Marc Marquez showed the world why he is the reigning MotoGP champion with the Repsol Honda rider snatching the victory of the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar after a classic battle with Movistar Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi at the Losail International Circuit with Dani Pedrosa sealing another podium finish in third for the Repsol Honda team.
Jorge Lorenzo jumped into an early lead of the 22 lap race but the Movistar Yamaha rider looked to push his front Bridgestone tire too fast on the opening lap and violently lost the front end and ended his race while Stefan Bradl inherited the lead on the LCR Honda with the German rider making a great start with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Bradley Smith also very fast early on while Marquez was happy to stalk the leaders early on while Rossi was busy making up some place after start from the fourth row.
The battle with Valentino was the best part of the race besides the win, I really enjoyed it!
The factory Ducati machine of Andrea Dovizioso was going well in the opening laps as was the Pramac Racing machine of Andrea Iannone until he lost the front on lap 2 with Rossi now left to chase GO&Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista. Behind these, Pedrosa was fighting with Ducati’s Cal Crutchlow in 7th and 8th early on. There was another sudden change for the lead on lap 8 when Bradl also lost the front on the same corner of Lorenzo and the race lead then handed to Marquez who had now passed Smith and the British rider was to fall further back in quick succession behind Bautista, Rossi and Pedrosa.
The race resumed a somewhat normal rhythm nearing the middle of the race with Rossi passing Bautista and then Marquez for the lead before he was re-taken by Marquez after just two laps while Pedrosa had now joined the group in 4th place. Making as many places up as he could was the NGM Forward Racing machine of Aleix Espargaro with the Open Class rider up to 6th place ahead of Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro on the second Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine and Crutchlow. Scott Redding (GO&Fun Honda Gresini) was also having a strong debut race for his MotoGP career and was battling with Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden throughout the race.
Photo by: Yamaha MotoGP
Marquez continued to lead the race for the nearly the remaining third of the race until things heated up with podium positions now nearing touching distance for the riders are the front. However, there was bad luck for Smith after he crashed out on lap 18 while Bautista also pushed it too hard and after a number of attempts at passing Pedrosa and making it stick, the Spaniard lost the front of his machine and wasn’t able to rejoin the race. Rossi left it until the final two laps before making his move on Marquez and led on a number of occasions only to get re-passed by Marquez each time and eventually the seven times MotoGP world champion had to give best with Marquez superior under the floodlights to take the win.
Winning the first race of the season was exactly what was needed according to Marquez who said, “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!”
Speaking after the race Rossi and while being happy with a solid start with second place he felt he could have gone one place better. “I’m very happy but a little bit upset because I lost,” Rossi said while continuing, “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,” Rossi added.
Photo by: Repsol Media
Pedrosa was really happy with getting his season off to a good start and said, “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 in we will try to keep improving and try to fight for the win at the next race!”