Qatar GP, Weekend Review: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
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.
Tuenti HP 40’s Pol Espargaró converted pole position into the opening Moto2™ race victory of 2013 after a spirited battled with Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding, whilst Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami led in the opening stages before going on to achieve a career-first podium finish.
Espargaró had delivered a last-gasp lap to grab pole on Saturday, but it was Nakagami who led Sunday’s race as the pack battled for the first time this year. Behind, Thai Honda PTT Gresini Moto2’s Ratthapark Wilairot jumped the start and was forced to take a ride-through penalty, whereas Tech 3’s Louis Rossi, Tuenti HP 40’s Axel Pons and QMMF Racing Team’s Anthony West were all early fallers.
More crashes came later into the race, with a coming together between JiR Moto2’s Mike de Meglio and NGM Mobile Racing’s Mattia Pasini, which left the latter out of the race. Pasini’s teammate Ricky Cardús was taken to the Medical Centre following an incident, as Wilairot became the sixth and final retirement.
Redding had settled in behind Nakagami at the front, but took his chance to shoot into the lead at the start of the ninth lap, narrowly avoiding contact with his rival’s left knee. Watching the battle unfold, Espargaró posted the fastest lap and quickly proceeded to dispatch with Nakagami, who was unable to maintain the pace of the pair in front but was still pleased with a his maiden podium finish.
Espargaró’s crucial move on Redding for the lead came with five laps to go, with the Englishman losing out on the start/finish straight but managing to keep up in the twisty infield section. There was almost contact between the duo as Redding strived to retake the lead on the final lap, but losing ground allowed the Spaniard to win in Qatar for the first time.
Fourth position went to Dominique Aegerter and Technomag carXpert, just edging ahead of second Marc VDS rider Mika Kallio and Italtrans’ Julián Simón. The top ten was completed by NGM Mobile pair Simone Corsi and Alex de Angelis plus Tuenti HP 40’s Esteve Rabat and Desguaces La Torre Maptaq’s Xavier Simeon.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Luis Salom triumphed in an action-packed first Moto3™ race of 2013, winning the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar ahead of Maverick Viñales and Álex Rins.
As the red lights went out, it was Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Rins who stole the top spot as GO&FUN Gresini Moto3’s Niccolò Antonelli lost control and became the first retirement of the season. As the top five began to break away from the chasing pack, it was a tight affair between Salom, Rins, Team Calvo’s Viñales, Rins’ teammate Álex Márquez and Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger. The lead would change on numerous occasions across the 18 laps.
Rins was in front by the halfway point, as Márquez shot ahead for the first time on lap 13. Over the remaining five laps, the Estrella Galicia duo would go head-to-head, but it was Viñales, having waited patiently, who looked to have seized the show at the start of the penultimate lap. But it was persistence that paid off for pole-sitter Salom at the start of the final lap, confidently taking the lead before opening out a gap.
He would cross the line four tenths of a second ahead of Viñales, who was involved in a photo finish with Rins, as Márquez completed the top four. Some 16 seconds behind fifth-placed Folger, Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin beat Mahindra Racing’s Miguel Oliveira to seventh as Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Arthur Sissis, Avant Tecno’s Niklas Ajo and Mahindra’s Efrén Vázquez rounded out the top ten. In 20th spot, female rider Ana Carrasco impressed on the second Team Calvo bike, passing several rivals despite a distinct lack of track time this weekend.
After Antonelli, a further three riders fell in the shape of CIP Moto3’s Alan Techer, Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Isaac Viñales and Caretta Technology – RTG’s John McPhee, whose retirement came on the final lap of the race.