Rain, delays, uncertainty and a decision for a slightly shortened race distance prefaced the 20 laps that then blew the drama out the water: MotoGP is back for 2017, and in some style.
MotoGP 2017 – Round One – Losail International Circuit, Qatar – Race Report
After stealing the headlines throughout preseason, Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) retains them after his first win for Yamaha – but easy it wasn’t, as the polesitter fought it out with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in an awesome desert duel. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completed the podium in third after storming back from P10 on the grid.
A stunning start from Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) from P2 was soon overshadowed as rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) slammed into the lead in the first laps, getting away and making a gap as Viñales found himself falling back into the clutches of his teammate. But despite an incredible display, the fairytale came to an early end for the Frenchman as he slid out of the lead soon after – leaving ‘DesmoDovi’ out front.
Johann Zarco – DNF
“Despite the end result, I am happy and it was so good to lead the field in my first race. This morning, we had a longer warm up because there wasn’t any action on Saturday. The track was not perfect, but my feeling was very strong and my grid position, which was 4th, was close to the top. Just before the start, the procedure was disrupted because it rained twice and there was a delay. When the GP finally commenced, I was focused and I could see that I was not far from first so I wanted to take the opportunity to do well. I know that my starts are strong and I overtook some good riders at the first corner and I then got into a consistent rhythm. I kept pushing but on the sixth lap, I decided to relax, and maybe I went off the racing line a little bit and then I fell at the second corner. This is a shame but we are always on the limit and I still need to learn the category so this kind of mistake is part of my lesson as a rookie in MotoGP. I am happy in the end, it’s a pity about the result but it’s important for my confidence and I am excited for the Argentina round.”
With the number 4 Ducati getting away in the lead, Iannone then crashed out of the fight for second – leaving reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Viñales and Rossi chasing the leading Desmosedici. After a classic scuffle between the number 46 and 93, the ‘Doctor’ set off in pursuit of his teammate.
Andrea Iannone – DNF
“I’m very sorry for the crash because I wasted a positive race. After the test, we continued improving, even here at the weekend. My feeling is not yet at 100% but we have room for improvement, which is a positive thing. The truth is that I made a mistake. I hit another rider which caused my crash. It’s a shame because I could be even faster and I had a good chance. I have to blame myself for the mistake. May this be a lesson to myself for the future. Although I didn’t feel totally comfortable, I have to wait for a better situation to pass a slower rider and not to be so impulsive. I made a mistake and I really hope it is my first and last time. Suzuki had worked really hard during winter for me. They are giving me a performing machine, they have trust in me, and I really want to pay them back in the best way with better results.”
And then there were three: Viñales, Dovizioso, and Rossi.
It wasn’t long, however, before there was some fresh air between lead two and the number 46 – with a duel setting in that saw Viñales’ corner speed pitched against the sheer might of the Ducati. After trading places for a few laps and the race impossible to call, the Spaniard was then able to hold off the Italian on the penultimate lap – and made it to the line to take his second MotoGP win; his first in Yamaha colours
“I feel incredible and it shows in the results. We did a great job during the whole weekend and we started good in the test, then in FP1 we were already feeling really good. The race was difficult, it started to rain and there was a bit of confusion because we didn‘t know what to do. The first laps were very challenging, the track was so slippery and I wanted to take it easy and stay calm. I knew I had a good pace, so I tried to push at the very end of the race. There were many crashes at the front, so I waited for the right moment and finally we took the victory. The feeling when I crossed the line was incredible. As the first victory with Yamaha, it was even more important than the first MotoGP victory, because there was so much pressure. We were leading all the test, “You can do it”, and finally we did, so I‘m happy how I handled the pressure and also that the team worked really good.
“The electronics were ready and the grip of the tyres was really good on the last laps. The third sector was honestly so crucial, because Andrea [Dovizioso] used the soft tyres, so he collected the benefits and could accelerate better all the time and he didn‘t waste the tyre, so it was hard to beat him, but in sector three I was really strong the whole weekend. I set my best sector three on the last lap and it was the minimum to take the victory, it‘s really great, I‘m so happy. I hope for a perfect start in Argentina. The start here was good, but I just went outside of the line and when Zarco came he crashed into me, so I had to pick up the bike and then Marquez and Dovi passed me so it was a bit chaotic on the early laps, but then I was able to concentrate. We have to continue like that and maintain this concentration.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P2
“I’m very pleased with the result and the job we did this weekend: it was difficult for everyone because of the conditions we encountered, but we worked well and we calmly arrived at the race with a competitive set-up. We were even better at choosing the rear tyre on the grid, changing strategy and switching to the soft tyre. In the final part of the race I tried to hold back Maverick but I don’t think that we could have done anything better today.”
Valentino Rossi – P3
“My secret is my team, it‘s Yamaha. We never give up and we always keep up our concentration. I always feel the support and the trust from all the guys around me, which is great. We know our potential and we know we have a great bike and race rider. Sincerely, when I was in the top five I already said “this is OK”, but arriving on the podium is something even better. I‘m very happy to start the season like this, because the podium is always better and, like was said, it comes after a difficult period. We have to continue like this. This result is very good for us, both for our feeling and also for the technical side, because we now understand a lot of things.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Team Director
“What a way to start the season! It‘s been a very difficult day for everybody: first we had to wait because the start was delayed twice and when we finally got the race underway we were still not certain about what the track conditions would be like. Maverick did a superb job and showed a great level of maturity. He waited for the right time to cut his way to the front of the pack and his battle with Dovizioso was an incredible treat for all the motorsport fans. It’s a big achievement to claim the win at his first race with Yamaha and his result is the award for the superb job he‘s been doing since he joined Yamaha, back in January. Valentino again delivered one of his salvage races, when he worked his way through the field, even despite being hit in the first corner by a fellow rider. It was a shame that his tyres were too used towards the end, else he could have joined the fight for first place. Winter tests were really challenging for him and he‘s never given up, together with his team, to try to find the right feeling with the 2017 bike. Today‘s third place is the result of the deep dedication and massive effort he and his crew put into this race. We leave Doha with the first double podium. Now we look forward to the next race!”
Marquez crossed the line fourth, just ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa by the flag – who took fifth after getting the better of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).
Marc Marquez – P4
“We were aware that we struggle a bit at this track, but as always we kept a positive attitude, as we also knew that if everything was in place, we could have fought for the podium or even the victory. I think we worked well over the weekend, and we had everything clear for today. Our plan was to use the harder front compound, but the chaotic situation with the rain and the continuous delays created many doubts. In the end we decided to go with the medium front, aiming to reduce the risk of crashing, but this turned out to be our biggest mistake of the weekend. I struggled with the front the entire time; I couldn’t brake hard and after few laps the tyre was already wearing off. We continued to have some small issues with acceleration, but even so I had a good feeling with my bike. But with that tyre choice, I wasn’t able to gain on braking. That’s my strongest point, so I decided, okay let’s finish this race and Argentina will be another race.”
Dani Pedrosa – P5
“It was a strange race from the beginning, due to these conditions with the rain and the delayed start. It was hard to remain focused during those moments. Then we did our best to manage the race, but we suffered a lot with the front tyre, which turned out to be too soft for us. We couldn’t push with the front and I think that all the Hondas had the same problems. Saving the tyre to make it last until the end was hard, and above all we weren’t able to push. Anyway, it’s just the first race; we must immediately concentrate on the next one, try to solve this issue and have a good race in Argentina.”
Espargaro’s result was a historic first top six for Aprilia in the stunning first ride in Noale colours for the rider from Granollers.
Aleix Espargaro – P6
“I am really very happy for myself and for Aprilia. This result comes after a lot of hard work over the winter. I did not hold anything back and, beginning with my physical fitness, I tackled this project with great motivation from the start. In the second half of the race, my RS-GP was spectacular. I had much more traction than my rivals and I was able to overtake easily. We knew that we could have an advantage in poor grip conditions. The bike looks after the tyres well and even if I was unable to be as incisive as the others in the early laps, my overall pace was very good. It was a pity about the starting position. Having to make up so many positions kept us from earning an even more surprising result, but it’s all good. We got off on the right foot and now we want to continue.”
Fausto Gresini – Aprilia Team Manager
“Because of the enthusiasm this result gives us, it is a sort of victory. Aprilia has truly put their heart into this project and today Aleix showed how much this bike can grow. If he had started from a position farther forward, which was well within his potential and we saw that in the tests here in Qatar as well, we would have been able to stay with the leaders. A great job was done over the winter and now the Aprilia can truly battle with the best.”
Impressive performances from Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) and Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) saw the two men come home in P7 and P8, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) top rookie in P9 – just ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Jonas Folger, who completed the top ten.
Scott Redding – P7
“I’m really happy. I had a good race especially after the difficulties of the warm up. I got off a good start but I had to close the throttle due to Zarco’s dangerous move which cost me a lot. In the second part of the race I was lapping well even though I was not able to take the First Independent award. I would have been happy to make the Top 10 so this is a good result and I want thank the team for the work done and for always believing in me. See you in Argentina!”
Alex Rins – P9
“My feeling is that it’s been an incredible race. I’ve learnt a lot more than in practice. At the beginning, I made a really good start. Then, in the race, it was a little hard for me to overtake faster racers. I think we have a very competitive bike for getting into the top-10 consistently. And for the next races, we will need to work more in the free practices to start in a better condition for the race.”
Jonas Folger – P10
“I am happy to finish my first MotoGP race inside the top ten but I still have a lot to learn for the future. The last part of the GP was good and I was able to recover well. However, the conditions were not great at the beginning, because of the rain as well as the waiting and this made me a bit nervous. Anyway, I have to take all the positives from this round and focus on the next event. I know that I need to work on myself more and also with the team so that we can go quicker at the beginning of the next GP and I can hold my qualifying position. I think that we have a solid pace, and now we know where I have to improve so I am confident for Argentina and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) went wide on the first lap after a solid start, down to near the back of the grid after carefully rejoining and then beginning a steady fight back through the field. Up into tenth with 12 laps to go, the ‘Spartan’ crossed the line in P11 by the end of play.
Jorge Lorenzo – P11
“It was a very complicated race from all aspects. I started off well, but on the opening lap I went wide and lost a lot of positions, and this conditioned me in my efforts to get back up. Then I felt better on the bike and I started to lap at the same pace as the leaders, but unfortunately in the final part of the race I started to lose confidence in the tyres and my bike became a lot more physical to ride, so I had to slow the pace and I was unable to finish in the top 10. I want to be positive about things however, even though my first race with Ducati didn’t go the way we expected. It’s true that we are just at the start, and we know we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) crashed out of contention before rejoining and then suffering the same fate.
Cal Crutchlow – DNF
“I changed the front tyre on the grid, the same as Marc (Marquez), and we shouldn’t have. The medium tyre was way too soft on the front for us, but we were forced into changing because the race was later and they were concerned about the dew. It was completely the wrong decision for us, but it was sort of taken out of our hands. I started the race from a good position, but I had a contact with Valentino (Rossi) on the first lap. I didn’t think anything of it, but riding behind the other guys was almost impossible as the front tyre was way too hot. I went off line a tiny bit at the final corner and crashed, but I got back on. I shouldn’t have really, as the handlebar was bent and there was mud on the grip. But I have a never-say-die attitude and wanted to finish the race, but the second crash was because the bike was already damaged. I am sorry for my team, we had a similar start last season”.
Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) crashing out soon after, as well as Octo Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci – joining Iannone and Zarco on the list of unluckies in round one, but sure to be back for more next time out.
Jack Miller achieved his first target of the season with a stirring ride to finish eighth in tonight’s opening round of the MotoGP World Championship in Qatar. Miller set a clear preseason goal of finishing top ten in the championship and he kick-started that with his performance in the shortened 20-lap race.
Jack Miller – P8
“After all that’s happened this weekend with the weather and the lost track time, it is a great way to start the season inside the top 10. The small crash in FP1 really set us back on Thursday and then the weather pretty much dominated the next two days. What I’m happy about is that I could carry the momentum gained in the preseason and I’ve felt better each time I’ve jumped on the bike. It’s very positive to be in the top 10 and the only disappointment is that I was a little bit tense on the bike in the first part of the race and I was squeezing the handlebars too much and it had a bit of an impact on the transition from brake to throttle. Apart from that it was a very positive finish. It’s a result both myself and the team can build on and I want to thank my guys because they gave me a really competitive package this weekend.”
Michael Bartholemy – Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Team Principal
“It was an entertaining weekend because of the tricky weather conditions but I’m happy with the performances of both Jack and Tito. I predicted ninth for Jack and he finished eighth, it was just a pity that in the final laps he could not keep the pace of Scott Redding. Tito did a good job to score a point in 15th so we leave here with both riders in the MotoGP points. All weekend the race officials were striving to make it safe for the riders to race and while the start was delayed I think the race certainly made up for that. It was an exciting battle to watch and a great way to get the season started. Thankfully when the forecast rain did arrive it did so after chequered flag.”
Reale Avintia Racing riders Loris Baz and Hector Barbera finished the first Grand Prix of the season scoring championship points. Loris Baz did a great start from 14th place of the grid and he was eleventh with just three laps to go. But arm-pump problems on his right forearm prevented him from defending his position when Jorge Lorenzo arrived. This race was not easy for Baz, who just before the start received the news of the death of fellow French rider Adrien Protat. And after the loss of Anthony Delhalle earlier this month it was not easy for Baz.
Loris Baz – P12
“It was not an easy race, but at the end the result was good for us. I started the season in the points and, the most important for me is that I crossed the finish line 20 seconds behind the leader, and this is the best we have done since I’m racing with this team. I had an arm-pump problem in my right forearm from the beginning of the race. We have to find out what happened because maybe it was the brake that was too hard, or maybe that I was losing the front almost in every corner, but in the final laps I was not able to fight with Lorenzo as I could not even open full gas on the straight. But overall I’m happy, after all the delays and cancellations this weekend, we started the season with a good result, that I want to dedicate to Anthony and Adrien.”
It was not easy race for Hector Barbera either, because he came to Qatar only 20 days after his collarbone injury, and the lack of testing and kilometres at Losail forced him to start the race with an unknown set up. But the Reale Avintia Racing Spanish rider did a great comeback starting from the 20th to finish 13th and with two points tonight in Qatar.
Hector Barbera – P13
“It was a difficult weekend. I arrived here only twenty days after my collarbone injury and I had not enough strength in my left arm. I tried to set up the bike in the best way, but we had no time; the conditions have been changing during the weekend and yesterday we lost one track day because of the rain. Finally we had two practice sessions, warm-up and we started the race with a set up completely new for me because we didn’t test it before. The team did a great job during the weekend, they have been patient and they understood that I was not in my best form, but finally we were able to get some points. I want to thank all the people that made this possible. Now I have to work hard and think ahead to Argentina, where I hope to do better.”
The Pull&Bear Aspar Team enjoyed a bittersweet race in Qatar. The positive side has come from the hand of Karel Abraham, who picked up his first two points of the season. However, the Czech did not finish the race happy as he believed that he could have gone faster had he not suffered problems with his helmet visor. Without these problems, Abraham explains that he could have run with Jorge Lorenzo, who finished just eight seconds faster. The other side of the coin was offered by Alvaro Bautista. The Spaniard was running sixth, less than three seconds behind the leader of the race at the time. However, on the seventh lap, when he reached the last corner, he hit the ground when he lost the front end. Bautista, who won with the Aspar Team in Qatar in 2006, does not hold great memories of night races and is already thinking ahead to the next round of the World Championship, which will take place in two weeks in Argentina.
Karel Abraham – P14
“Those two points are really good for me and I am very happy with them because the last time I scored points in MotoGP was 2014. That was a long time ago and I think this is a really great start to the season for us. As far as the race is concerned, it was not as good as I hoped it could be, unfortunately I had some visor problems that made it hard to brake, turn, everything. It’s the first time it has happened to me but it’s frustrating. Anyway, these are two important points to start our season, even though I really believe we could have been running with Lorenzo in this race.”
“It has been a very strange weekend. I think it would have been better to have canceled the race and to have it done the next day, because we started just when it should have finished. The humidity was very high and we knew that around ten o’clock was more dangerous. In the end it was decided to run. My idea was to finish the race, take my pace and score. I made a good start, I was in the first group, I was comfortable, but in the middle of the race, without knowing why, I lost the front wheel in the last corner and I fell without doing anything special. It is annoying because I have not done anything different, everything was normal. I was setting my pace, I have not tried to push to catch the rest, I wanted to finish. We were sixth, two seconds off the lead. The night has not been very good, I’ve had some bad luck in the night races, but the positive thing is that there is only one night race a year.”
After a difficult and painful preseason overcoming injuries Miller’s Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS teammate Tito Rabat made a positive start to the championship, finishing 15th and opened his points account with a calculated ride.
From 19th on the grid Rabat set a solid race rhythm and moved ahead of Pol Espargaro to secure his points scoring finish with six laps remaining.
Tito Rabat – P15
“It is good feeling to score a point here in difficult conditions but also after a tough preseason with my injuries. This can be a tricky circuit in any conditions but I was happy with my start and had a good pace but then mid-race two Ducatis, Barbera and Abraham, came past and it was difficult to fight with them. I learnt a lot this weekend with my team, especially that I need to be more confident to open the gas.”
KTM’s two factory riders, Pol Espargaro (ESP) and Bradley Smith (GBR) brought the brand new KTM RC16 machine home in 16-17th place in a race that represented another important step in the Austrian brand’s impressive, and still relatively short development program.
“We always want more and more but it’s the first race and we need to know what is our position, and where we are right now. We need to understand that the 33 seconds (off the lead time) we were today is good. Honestly, we need to be happy because we did a good job and for sure this track was tough for us. During the pre-season, we were at other circuits and this was the hardest of them all for us.”
“The lap times and the gap to the front guys were better than we expected, and in those conditions, we saw a lot of guys making mistakes so we’re very pleased with what we were able to do today. In general, we did the best we could, and a big thanks to the KTM and we’ll see what happens in Argentina.” Smith also underlined that the weekend had produced a lot of important data for the team and this would be studied intensively and used to make improvements before the next race.”
Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsport Director)
“Today we are here in three classes. We participated in MotoGP with two riders and it was such a unique moment for our company. This team is so amazing. We have been together for such a short time. We started from zero, with a blank piece of paper, and everyone has done an amazing job.”
Mike Leitner (KTM MotoGP Team Manager)
“We are super happy. It was very important that both riders finished this race. We showed what a big step this is for our company. Everyone has been working very hard and this is the result. We had no technical problems or issues in any of the sessions, or in the race and this is super good. The lap times in the race were really impressive and we didn’t expect that.” Leitner said the team would now work hard ahead of the next two races in Argentina and Austin, Texas, which were two new circuits for them. “We can only do our best and as long as everyone sticks to the plan, sooner or later we will be getting the points,” he added.
Sam Lowes, in his MotoGP début, was unable to resolve his doubts on the setup and therefore focused on finishing the race.
Sam Lowes – P18
“It was a hard race. In the early laps I went long a couple of times, losing touch with the group. The balance of the bike changed a lot during the race. Toward the end I was able to go faster than the riders ahead of me and we will need that information to understand how to work on the setup. I am obviously not happy, but first and foremost, I finished my first MotoGP race and, considering the conditions, that was not a given. Losing a day of practice certainly didn’t help. I still need to work on myself and on the bike, so every session becomes essential. We need to take the good that we have learned and start thinking about Argentina.”
Piero Taramasso – Michelin
“It has been a very eventful weekend here in Qatar, after losing a whole day and then the race being on and off like it was, it was very pleasing to finally get it started and have no interruptions. Our new tyres have worked very well here, despite the conditions. On the first day Maverick was 0.6 inside the lap-record and I’m sure if the weather hadn’t been as difficult as it was we would have seen some even faster times. We brought six specifications here and five were used throughout the practices and four today, so it again shows we are giving the riders a choice that is then free for them to decide what they use. The race was very consistent and it also produced some exciting racing through the whole pack. We were especially pleased to see the rookies; Zarco, Folger and Rins adapting to our tyres so quickly during the weekend and seeing the confidence that they had to push with them We will now head to Argentina, where we are certainly ready for the challenge!”
Now, the paddock heads west to Argentina and Termas de Rio Hondo – ready for another amazing chapter of 2017 from April 7-9.
VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 25 Yamaha Factory Racing Team
DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 20 Ducati Team
ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 16 Yamaha Factory Racing Team
MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 13 Repsol Honda Team
PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 11 Repsol Honda Team
ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA 10 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
REDDING Scott 45 GBR 9 Octo Pramac Racing
MILLER Jack 43 AUS 8 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
RINS Alex 42 SPA 7 Team Suzuki Ecstar
FOLGER Jonas 94 GER 6 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 5 Ducati Team
BAZ Loris 76 FRA 4 Reale Avintia Racing
BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 3 Reale Avintia Racing
ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 2 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
RABAT Tito 53 SPA 1 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
Moto 2 – Franco Morbidelli takes his first ever Moto2 win
After a year of incredible podium performances in 2016, Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) started off 2017 in stunning style – with his first win in Moto2. 2016 Qatar winner and key rival Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) crossed the line in second, with Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) completing the podium in an exciting taster of what could be to come in the 2017 Championship fight.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took an impressive first podium for the new KTM chassis, followed home by EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider Alex Marquez, who crossed the line in fifth after an early challenge for the podium.
It was a stunning intermediate class debut for rookie Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40), whose huge mileage in testing paid off as he brought it home in P7 first time out, just losing out in a battle with Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) over sixth.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) moved up from his grid spot to take eighth, with Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) and Axel Pons (RW Racing GP) completing the top ten.
Remy Gardner had his Moto2 race debut with the Tech3 Moto 2 Racing team cut short after he was taken out on the opening lap.
“We had a decent opening day where we made a lot of progress and I was pretty happy as we went faster without using a new tyre. We improved again in FP3 and I was looking forward to seeing what we could do in qualifying but the rain was just too bad and the organisers made the right decision. Starting 23rd I know that I wouldn’t have been taken out if we had started further up the field. Anyway, the positive is that I had a great start and the first two thirds of the lap went well. I’ve got to pick myself up now and focus on Argentina. I really thought that we could have achieved a positive result here so it’s a big shame that it ended up this way, but I am more determined for the next round.”
Franco Morbidelli – P1
“This first victory is a great sensation after all this time, it is really amazing that I confirm that I am capable of winning races. My pace was really strong and I was pulling away from the others once I got ahead of Lüthi and had a clear track, so it did not feel like a difficult race. The main thing today was to bring to the track what I had in my mind, that I could win here after such a strong preseason of testing and practice in Qatar.”
Álex Márquez – P5
“It was a drama free race but I struggled a lot from mid-race because from the warm-up I saw that today the track conditions had changed a lot. But I achieved my first objective which was to finish the race and we understand which areas to improve, both my riding style and set-up depending on the conditions.”
Moto3 – A lightweight class classic sees Joan Mir take a stunning second win
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) took an incredible first win of 2017 as the lights went out on the Moto3 season, making tactical perfection look easy on the way to the flag. British Talent Team rider John McPhee took second after a stunning ride up from outside the top ten, with poleman Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) completing the podium.
Aron Canet (EG 0,0), Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers), Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46), Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Fabio DiGiannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) and Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) kept it clean after impressive pace throughout to stay in the freight train, completing the top ten following the battle for the podium.
The fastest rookie first time out was 2016 Red Bull Rookies Cup winner and former Asia Talent Cup victor Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team), taking an impressive P11 on his full-time debut – despite being forced to evade another incident only a handful of laps before the end.
John McPhee – P2
“I can’t thank everyone enough, honestly! The team and everyone behind me. I’ve been given this opportunity and I’m trying to make the most of it so that’s the best way to start off the season. All race the bike was so fast, I felt really strong in the group. We ticked all the boxes in preseason testing and we knew we could be strong, even if the weekend’s not been the best, position-wise. I stuck to the plan and now it’s paid off so I’m absolutely delighted!”
Jorge Martin – P3
“I was really quick in the early part of the race and I felt I had something more than my opponents; I tried to pull away with Joan (Mir), but that wasn’t possible. In the second part of the race things started to become less predictable: I started to lose some grip and dropped down to 6th/7th place, but then I was able to bridge the gap to the lead again. I push as hard as I could to stay in touch with Joan but McPhee made a couple of mistakes and that allowed him to pull away that bit. We leave Qatar with a pole position, a lot of points and a podium, so I’m happy!”
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