Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo started his MotoGP™ title defence in the best possible way, winning Sunday’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar in dominant fashion as his teammate Valentino Rossi showed the world he was back on song as he and rookie sensation Marc Márquez fought it out for the final podium spots.
As the lights went out, a scorching start by Dani Pedrosa saw the Repsol Honda Team rider shoot up into second place by Turn 1, hoping to challenge Lorenzo, who began to pull away on his Yamaha Factory Racing bike. The same could not be said for Pedrosa’s teammate Márquez, who endured a slow getaway and dropped to eighth.
On lap two, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham crashed out, whilst Márquez was making up positions, passing Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and then Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow. At this point Lorenzo was already leading Pedrosa by 1.6 seconds, and would eventually stretch his advantage by half a second per lap as those behind him became engaged in a dramatic battle.
By the halfway point on lap 11, Márquez was very much involved in a duel with teammate Pedrosa, as Crutchlow looked to take advantage as he stalked the pair behind. Rossi, who had been a bit too eager at the start and run wide, loosing places, was at this point catching up to the battling trio, passing numerous riders on the way. Moves came on Dovizioso and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, who proceeded to crash while chasing down the seven-time premier class title winner. Also failing to make the finish were GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bryan Staring, Tech 3’s Bradley Smith, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards.
Márquez overtook Pedrosa on lap 17, leaving the latter to deal with Crutchlow as Rossi had caught up to the group. The Italian stormed pasted the Englishman in a move between Crutchlow and the pit wall, only for the Tech 3 man to misjudge his braking point and run off-track at Turn 1. Rossi’s charge continued with manoeuvres on Pedrosa and Márquez on Laps 19 and 20 respectively, only for the debutant to fight back as the pair went head-to-head. Rossi would come out on top by just two tenths of a second, with Márquez becoming the first MotoGP™ rookie to seal a rostrum result in his first race since Lorenzo finished second at Losail five years ago. Lorenzo’s eventually winning margin was 5.9 seconds.
Pedrosa and Crutchlow completed the top five from Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden on the pair of Ducati Team machines, Pramac Racing newcomer Andrea Iannone and his teammate Ben Spies. Power Electronics Aspar won CRT honours, with reigning class Champion Aleix Espargaró finishing 11th overall and leading home teammate Randy de Puniet by 6.6 seconds. Avintia Blusens’ Héctor Barberá rose from 22nd on the grid to 13th, in front of PBM’s Yonny Hernández, Avintia’s Hiroshi Aoyama, Forward’s Claudio Corti, PBM’s Michael Laverty and Ioda’s Lukáš Pešek who on Saturday had qualified 15th for his debut.
MotoGP™ Qualifying Practice Classification
1- Jorge Lorenzo SPA Yamaha Factory Racing 42:39.802
2- Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing 42:45.792
3- Marc Márquez SPA Repsol Honda Team 42:46.003