Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi emerged victorious from a thrilling battle with Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso to win the opening round of the MotoGP season at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit.
Starting from eighth on the grid, Rossi worked his way through the field and by lap eleven had closed right on the leading pack comprising his Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and the Ducati pair of Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone.After the four riders put on a spectacular four-way battle for the lead, in the closing stages Rossi and Dovizioso upped the pace and engaged in their own dogfight for victory.
As the chequered flag was waved it was Rossi who clinched victory by just 0.174 seconds ahead of Dovizioso, while Andrea Iannone completed an all-Italian podium by finishing in third place a further two seconds behind and just ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. All three riders on the rostrum opted for the medium compound rear slick, but while the two Ducati riders chose the medium compound front slick for the race, Rossi selected the hard compound front slick.
Valentino Rossi – P1 – “In the last three seasons I always rode solid races and arrived on the podium but to come back with a victory is another thing. I am so happy because we suffered a lot during the practices and also the tests, but we worked very well for the 22 laps race and I was very strong. First of all you have to be lucky, but especially the work that we do with the team during the weekend makes the difference for my pace in the race. It was definitely one of the best races of my career, considering where we were yesterday. I really have to thank all my team, my engineers and all at Yamaha because I think today we did something amazing.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P2 – “This is a special result for Ducati and for me, after everything we have been through in the last few years, and it rewards the work that we have done together to arrive at this point. I never expected to be so competitive in the first race, and it really is an extraordinary result. I want to thank all the engineers and the people in Bologna, who managed to get the bike ready in time for the Sepang 2 tests, the mechanics who have worked so hard this weekend and all the guys in Ducati Corse for the commitment they have demonstrated with this project. Iannone and I managed to get two podiums for Ducati and that’s a great result, but above all now I believe that this is only a starting-point for the future.”
Andrea Iannone – P3 – “I am very pleased with this result: it is my first podium in MotoGP and it’s really incredible to have done it on my debut race as a factory Ducati rider. Dovi and I finished second and third with the new GP15 bikes, and I didn’t expect to be so competitive so soon in the first race, so it really is a fantastic sensation. Back home the guys in Ducati Corse have done a great job this winter, and I owe a lot to them. Since 2013 I have had the support of this great company, which has helped me to improve and which has taught me a lot of things, and so I would like to dedicate my first podium to all of them. A big thanks to everyone in Ducati, to Gigi Dall’Igna, to Claudio Domenicali and all the people who work with me.”
Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager) – “For sure it’s a great emotion to have two riders on the podium with the new GP15, and for this reason I am really pleased, especially for all the guys in Ducati Corse who have done a great job back home in planning, designing and building the new bike in such a short period of time over the last few months. Probably today we could have even come away with a victory and not having done so actually leaves me with a tinge of disappointment, but today’s result in any case is fantastic and I am sure that we will manage to achieve our aim in the next few races.”
Jorge Lorenzo – P4 – “It was a difficult race. After the first lap, I found myself in second place and I followed Dovizioso. I was faster and I passed him where I could in the fast corners. On the speed and in braking the Ducati was much stronger than our bike, but we could recover on corner speed while the acceleration was similar. To be honest, I thought that I could win the race, though it surely wasn‘t going to be easy, because Valentino had a very strong pace at the end of the race. I was feeling better and better, but suddenly there was something wrong when in the top part of the helmet the foam came loose and came down so I lost half of my vision. I couldn‘t see the corners very well and couldn‘t concentrate or ride like before and I was losing half a second or more per lap. In a race where, at minimum I could fight for the win, I finished fourth.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Team Director – “It has been an incredible start to the season. Vale‘s race was a masterpiece! He rode well and really got what he deserved. Unfortunately Jorge had a problem with his helmet seven laps to the end and had to slow down a bit. Otherwise I think we could have had both riders on the podium. Especially considering how we started the weekend, this is a great result. Our target was to start with a victory and we achieved it. I want to say a big thank you to everybody who made this happen. The whole team has been putting in hard work, starting from last week. We now look forward to the next race in two weeks time.”
Dani Pedrosa, starting from second on the grid and Marc Marquez starting from third, both had a problematic first corner, with Marc emerging as the biggest victim. As the MotoGP riders jostled for position, Dani was edged out down to seventh and Marc made a small mistake, running wide in turn one and rejoined the track in last place.
Both riders began to make up positions with Dani in sixth and Marc up to eleventh by lap three. The Repsol Honda duo pushed to chase race leaders Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Iannone and Rossi with Dani was on the tail of this group but unable to keep the pace. As the race progressed Dani began to suffer severe arm pump in his right arm and slowly dropped back. Meanwhile Marc passed Petrucci, Crutchlow, Smith and Hernandez and was up to sixth by lap eight.
On lap twelve Marc reached Dani and passed him into 5th, demoting Dani to 6th. Marc began to chase down the leading four riders but the gap of 3.8s was too great. Nevertheless, Marquez still managed to break a record with the fastest top speed recorded in the premier class of 350.5km/h, beating the previous record held by Iannone of 349.6km/h.
Marc Marquez – P5 – “We should be happy because we have salvaged eleven important points, when we could easily have left here with none. It was a tough race, in which I made a mistake at the first corner and dropped back to last place. This meant that I had to make a comeback, pushing hard all through the race, but in the end I saw that I could not catch the group at the front. The positive that I’ll take from today is that we rode at a similar pace to the lead group. In Austin we will continue to work hard, with an even stronger desire to do well.”
Dani Pedrosa – P6 – “Tonight’s race didn’t go to plan and unfortunately, I had serious problems with my right forearm which isn’t good news for me. I worked very hard over the winter in order to find a solution, because I was suffering in every race last season. Every doctor recommended that I not undergo another operation and I have tried to look for alternatives, but by the looks of things nothing is working positively for it. Now I have to assess my options and see what I can do. It is probably the most difficult moment of my career. I will do my best to find a solution but in this moment it is difficult to imagine what it could be.”
Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate Pedrosa finished in 6th (+10.755s), with Cal Crutchlow (+12.384s) the leading satellite bike on his CWM LCR Honda in 7th.
Cal Crutchlow – P7 – “I think to come away with a seventh place we can be very happy. It was a good start to the season considering I don’t have any experience racing the Honda. The guys I was battling with have been riding a factory Honda for a lot longer than me, and we all saw that they struggled too. Being just over a second behind Dani Pedrosa and five behind Marc Marquez shows that we were all struggling for rear grip tonight in Qatar. I think this was about our pace for the weekend anyway, and I made it hard for myself with some mistakes early on in the race, but my pace was consistently good. If I had have got away with the guys in front I could possibly have been around fourth or fifth. For Austin we have to improve, take our comments from this race and see what we can achieve there. It’s going to be difficult to challenge the guys at the front there, but it’s a learning curve for us. I don’t think we’ve done a bad job at all, and we come away happy.”
Team Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales both raced to points-scoring positions in Suzuki’s full-time return to the 2015 MotoGP series.
Espargaro finished 11th and series rookie Viñales 14th aboard their 2015 GSX-RRs under the floodlights of the night-race; and in front of 19,500 spectators. It was an important result for Suzuki after a three-year absence from motorcycling’s premier class of racing; and after much development from the Japanese factory and continued testing to develop the all-new GSX-RR.
Espargaro started from 11th place on the grid, after a weekend that saw him well-in the top 10, and was in the top-seven on the opening laps. Viñales, who started from 13th place on the grid, fought back throughout the 22-lap race to score his first-ever MotoGP series points.
Aleix Espargaro – P11 – “I can’t say I’m happy with this result as this is probably the worse position I’ve been in since last season and I honestly thought I would be higher-up in the classification. We had a few issues with the machine but we all know that the main problem now is the power. Engineers in Japan are working hard, I know, but unless we get some more horsepower, it will be very hard to get to the front. In any case I’ve also had good feelings from the race; I ended it and I got points, which was our objective. We are all fully focused on our development process and I’m sure we will get even better results soon.”
Maverick Viñales – P14 – “It’s been an amazing experience! Racing with the top riders in MotoGP is something unbelievable and I’m so happy with the experience. The race has been strange; soon after the start I had some issues with the electronics and I lost some traction control, so I had to rely only on my wrist, but the machine was performing well so I decided to keep on and finally I ended the race and got two points. This was our priority, so I’m satisfied. We know where we need to improve and also what went wrong with this race, so we can work on it and hopefully be even more effective in the next race. ”
Satoru Terada – Suzuki MotoGP Team Director – “This has been a very important result for us. We have spent the last three years preparing for this debut and we have hit our objectives. Both the riders ended the race and got into the points. Developing a high-performance MotoGP™ machine is not an easy process; we’ve learnt that we have some strong points and some weak points. We have a good chassis, but we lack outright power and this prevented us from to be fighting further up the grid. We are all aware of that and we have engineers in Japan working hard to improve our performance. In fact, this result gives us a further incentive to give our best and push even harder as soon as possible. At the end of the day I’m proud of these results, I know I’m working with a full team of professionals and we will push-on to greater heights.”
Scott Redding finished at the front of a close four-rider battle to finish in 13th position and his crew will now conduct detailed analysis of the data gathered in Qatar to help the 22-year gain more confidence when the World Championship resumes at the spectacular Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
Scott Redding – P13 – “It was a tough race and certainly not where I expected to be finishing. The target was to finish inside the top 10, so I can’t be happy to be 13th. We are making steps in the right direction but not enough to bring us closer to our target. Turning is the biggest issue and we need to focus on that because I should be finishing much higher up on the package I am riding. We’ve collected a lot of data and I finished in the points, but it is clear there is plenty of room to improve.”
Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing +33.625s) finished as the top Open class rider in 15th.
Both Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty experienced misfortune today and were unable to perform at their best. The American and Northern Irishman had a good weekend of practice sessions, evolving with every day and readying their bikes for the first race of the year, but had no luck come race day. Hayden had a great start and gained several positions, but his tyres went off mid-race. His decision to use the softer compound and the plummet in performance meant that the electronics began to take over and hinder his riding, meaning he could only finish seventeenth. Teammate Laverty also had electronic problems, from the start of the race, and was forced to modify his riding to complete the contest. He finally crossed the finish line in eighteenth.
Nicky Hayden – P17 – “Today I made a decent start that allowed me to climb several positions right away. At the beginning of the race I rode well, the feeling was optimal and I pushed hard, trying to catch Redding. I saw that I was slowly catching him, but mid-race the tyre performance dropped dramatically. We had chosen the softer compound and when it wore out I started to suffer electronic problems. The traction control was triggered too often and I could barely ride. Still, I think we learned a lot in the race; it is clear that we have to work with Honda to make the bike work better with used tyres. Also, we need more support from Magneti Marelli to better manage this electronics package. In any case, the team did a great job.”
Eugene Laverty – P18 – “Unfortunately I suffered electronic problems right from the start of the race, and I couldn’t ride as I had hoped. I was losing a lot of time compared to my laps from the rest of the weekend. It was not how I was hoping to debut in MotoGP but at least I managed to finish the race. Despite the setbacks I have tried to adapt to what I had. Apart from the race, we must be positive; we have progressed a lot over the weekend, we should take that from here and believe that in Austin we can keep improving.”
The first race for the Aprilia RS-GP was long-awaited by the entire Aprilia Racing Team Gresini as an essential test to assess how far development has come on the young project in an actual competition. But contact with Marc Marquez in turn 6 of the first lap put Alvaro Bautista – the rider who had shown the most encouraging progress throughout the weekend – out of the game, damaging the front left brake lines and the sensors. Marco Melandri rode his Aprilia across the wire in 21st position, accumulating laps, information and sensations that will be important for the RS-GP growth process.
Romano Albesiano (Aprilia Racing Manager) – “It’s a shame about what happened to Alvaro because of everything this weekend, this was the most long-awaited test. The most important. It would have been truly essential to see where Alvaro would have placed in comparison to that big pack he was fighting in through the first turns of the race, but unfortunately the move Marquez made damaged the bike too badly for it to continue. This was our spirit taking on the first race because it was a test, and this is how it will be in this initial phase of the season, both for the bike and the entire team. Now we need to analyse all the data Marco collected, since he rode his RS-GP all the way to the finish.”
Alvaro Bautista – DNF – “Unfortunately the race test that we had planned ended straight away: Marquez got off to a bad start and he wanted to make up positions quickly, but without considering the fact that there were other riders on the track. In turn 6 he squeezed between Barbera and me, I have no idea how, hitting me and ruining the front brake area, lines and sensors. It was impossible to continue. I’m sorry because Marc is a good guy, but he has been too aggressive in the past in these types of situations. I think it is only right to point it out to him because it’s risky. Today I was lucky because I didn’t crash, but it doesn’t take much to get hurt out there. So, like I said, we weren’t able to complete our test today but we must not forget this episode and we need to be thinking about the next round in Austin already. It is a very different track than this one where we’ll have the opportunity to check all the data gathered this weekend to develop the bike and look for ways to improve.”
Marco Melandri – 21 – “It wasn’t the fastest race of my life, but on a new bike in a new category it’s what we expected. On the other hand, we finished the race, our first true long run, and we gathered a lot of data that will be essential to our development process. We need time. When the bike starts working well my riding style will also improve and we’ll be able to take a decisive step. Now it’s up to the guys at Aprilia to interpret my sensations and translate them into changes to the RS-GP. We have some more complicated races ahead of us, since I am unfamiliar with the Austin and Argentina tracks, but they will give us more pointers to work on.”
Australian Jack Miller had been steadily improving his pace throughout the race, but having started from a difficult 22nd position on the grid, he was always fighting an uphill battle. He closed in impressively on fellow open spec Honda riders Eugene Laverty and Karel Abraham, but as they diced for 18th position, he and the Czech rider crashed out.
Jack Miller – DNF – “It was a difficult race for us. We got off to a good start and I was going quite good. I made a few mistakes and got a little too tight on the bike but finally got myself back together when we were close to last. After that I really started to work, and closed the gap to the other Open bikes. It was working really well, we pulled up and I passed two guys and then caught up Abraham. When I got there I was in too much of a rush to pass and went too deep and lost the front. Unfortunately it took myself and him out. Being on the last lap it was a shame not to finish the race, but we learnt so much and I look forward to carrying on the learning process in Texas.”
SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 8 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +12.914
ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA 7 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +13.031
HERNANDEZ Yonny 68 COL 6 Pramac Racing +17.435
ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA 5 Team Suzuki Ecstar +19.901
PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 4 Pramac Racing +24.432
REDDING Scott 45 GBR 3 Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS +32.032
VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 2 Team Suzuki Ecstar +33.463
BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 1 Avintia Racing +33.625
BRADL Stefan 6 GER 0 Athina Forward Racing +33.944
HAYDEN Nicky 69 USA 0 Aspar MotoGP Team +38.970
LAVERTY Eugene 50 IRE 0 Aspar MotoGP Team +46.570
DI MEGLIO Mike 63 FRA 0 Avintia Racing +59.211
DE ANGELIS Alex 15 RSM 0 Athina Forward Racing +1’14.981
MELANDRI Marco 33 ITA 0 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini +1’48.143
BAZ Loris 76 FRA 0 Athina Forward Racing +3 laps
ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 0 AB Motoracing +1 lap
MILLER Jack 43 AUS 0 CWM LCR Honda +1 lap
BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 0 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Moto 2 – Folger victorious as Lowes & Rabat crash out
In a dramatic Moto2 race that saw favourites Lowes and Rabat crash out, Folger took the race win after Zarco experienced mechanical issues.
The 21 year-old German Folger (AGR Team) took advantage of Johan Zarco’s mechanical issues, after the Frenchman had established a comfortable lead, to take the checkered flag and claim his first Moto2 victory. Xavier Simeon (+5.051s) finished 2nd on the Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex, ahead of Thomas Luthi (+12.123s) in 3rd.
Alex Rins (+12.202s) launched an incredible attack at the end to almost steal the final podium spot, but had to settle for 4th on the Paginas Amarillas HP40 bike, ahead of Franco Morbidelli (+14.382s) and last year’s Moto2 Championship runner-up Mika Kallio (+14.413s) in 6th on the Italtrans Racing Team Kalex.
Alex Marquez – P11 – “To finish the race and to gain experience for the next races was positive, but we had some problems in the first four laps because my mind wasn’t so clear after the crash in warm up. However, I finished the race, picked up my first Moto2 World Championship points and I leave here with a clear idea of where we can improve both the bike and my riding style for the next race. Thanks to the team for all their hard work this weekend, now we must look forward to Texas.”
Tito Rabat- DNF – “Not the start to the season we were looking for, especially as we’d done a good job all weekend and worked hard to get onto the front row of the grid. My start was good, but then the bike hit neutral as I backshifted for turn one forcing me wide and I lost even more places in turn four on the same lap. After that I got my head down and tried to increase my pace, but when I passed Corsi up the inside he cut across my line and took out my front wheel. It was impossible to avoid a crash and that was the end of my race. Sorry to the team, to my mechanics, but now we must keep working ready for Texas.”
Anthony West also failed to finish.
Frenchman Masbou wins thrilling Moto3 battle in Qatar
Honda’s Alexis Masbou took the first race win of the 2015 Moto3 season in Qatar, ahead of Bastianini and Kent.
The Moto3 World Championship lived up to its reputation for providing incredible racing, with riders constantly swapping the lead throughout the 18 lap race. At times there were up to 17 bikes swapping paint and bashing elbows in the leading group, with less than a second separating the first 9 across the finish line.
It was the Frenchman Masbou who held his nerve in the drag to the checkered flag from the final corner, beating Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Team Moto3) by just 0.027s, after the Italian had started form 21st place on the grid.
British rider Danny Kent (+0.142s) took the final spot on the podium for his new Leopard Racing Team, with his teammate Efren Vazquez in 4th. Rookie Fabio Quartararo showed his potential by leading the race at one point before finishing in 7th.
One of the pre-race favourites Miguel Oliveira on the Red Bull KTM Ajo machine, fell at turn 1 but managed to rejoin the race and finish in 16th.
Remy Gardner – DNF – “For sure today I’ve been not so lucky but this can happen. Oliveira crashed in front of me just at the first turn and I’ve been forced to go out of the track. At the end of first lap I was placed on 30th position and trying to keep my concentration after the incident. One lap later my position was the 23th. My target was try to recover as much places as possible but I crashed when I was pushing to overtake one competitor”.
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