Vinales Takes Season Opener

Maverick Vinales followed up his pre-season form with victory in the opening race of the season. The Spaniard was making his Yamaha debut in Qatar after his switch from Suzuki, and held off the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso and his team-mate Valentino Rossi.

Vinales Qatar

Image: BT Sport MotoGP Twitter (@btsportmotogp)

The race was reduced to 20 laps due to a 40 minute delay caused by rain whilst the bikes came on to the grid. This came after qualifying had been washed out, meaning that the grid was based on the combined times from free practice.

But the inconvience of the rain was soon forgotten, as rookie Johann Zarco made a flying start and hit the front. The Frenchman looked comfortable as he led his more experienced competitors, but he crashed out on lap 7.

Andrea Dovizioso seized the opportunity to hit the front, leading world champion Marc Marquez and former team-mate Andrea Iannone. As Dovizioso controlled the race, Marquez and Iannone battled for second position, before Iannone slipped out on lap 11.

It was then when Maverick Vinales, who suffered from a poor start, and Valentino Rossi, who started back on the fourth row, made their way past Marquez and started hunting down Dovizioso.

Vinales managed to catch Dovizioso, but kept being frustrated as he was unable to escape from the Ducati’s superior horsepower down the front straight. But with only a few laps remaining Vinales was finally able to gain enough of a lead to consolidate his position and take the win by 0.461 seconds. Dovizioso took second, whilst Rossi crossed the line 1.467 seconds later.

Marc Marquez, who switched to a softer front tyre during the delays at the start of the race, slipped back, but was able to hold off his team-mate Dani Pedrosa, whilst Aleix Espargaro took sixth on his Aprilia debut.

Scott Redding finished as the top Brit, finishing in a lonely seventh place, two seconds behind Espargaro and five seconds clear of Jack Miller. None of the other Brits scored points, with Bradley Smith finishing seventeenth on his KTM debut, and Sam Lowes a further place back on his first appearance in MotoGP. Cal Crutchlow suffered a race to forget, falling twice early on.

Alex Rins finished as the top rookie in ninth, just beating Jonas Folger to that accolade. Both, however, finished ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, who looked uncertain on his Ducati debut, finishing eleventh.

Joan Mir took the opening race of the day, as the Spaniard held off a group of four riders, headed by Britain’s John McPhee, that finished within half a second of the Moto3 winner.

Franco Morbidelli secured a dominant win in Moto2. The Italian took his first Grand Prix victory, 2.681 seconds clear of Thomas Luthi. Britain’s Danny Kent finished thirteenth.

The next race is in Argentina, taking place on April 9.

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Rossi wins despite Ducati revival

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Valentino Rossi took his first win in Qatar since 2010

An enthralling battle in the opening race of the season saw an all-Italian podium, with Valentino Rossi taking the chequered flag for his 109th race victory. Ducati established themselves as a dark horse for the season with Dovizioso and Iannone completing the podium, leaving world champion Marc Marquez to settle for fifth.

Dovizioso had taken pole position, but many still doubted the Ducati’s ability to last race distance. Both Repsol Hondas started poorly. Marquez was forced wide at turn one, having to play catch-up from the back, whilst Pedrosa was swallowed up by the pack in the first turn.

Both Iannone and Dovizioso started strongly, split by Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo continued to dual with the Ducatis whilst Rossi edged his way past a bright Yonny Hernandez further down the field. The Yamaha had the pace throughout the track, but the sheer power of the Ducati meant that down the longest start/finish straight in the GP circuit, it entered turn one in the lead.

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Andrea Dovizioso narrowly missed out on his second Grand Prix victory

As Lorenzo, Dovizioso and Iannone tripped over each other Rossi closed the gap with consistently quick times, before passing and gapping Iannone. The leading group were four seconds clear of Dani Pedrosa and Marquez, who had shaken off the challenge of Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. With five laps to go it looked as if it could have been a Yamaha one-two, but Lorenzo dropped off after being passed by Rossi. Dovizioso stuck on Rossi’s back tyre, pipping him to the line consistently despite trailing into the last corner. However the Ducati ran wide on turn one of the last lap, letting Rossi retake the lead. Rossi stretched his lead on the back side of the track, giving him enough of a lead into the last straight to hold of Dovizioso’s challenge by 0.174 seconds. Iannone pipped Lorenzo to third whilst Marquez finished ahead of his team-mate for fifth.

Cal Crutchlow finished his opening race on the LCR Honda as the top Brit in seventh, whilst Hector Barbera finished as the top Open class rider in 15th. On their return to MotoGP, Suzuki finished in 11th (Aleix Espargaro) and 14th (Maverick Vinales), whilst Aprilia returned in slightly less style, with Alvaro Bautista retiring early on and Marco Melandri finishing 21st.


Standings:

1. Valentino Rossi 42m 35.717s

2. Andrea Dovizioso +0.174s

3. Andrea Iannone +2.250s

4. Jorge Lorenzo +2.707s

5. Marc Marquez +7.036s

6. Dani Pedrosa +10.755s

7. Cal Crutchlow +12.384s

8. Bradley Smith +12.914s

9. Pol Espargaro +13.031s

10. Yonny Hernandez +17.435s

13. Scott Redding +32.032s

18. Eugene Laverty +46.570s

The Doctor is back in business

The opening round of the 2013 MotoGP season saw the prolific return to form of Valentino Rossi. The Italian, 34, started from seventh on the grid, and appeared to get stuck behind Stefan Bradl before passing the German after 8 laps. Bradl then crashed out a lap later trying to retake 5th place as he strayed on the the dusty part of the track. Rossi the made up a 3.737 second gap to overtake Britain’s Cal Crutchlow at the first corner on lap 19, forcing the Satellite Yamaha rider to run off the track. The nine-time world champion the passed Dani Pedrosa and rookie Marc Marquez in the next two laps, setting up an enthralling duel that set up a battle which has rarely been seen since Rossi’s nightmare switch to Ducati. The rookie Marquez, who is tipped by many to fight for the title this year, jostled with Rossi for the next 3 laps, in a contest fitting of the madness of Moto2. He finished second, almost 6 seconds behind run-away leader Jorge Lorenzo, who led the race from start to finish. Marc Marquez rounded off the podium in third whilst last season’s championship runner up Dani Pedrosa dropped to 4th. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow came 5th, whilst other Brits fared poorly, with Bradley Smith, Crutchlow’s team-mate, crashing out of 11th place 5 laps in to his debut, and Michael Laverty finished 17th on his Paul Bird Motorcycle. Aleix Espargaro finished the leading CRT in 11th place. Aleix’s brother Pol won the Moto2 race and Luis Salom won in Moto3.