World Champion Marc Marquez started his MotoGP™ title defence with a victory in Qatar, beating Valentino Rossi in a close battle, with Dani Pedrosa coming home third
Repsol Honda’s 21 year-old rider produced a gritty performance to take maximum points despite breaking his leg in the preseason and missing the last two MotoGP tests.
In further drama Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo crashed out of the race lead at turn 15 on the first lap, meaning his season starts with a DNF after he had struggled with grip issues throughout the weekend. After eight laps the race was also over for Stefan Bradl, who had led the contest for several circulations.
Indeed, Marquez and Rossi then went on to have a great fight which went down to the last lap and saw the Spaniard outpace the Italian by 0.25s – with Pedrosa three seconds back to complete the podium.
An excellent ride for Aleix Espargaro saw him take fourth on his debut for NGM Forward Racing on their ‘Open’ Yamaha. Espargaro cashed in on the crashes of Alvaro Baustista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) as they fell out of the podium hunt.
Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow did well in fifth and sixth respectively for Ducati Team, though Crutchlow finished 16 seconds behind his teammate after almost running out of fuel on his debut for the Italian factory.
A good first premier class race for Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) saw him beat fellow ‘Open’ Honda equipped rider Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar) to seventh by a 0.035s margin.
The top ten was rounded out by Hayden’s compatriot Colin Edwards (NGM Forward Racing), riding his first race as a 40 year-old, and Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) who recovered well from a fall on the last corner of lap two.
A mistake from rookie Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) with five laps to go saw him drop down to 15th and then pull into pits shortly after.
Marc Marquez 93 ESP 25 Repsol Honda Team HONDA 42’40.561
Valentino Rossi 46 ITA 20 Yamaha Factory YAMAHA +0.259
Dani Pedrosa 26 ESP 16 Repsol Honda Team HONDA +3.370
Aleix Espargaro 41 ESP 13 NGM Mobile Forward Racing YAMAHA +11.623
Andrea Dovizioso 4 ITA 11 Ducati Team DUCATI +12.159
Cal Crutchlow 35 GBR 10 Ducati Team DUCATI +28.526
Scott Redding 45 GBR 9 Go & Fun Honda Gresini HONDA +32.593
Nicky Hayden 69 USA 8 Drive M7 Aspar HONDA +32.628
Colin Edwards 5 USA 7 NGM Mobile Forward Racing YAMAHA +39.547
Andrea Iannone 29 ITA 6 Pramac Racing DUCATI +43.360
Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez opened the defence of his debut-season MotoGP World Championship in the style of a champion – returning from injury to claim a fighting victory after a fierce battle with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) that lasted all the way to the end of the 22-lap race, held under floodlights at the Losail circuit in Qatar.
Already the youngest ever premier-class title winner, Marquez was back on a bike for the first time in six weeks at Qatar after breaking his leg in a training accident. In spite of missing the final tests, he was soon up to speed, qualifying on pole position for the opening round – the only race of the year to be run after dark, to avoid searing daytime desert heat.
Last year, aged 20, Marquez made his MotoGP debut at Qatar, finishing a sensational third. The Repsol Honda RC213V rider would finish on the rostrum in all but two of the races, where a crash and a black flag resulted in no scores, claiming six wins on his way to a stunning rookie title win.
Repsol Honda RC213V team-mate Dani Pedrosa made it a double podium for the HRC team, finishing a close third after a well-judged race, taking the benefit of his experience at one of his least favourite circuits. Pedrosa bided his time while several riders crashed on the treacherous track, and came away with the reward.
It meant a strong start also for the veteran Repsol Honda rider’s title campaign. The former 125cc and double 250cc World Champion is in his ninth season with the HRC team.
Marquez’s ride was the highlight of an exciting race – not only first of the season, but the first run under new rules with “Factory Option” and “Open” machines competing under different technical rules. The greater leveller, however, was the tricky 5.38-km Losail circuit, with several riders falling victim to the treacherous surface, where a slippery coating of sand awaits any rider who strays too far off line.
The first victim was fast starter Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), who took the lead into the first corner, but did not complete the first lap. Then LCR Honda RC213V rider Stefan Bradl took over for the first eight of 22 laps, only for the German to suffer the same fate.
After ten laps, there were still five riders within one second of new leader Rossi. By now Pedrosa had moved to third, while Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Gresini Honda RC213V) and Bradley Smith (Yamaha) were close behind.
Smith would also fall, and then Bautista as well, after mounting a strong attack on Pedrosa.
Marquez led over the line for the first time on lap 14, and over the last two laps he and Rossi engaged in furious combat, changing places repeatedly until the Honda rider gained a small advantage he was able to hold to the line, winning by 0.259 seconds. Pedrosa had been a close spectator, and was happy with a safe third place.
Bradl and Bautista escaped injury in their tumbles, and had to take comfort from the erstwhile strength of their performances; Bradl leading the race and Bautista a major protagonist in the rostrum fight. Bautista has a supplementary role, as race-tester for Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, made by Japanese companies with strong links with Honda.
Four more of the new Honda RCV1000R production racing machines competed under the new “Open” rules. The best of them laid on an exciting race-long battle for seventh, finishing only three hundredths of a second apart. Winner by inches was class rookie Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Honda RCV1000R), defeating 2006 Honda World Champion Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R).
The other pair of new Hondas also finished in the points, with former 250cc World Champion Hiro Aoyama 11th on the second Drive M7 Aspar machine, and Czech star Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) 13th.
In the all-Honda-powered Moto2 class, Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Esteve “Tito” Rabat claimed the narrowest of victories after a typically close and exciting race – with all entries powered by identical race-tuned CBR600 engines supplied by the organisers, the margins are reliably small.
The Spaniard, third overall in last year’s championship, was a nail-biting 0.040 seconds ahead of early race leader Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), with second Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Mika Kallio just one second adrift.
With last year’s top two riders gone to MotoGP, Rabat’s first-race win (his fourth in the Moto2 class) reinforces his position as pre-season favourite. The narrowness of the win however bodes well for a tense season to come.
After the race, a shock: technical inspection found an infringement concerning the air filter on Nakagami’s bike, and he was disqualified. The team appealed, without success.
Not far behind, former 125cc champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter) had come through to fourth on track, barely half-a-second clear of class rookie Maverick Vinales (Pons HP 40 Kalex), winner of last year’s Moto3 World Championship. Both were promoted one position by the disqualification.
The pair had caught and passed long-time fourth-place rider Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing Forward-KLX), more than one second behind at the flag.
The second high-placed rookie was grand prix first-timer Sam Lowes (Speed Up), in an excellent sixth. Lowes moved into MotoGP as reigning World Supersport Champion.
Sandro Cortese was a brave seventh at the head of a close group. The Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex rider suffered a fracture in his leg after qualifying on the front row, missed morning warm-up, but returned for the race. Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) was inches behind in eighth, with Anthony West (QMMF Racing Team Speed Up) almost alongside. Another second down, French SAG team rider Louis Rossi completed the top ten.
In the Moto3 class, where rival manufacturers battle it out using 250cc four-stroke engines, Honda claimed two out of three podium places. The company’s revised RS250FW missed victory in the first race of the evening by a mere 0.233 of a second, in a last-lap brawl that put the first five riders over the line within 0.369 seconds, the last podium slot decided by a photo-finish
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Marquez led over the line for 17 of the 18 laps, though changing places out on the track now and then with Australian Jack Miller (KTM). Second Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Rins, who started from pole position, had led a small group up to catch the leaders by the end.
Results were in doubt until the final yards after a hectic final lap. Miller was first, Marquez almost alongside in second, with a photo-finish giving third to SaxoPrint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez, by five-hundredths from Miguel Oliveira (Mahindra). Rins was dropped to fifth, a tenth adrift, in the final scramble.
The next race, the GP of the Americas, is at Austin, Texas in the USA, on April 13. There are 18 rounds in the World Championship, which concludes in Valencia in Spain in November.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: 1st – “I’m very happy with the result today. The 25 points are important but it’s also been an important race, because I was coming back from an injury that caused me to miss most of the pre-season. Also, this weekend there were a lot of riders up at the front, all with a great pace, and seeing how the race went, this win is a big one. The battle with Valentino was the best part of the race besides the win, I really enjoyed it!”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd – “Third place is a positive result. We’ve finished on the podium this weekend at a circuit that’s difficult for me, because it isn’t well suited to my style. So it’s a good way to start. We were close, but with the way the race went – with so many crashes – it was important to finish. So from here on we will try to keep improving and try to fight for the win at the next race.”
Scott Redding, GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 7th – “I am very satisfied, as I was expecting to be able to follow Nicky Hayden for only a few laps and, although he was the target, I wasn’t really expecting to beat him. In the first laps I wanted to take maximum advantage of the soft tyre and I was pretty aggressive with the passes. I got through on Nicky and thought I’d got away from him, but then he came back at me. But I knew I was faster than him, so I waited until two laps from the end before making a move, retaking the place and then holding him off to the finish. Tonight we achieved our goal; to be the first open class Honda home, so I’m pleased with that.”
Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 8th – “We had to change our start procedure tonight and it wasn’t easy – there were riders everywhere, but I managed to get into a better rhythm than the test and practice here, setting consistent 1’56s. I tried everything to stay with Espargaro, but in the end I had worn out the left hand side of the tyre and ran off. It ended up a straight battle between me and Scott, we passed each other a few times and he got me on the line. A few riders crashed but we made it to the end and picked up eighth. We set a great pace at the start of the race, now we need to work on the second half and try to improve on what we have learnt here. I want to thank the team, Honda and all the sponsors for their efforts. Now we need to look ahead to the next race.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 11th – “It was a tough race because as the night progressed the temperatures dropped and the feeling with the tyres worsened, which is why so many riders crashed. Personally I chose the softest option tyre and it was difficult to adapt my pace according to the temperature. I got in a fight with Hernández and even though my pace was better than his I couldn’t get away. If I didn’t get embroiled with him I might have finished higher up but anyway I am happy because it has been a tough weekend and the team has done a great job. We found a good setting yesterday and it has paid off today with 11th place.”
Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing Honda: 13th – “I am happy and angry at same time – 13th is perfect for the points, but with all the riders crashing it was a lucky position. Otherwise I would have been 18th. I am very happy I managed to finish the race, because it was difficult with my injured shoulder. I made some mistakes, and it was difficult to try to get back again to catch the group, because by then my shoulder was getting harder and harder to work with the bike, especially on the left-hand hairpin. I couldn’t turn the bike, or push hard.”
Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda: DNF – “Actually it’s difficult for me to express my feelings right now. In some ways I did a very good job because I took a good start from the third row, making a perfect first lap. Honestly I was not expecting such a strong performance considering the issues we had in the last days but for the race I felt strong and determined. Basically I cannot say why I crashed because I made the same manoeuvre the lap before at Turn 6, but this time I lost the front. Luckily I am OK and the positive thing is that I have made a big step in the race. Many riders crashed on left corners so probably the humidity was too high and affected the grip level. Anyway let’s go ahead to Austin which is another track that I like very much.”
Alvaro Bautista, GO&FUN Honda Gresini: DNF – “Luckily I’m fine, but it was a strange crash: I entered Turn 2 in the same way as the previous laps but I suddenly lost the front. I had some problems with the brakes during the race: I don’t know if this has contributed to the fall, however I am very sorry for the team. Until the crash I was having fun battling for the first positions. My start was not so good, but gradually I was able to charge through the field. At one point I found myself in second place and surely we could get on the podium. Too bad we haven’t finished the race. I apologize to the team and my fans, and I hope to bring home the result next time.”
Honda Moto2 Rider Quotes
Tito Rabat, Marc VDS Racing Team, 1st – “I’m happy to have come here to Qatar and taken the first win of the season on my debut for the Marc VDS team. I got a good start, but then Taka Nakagami braked really late into turn one and I made a mistake and ran wide. It took me a good few laps to work my way back to the front, but I was pushed all the way by Taka and Mika. In the end I managed to defend the lead to take the win, but I need to think about the early laps and also how to manage better the end of the race. It was a great way to start the season and now we need to look ahead to the next race in Austin.”
Mika Kallio, Marc VDS Racing Team, 2nd – “I got a good start, making up places off the line and managed to slot into second behind Taka Nakagami, who’d already pulled a gap at the front. It took me two laps to catch him, and I had the pace to pass, but I decided to sit in behind, stay as smooth as possible and save my tyres for the last few laps. The lap times were quick, but I felt comfortable, until Taka upped the pace again with about eight laps to go. Then Tito came past me and I started to struggle for grip in the right hand turns. I was making up ground in the left corners only to lose it again in the right corners. I lost contact with them on the final lap and decided to settle for third and the points. Unfortunately for Nakagami but luckily for me, it then became second. Although we could have won tonight, I’m happy to finish on the podium after such a big crash yesterday. Thanks to my crew, who put in long hours to rebuild the bike last night. Thanks also to Petronas Raceline Malaysia for the loan of a frame.”
Thomas Luthi, Interwetten Paddock Moto2, 3rd – “I lost my chance to fight for victory in the first five laps. I had problems with the front on right-handers and it kept pushing me wide. After a few laps the rear grip went down, and that helped me. I was able to get a good rhythm, and from t en it was a good race. What pleases me I’m fit, feel very good, even now after the race. This is nice, especially when I think back to my injury a year ago. I was not able to cross the line in third, but my lap times in the second half of the race would have been good enough for such a position. For the season, therefore I already believe that much is possible.”
Honda Moto3 Rider Quotes
Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0.0, 2nd – “I made a rookie mistake tonight; I hit a false neutral when cornering on the final lap. Despite that, I am pleased to have taken second place and claimed 20 points, because it is a very good result with which to start the World Championship season. I think that throughout the race I had a good pace when on my own at the front. When Jack [Miller] took the lead, however, we went slower and the chasing pack managed to close in on us. That is why I tried to push as hard as I could on every lap. We have to continue as we have been doing and I am very happy with this first race with Honda.”
Efren Vazquez, Saxoprint RTG, 3rd – “I’m very happy with this – it is my first podium in the Moto3 class. I started 15th on the grid, which is not great, so didn’t really expected to get on podium. But the new Honda is great, and the team found a perfect set for the sixth gear for a good top speed … so, pushing lap by lap, I got the result.”
Alex Rins, Estrella Galicia 0,0, 5th – “At the start I made a small mistake, because I released the clutch prematurely. Then I tried to push hard during the race to reach the front, waiting to see if the others made any errors. In the end it wasn’t to be, but we go to Austin happy with all the work we’ve done with Honda and even more eager to do well. Most of all, I have to thank the whole team and Honda, because the bike was working very well. Throughout the weekend we had a very good pace and that’s what we will draw upon when thinking ahead to Austin and the coming races.”
Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi has opened the 2014 MotoGP season by taking his second consecutive second place finish at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar this evening.
The nine-time world champion made strong start from tenth on the grid, quickly closing down and passing several riders to take fifth by the end of the first lap. With rival Dani Pedrosa in pursuit, Rossi kept the pace up over the following laps, eventually passing Bradley Smith for fourth on the brakes going into turn one with 17 laps to go. Alvaro Bautista was the next to go as a determined Rossi moved up to third, keeping pole man Marc Marquez in his sights and engaging in the first of many fights with the young Spaniard.
One lap later race leader Stefan Bradl crashed out, promoting the two battling riders. Rossi then took the lead with a pass on Marquez on turn 15. The two remained less than half a second apart, with Marquez regaining the lead with nine laps remaining. He was unable to shake his rival off, Rossi keeping within a couple of tenths until the final laps where he made several attempts to snatch glory. A final move on turn four on the penultimate lap was quickly taken back by Marquez, leaving Rossi to cross the line in second, just 0.259 seconds behind.
Teammate Jorge Lorenzo had a disastrous start to his 2014 Championship tonight, crashing out of the Qatar Grand Prix on the first lap. Lorenzo made a trademark stunning start from fifth on the grid to grab the holeshot into turn one, leading the GP pack. His luck was not to last, a cold front tyre causing a low side crash just a couple of turns later and ending his race. He was luckily able to walk away without any major injuries and will be fit and ready for the next round in Texas in three weeks time.
Valentino Rossi – 2nd | +0.259 | 22 Laps – “I’m very happy but a little bit upset because I lost. Marc is very strong and I enjoyed very much the whole race. It was a great race, very funny from the beginning, I started from behind and I had to risk in the first laps. I was very precise and didn’t make any mistakes. At the end I played my card with Marc but he was stronger than me so he won and he deserved it. It’s the first time it looked like an old race from MotoGP from ten years ago, all together on the same pace, some mistakes, going wide and so on. Maybe Dorna had a great idea! The Yamaha is always good in Qatar and I worked very hard in the practice for the race. I’m very happy with the work of my team and the bike was great in the race too. But anyway I am so happy for this start to the year, now we have to continue like this. Usually Jorge is so fantastic and so strong in the first laps so I don’t understand what the mistake was.”
Rider Jorge Lorenzo DNF – “I made a mistake, it was a long time ago that I last did that in a race! We are not perfect; we are only human and sometimes we make mistakes. The tyres were different to last year and the temperature of the tarmac was a little colder. I didn’t take these circumstances into account and I was too fast into the corner when the front and rear tyre were not ready yet. It’s a pity to lose so many points with Marc and Valentino and Dani who are the favourites. Valentino demonstrated that the Yamaha can fight even with these tyres and the championship is very long so lets see what happens in Austin.”
Team Director Massimo Meregalli – “Not a good beginning of the season. The pace was finally good after a couple of days testing. Our target was to have a good start but not go crazy and push a lot because we knew it was quite slippery. Jorge lost the front very suddenly like Bautista and Bradl did so I think it was a tricky point of the track and it caught him out. We have to look forward and I think its good to see that even with problems we are able to find solutions which is a positive point.”
Team Manager Wilco Zeelenberg – “This race has a double face. It has been a great pity for Jorge to crash when he was leading, for sure he was pushing hard as he is used to do and a mistake can happen. The other face has been a fantastic race Vale started from the fourth row, I always thought it was going to be a tough for him just to think of the podium because of this, but he made an impressive race with many overtakes. At a certain point I thought we could even win but anyway second place is a great success. For me the most important thing is that step-by-step we were able to recover the gap we had starting from the first practice. We never gave up and always pushed and were able to deliver the pace we did.”
Difficult start for Tech3 in Qatar
Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro suffered ill luck during an eventful opening race of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship at the Commercial Bank of Qatar Grand Prix. Both Tech3 riders did not finish the race with Britain’s Bradley Smith falling whilst challenging for a podium position on lap 19, and Spanish rookie Pol Espargarohad a mechanical issue forcing him to retire on lap 18.
The opening race began in emphatic fashion for Bradley Smith, who qualified in a personal best ever position of 3rd on the front row of the MotoGP grid. The young English rider was in 2nd place during the opening laps and was in contention of leading the Grand Prix, before settling into a steady rhythm. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider remained close to the front for the duration of the race, and as he was preparing his attack on the leading four on lap 19, Smith lucklessly lost the front of his Yamaha YZR-M1 at turn 6.
Pol Espargaro’s positive form during the preseason and free practice sessions unfortunately came to an unsuccessful conclusion at the opening race at the floodlit Qatar circuit, due to an technical problem causing him to pull into the pits and retire. The reigning Moto2 World Champion ran competitively all weekend and impressed with his rookie performances on the MotoGP bike during all sessions. Espargaro started the MotoGP race strongly, and was placed inside the top ten comfortably. The young Spanish rider set into a good race pace and held 8th position until the gearbox issue struck on lap 18 with only four laps remaining around the 5.83 kilometre Losail International Circuit.
Bradley Smith – DNF – “It’s plain to see that this wasn’t the ideal way to finish the opening race of the season as I gave everything that I possibly could have during the race. I was feeling good on the bike, however it was difficult to close the final second to the front runners but with five or six laps to go I was determined to try and catch them. Unfortunately, I then fell. I want to thank my team, especially after the big crash and the repairs that they had to do on Friday. Now I need to refocus a little bit, taking all the positives out of this weekend and then go to Austin with this new found confidence and be as competitive there”.
Pol Espargaro – DNF – “I really can’t say that luck helped us today, even if we deserved it after this weekend. We didn’t start with the best of terms as I am still not completely healed from my shoulder injury. Then I crashed on Friday and my confidence fell slightly. The good news was that my injury didn’t worsen because of this, and the team did a great job helping me to raise my confidence. With regards to today, it’s unfortunate that this happened as I could have finished inside the top six on my MotoGP debut. I am still happy with my performance because the results all weekend were competitive Before my problems started, I was just eight seconds behind the leader and catching Dovizioso and Aleix, which was more than I could have hoped for. Now I will rest and prepare for the next race in Austin as I definitely want to be at my 100% there”.
Herve Poncharal – Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team Manager – “This weekend wasn’t great for us. Bradley qualified well, started positively and was running a good pace near the front, continuing the excellent job that he had been doing all weekend. For sure, the crash is a disappointment but there are still many positives to consider such as, qualifying in front row and running comfortably in the top 5. I felt really bad for Pol who had been trying very hard all weekend, even though the circumstances were not ideal for him with his injury. We think there was a gearbox problem, although we are not sure yet, but without this technical issue, he would have easily got into the top 8. We have been strong all weekend and it’s a shame to come out with no points after all the effort we put in. We will now focus on the upcoming race in Austin”.
Espargaro close to the podium in debut race
It was a very good start of the 2014 season for the NGM Forward Racing Team in Qatar GP. Aleix Espargaro made a stunning MotoGP debut on his Forward Yamaha under the Losail floodlights, finishing the race in fourth position and was the first rider of the new open spec to cross the finish line.
It was a good race also for his team mate Colin Edwards who, despite struggling a lot with the grip for the whole race, recovered important positions, closing in 9th place.
Thanks to the good results of Espargaro and Edwards, the NGM Forward Racing team leaves Qatar in third position of the Constructor Championship and in fourth place in the Team Classification with 20 points.
Aleix Espargaro – 4th, +11,623, 22 Laps – “I’m happy with this result for myself and the team. Yesterday’s two mistakes made my race really difficult. I started from the third row and I struggled a lot with the full tank to overtake the two Ducati, that had a great advantage in terms of top speed in the long straight. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, so I didn’t push as I wanted from the beginning. I was patient and waited for the right moment to pass. It’s a pity because we had the pace to fight with the front guys but I have to be happy because we are 4th in the championship. I thank my team and Colin that gave me some parts of his second machine to rebuild my bike that was completely destroyed after yesterday’s qualifying crashes”.
Colin Edwards – 9th, +39.547 22 Laps – “It is not the race I wanted as I struggled a lot with the grip from the beginning. The main issue remains the same: I can’t get my bike turn. We will keep on working and I’m confident that we can improve. I’m happy for the team. We got good points and I look forward to the Texas GP, my home race”.
Giovanni Cuzari – Team Owner – “It was a great weekend for the whole team and I want to thank the four riders and the mechanics. It was a great team work and the result of the great atmosphere that there is in the garage together with true passion and motivation. A special thank to Aleix that made a fantastic debut with our team. He confirmed that we can fight for the font positions and I look forward to next race in Texas, Colin’s home GP”.
The two Ducati Team riders, Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, finished the Qatar GP at Losail, the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship, in fifth and sixth place respectively.
After starting from the second row of the grid, thanks to a fourth place obtained in yesterday’s qualifying, Dovizioso lost a couple of places in jostling for position in the early laps but thanks to a constant run and a couple of riders ahead of him crashing out, he managed to finish the race in fifth place
Team-mate Crutchlow, making his race debut with the Ducati Team’s Desmosedici GP14, had a few problems. The British rider, who started from row 3 with eighth quickest time, had a problem with his bike’s transponder after a few laps which affected his race. The problem got worse in the final stages and Cal had to struggle in the last few laps, but he did manage to cross the line in sixth.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 5th – We have to look at the positive aspects of this result, because in view of the championship a fifth place is always important. But another important objective for us was to reduce the gap to the winner, and we managed to cut that down by half from last year, and that’s another important fact. We still have understeer problems that condition our performance in the race, but I am pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, even though we still have to work hard to improve our bike.”
Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) – 6th – “It was a bittersweet race for me. Finishing in sixth place is a good result, I needed to repay the boys with a finish because they worked hard after the warm-up, when I crashed out. In the race, from lap 5 onwards, we had an electrical problem: the transponder wasn’t working, the dash switched off and the bike began to behave strangely. I was pleased to be competitive until mid-way with Aleix and Dovi but I struggled to finish the race because the problem got worse towards the end. However it was important to get this race distance under our belt for Ducati and come away from here in not too bad a shape.”
Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager) – “It is positive that in the race we confirmed the improvements that we had already shown during the tests. The gap to the frontrunners has been considerably reduced since last year, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to recover ground and so it is important for us to continue to work hard on the project.”
The opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship got underway in dramatic fashion when the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar took place this weekend with PBM rider Broc Parkes scoring a brilliant point in 15th on his Grand Prix debut, as team mate Michael Laverty followed him home in 16th.
Round one at the Losail track in Doha marked another historic chapter in the Paul Bird Motorsport portfolio as both Laverty and Parkes were in action on the team’s very own Rapid Solicitors and Silkolene-backed PBM machines.
Both Ulsterman Laverty, in his second successive season for the Penrith based team, and the experienced Australian Parkes who was making his MotoGP debut, endured their fair share of bad luck during the extended free practice sessions aboard the Aprilia ART-powered machines in the Open class division, However, eventually it started to all come together and they qualified with Parkes on row seven and Laverty a row further back.
Hopeful of a good result under the floodlights, both riders for the only British team in the premier MotoGP class got good starts, Laverty’s a bit too good as he was adjudged to have jumped the start which resulted in a ride through penalty a couple of laps into the race.
Both riders circulated in the top 20 for the opening laps before Parkes upped the pace and by lap nine, he was 17th with Laverty’s penalty keeping him from progressing any higher than 20th. There they continued for most of the race before climbing the leaderboard towards the end of the race.
Parkes had made his way up to 15th with Laverty following him up the order going into the penultimate lap and that’s how they crossed the line after 22 hectic laps to allow Parkes to score a vital point as Laverty just missed out.
The results mean that in the Open class standings, Parkes holds eighth place following his solitary points haul and importantly for the PBM team, they occupy sixth place in the manufacturer’s table and tenth in the team’s series going into the next race at Austin in Texas in two week’s time.
Michael Laverty: “Well that was a better race than I expected after a difficult weekend. My pace was good enough for 14th but the ride through penalty cost me dear. All in all it’s been a positive start to the championship for us with Broc getting a point on the board and I’m really happy with how I rode though the 16th position finish didn’t really do it justice. I’m looking forward to Texas now as I had anticipated Qatar to be our toughest event of the season, in many ways it was but we still had a strong race.”
Broc Parkes: “To get a point on my MotoGP debut was fantastic for both me and the team. I was having a good dice with a couple of the other Open class bikes and we got lucky with a couple dropping out but I’ll happily take the result. It was a shame Michael had his penalty otherwise he’d have been up there with us so roll on the next race in Texas where hopefully we continue where we left off this weekend. The team did a great job for us all weekend and it’s fantastic to be part of this.”
Paul Bird, Team Owner: “After all the hard work we have done to get the bikes built and to be here, I’m absolutely made up for the whole team, I couldn’t be prouder of them. We had some issues during practice but we worked hard to sort them out and in the race, both riders did a cracking job. For Broc to score a point for us on his MotoGP debut was fantastic and had Michael not been penalised at the start, we could have had two riders in the points. For both of them to remain on the lead lap as the winner after 22 tough laps was another tonic for us and we go to the next race full of confidence. Not bad for our little team from the Lake District!”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: “A satisfying start to the season for PBM with both riders achieving good results. For Broc to finish in the points in his first MotoGP race is especially pleasing and the experience will be a big help for him in the next races. Michael’s jump start was frustrating as he had a strong pace in the race and could have scored points but for the penalty. The team have worked hard all weekend and we had a trouble free race after suffering a number of small issues during practice. Even with the penalty we have improved our race time since last year and we are confident that there is more performance we can achieve.”
Marc Marquez got his MotoGP™ World Championship title defence off to the perfect start after the Repsol Honda rider emerged victorious from a closely-fought contest with Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi.
Starting from pole position, Marquez traded places with Rossi at the front of the field numerous times throughout the twenty-two lap race, before Marquez made the race-winning pass in the final stages to take the chequered flag by 0.259 seconds. In third place at the Qatar Grand Prix was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa who crossed the finish line 3.370 seconds after his teammate.
The track temperature for the race was the coolest recorded over the whole race weekend, with a peak recording of just 20°C which brought with it a spike in humidity levels. This resulted in many riders commenting after the race that grip levels were lower than the Warm Up session four hours earlier. Although conditions were quite cool, only two riders selected the soft compound front slick, with the rest of the grid opting for the hard compound front slick. For the rear tyre, only race-winner Marc Marquez selected the hard compound rear slick for the race, and the medium compound rear was by far the popular choice, with fifteen riders selecting this option. Seven of the eleven Open-class entrants selected the soft compound rear slick for the Qatar Grand Prix.
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department – “That was a fantastic way to start the season; it was great to see riders from so many different teams fighting for position in the opening half of the race. Congratulations to Marc Marquez and Honda on winning the first race of the season, and well done to Valentino for pushing him all the way to the finish line. Every session this weekend was closely-contested, culminating in a thoroughly exciting race which I am sure was appreciated by MotoGP fans all around the world. I hope this trend of close racing continues for the rest of the season, starting with the Grand Prix of the Americas in three weeks’ time”
Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department – “The 10pm start for the race in Qatar means we had cool and humid conditions for the Qatar Grand Prix, and listening to the comments from riders after the race, it seems this reduced the grip levels compared to the Warm Up session. As expected we had big variation in tyre strategies for the race, with all our front and rear slick options being utilised. I am happy to see that Marc was able to be so competitive on the hard compound rear slick, we made a big development with this option late last year for improved edge grip and the race result today showed it’s a viable race option for this year.”
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda – Race Winner – “I’m very happy with the victory as I didn’t expect this result. I felt better physically yesterday but I still had a question mark over how I would go in the race. I chose the hard rear tyre so I was a bit cautious at the start of the race, but then it was ok so then I decided to push. The battle with Valentino was very exciting and we swapped positions many times, last year he came out on top but this year it was my turn. I hope to have many more nice battles like that this year.”
Moto2™: Strong ride for Rabat earns Qatar victory
Despite a difficult first lap for pole man Esteve Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team) he produced an otherwise excellent ride in Qatar to win on the last corner
Rabat’s teammate Mika Kallio was third in the race, though second place finisher Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) was later disqualified for the use of a non-regulation air filter.
Rabat aims to win the title this year after emerging as a Moto2™ race winner last season and he looked threatening throughout the Qatar weekend, ultimately beating Nakagami to the line by 0.04s after they had battled for the lead for several laps. Rabat ran wide on the first lap and dropped to fifth but had too much for his closest rivals over the 20 lap contest, coming back well to take win.
His colleague Kallio will also be looking for wins in 2014 having finished a second behind the front two, eventually being moved up to second due to Nakagami’s disqualification.
Three seconds behind Kallio was Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2), the Swiss rider crossing the line three tenths ahead of Moto3 World Champion Maverick Viñales (Pons HP 40) who made an excellent Moto2™ debut.
Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing) ran well from 10th on the grid beating debutant Sam Lowes (Speed Up) who also performed solidly in his first Grand Prix, their final results being classified as fifth and sixth
The top ten was completed by Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2), Anthony West (QMMF Racing Team) and Louis Rossi (SAG Team).
A disastrous start for the AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing team saw Josh Herrin and Johann Zarco crash on the first lap, with Alex De Angelis (Tasca Racing Moto2) and Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) also involved.
Gino Rea and Mashel Al Naimi had stopped mid-race with technical problems, whilst with 8 laps to go in Axel Pons and Marcel Schrotter crashed out.
Dominique Aegerter pulled off with 5 laps to go, smoke pouring from his exhaust, ending his 33 race run of consistent point scoring finishes. Nico Terol was also affected by mechanical problems at a similar stage of the race and he will look to bounce back next time out at the Circuit of the Americas where he won last year.
Moto3™: Miller takes stunning win in opening race
Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took a brilliant first win of his career in the first race of the year at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, with Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) second and Efren Vazquez (SAXOPRINT RTG) third
Miller rode brilliantly with his new team, starting third on the grid and running at the front with Marquez from the start as pole man Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) made a poor start and dropped to 12th.
Miller and Marquez then battled for the lead but a late mistake from Marquez let the Australian in on the last lap for his first victory and first Grand Prix podium. Behind the leading pair Vazquez crossed the finishing line just 0.047s off second place to complete the podium and step onto the rostrum for the first time since 2011.
Miguel Oliveira (Mahindra Racing) was the best of the seven Mahindra equipped riders in the race, missing the podium by just 0.015s in fourth. Rins incredibly got back up towards the top three having been stranded way down the field on the first lap and he too was just a fraction behind Oliveira in fifth.
Jakub Kornfeil (Calvo Team) was also close to the front running group, eventually placing sixth, whilst a 1.5s gap, behind him the experienced Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold) came home seventh.
Isaac Viñales (Calvo Team), Niccolo Antonelli (Junior Team GO&FUN) and Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46) completed the top ten.
The unlucky Jules Danilo (Ambrogio Racing) crashed on the last lap, Matteo Ferrari (San Carlo Team Italia) retired mid race after an earlier accident, whilst Hafiq Azmi (SIC-Ajo KTM) and Eric Granado (Calvo Team) crashed out early on, with Gabriel Ramos (Kiefer Racing) pulling up with a technical problem.
There were also crashes for Niklas Ajo (Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo) and Juanfran Guevara (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3), but all the riders were ok.
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