Catalan rider admitted to having learned much while following his rivals.
“Half an hour before the race I felt a little bit nervous so I had to really concentrate and relax on the grid. I knew it was going to be difficult to open a gap but I had to try. I made a good start and pushed more than 100%. In the beginning it was hard to open the gap as Pedrosa didn’t want to let me get away, he tried to stay with me but after six or seven laps I opened the gap which made me more confident to keep my pace.
I’m very happy for Yamaha and happy for Valentino as he has now passed two difficult years.”
I’m more than happy, very happy indeed because it was my dream to come back with Yamaha. To arrive on the podium at the first race was my target from November and I put all my effort to arrive at the maximum here. It was a difficult weekend, especially yesterday in qualifying, but I knew I had great pace so I tried to recover in the beginning but I made a mistake and I lost time. I had to do a great second part of the race and step by step I came close to my podium.
In the end there was a great battle, especially with Marc for the second place. I’m so happy for me, for my team, for my friends and all my fans who stay with me through two difficult years and also for Yamaha, to start the season with first and second place is not so bad!”
“To tell the truth, I was pretty nervous on the grid because it was my first MotoGP race,” he said bluntly. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous before. I found it hard to keep calm and I wasn’t as focused as in Moto2. However, I regained my concentration at the last moment. The start was important and we knew that we were taking off from the dirty part of the track. I didn’t get off well, but I was able to attack on the opening laps and overtake many riders – I think that was the key.
“When I rode behind Dani I learnt a lot, also later on with Valentino. Fighting against him is always nice to watch, but it’s always tough at the same time. Valentino was a tough rival to overtake on the final laps. He beat us this time, but we hope to learn from him and from everyone who went faster than us.”
Avintia Blusens’ Héctor Barberá rose from 22nd on the grid to 13th, having suffered electrical problems in qualifying. Rounding up the 18 finishers were PBM’s Yonny Hernández, Avintia’s Hiroshi Aoyama, Forward’s Claudio Corti, PBM’s Michael Laverty and Ioda’s Lukáš Pešek who on Saturday had qualified 15th for his debut.
On Lap 2, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham became the first to retire from the race with LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl crashing out on La 11. Also failing to make the finish were GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bryan Staring, Tech 3’s Bradley Smith, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, who had been the lead CRT runner at Losail last year.
In two weeks’ time MotoGP will head to the 18-round World Championship travels to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
1. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha Factory Racing
2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha Factory Racing
3. Marc Marquez (SPA) Repsol Honda Team
4. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team
5. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech3
6. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Go&Fun Honda Gresini
7. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Ducati Team
8. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Team
9. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Pramac Racing Team
10. Ben Spies (USA) Pramac Racing Team
11. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Power Electronics Aspar
12. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Power Electronics Aspar
13. Hector Barbera (SPA) Avintia Blusens
14. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Paul Bird Motorsport
15. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Avintia Blusens
16. Claudio Corti (ITA) NGM Mobile Forward Racing
17. Michael Laverty (GBR) Paul Bird Motorsport
18. Lukas Pesek (CZE) Came IodaRacing Project
19. Colin Edwards (USA) NGM Mobile Forward Racing Not classified (7 laps)
20. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Came Iodaracing Project Not classified (10 laps)
21. Stefan Bradl (GER) LCR Honda MotoGP Not classified (14 laps)
22. Bradley Smith (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech3 Not classified (18 laps)
23. Bryan Staring (AUS) Go&Fun Honda Gresini Not classified (21 laps)
24. Karel Abraham (CZE) Cardion AB Motoracing Not classified (22 laps)