Marquez and Crutchlow Star on Qatar MotoGP Podium
Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez made a stunning start to the defense of his fifth MotoGP crown with a dazzling ride to second place, just 0.023 seconds behind winner Andrea Dovizioso.
Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) made a stunning start to the defense of his fifth MotoGP crown with a dazzling ride to second place, just 0.023 seconds behind winner Andrea Dovizioso.
The race ended just like last year’s Qatar Grand Prix, with the Spanish youngster passing his Italian rival at the final corner, only to run slightly wide and lose the race to the finish line.
The pair were joined on the podium by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) who rode a hero’s race to third place in his first competitive ride since breaking an ankle at last October’s Australian Grand Prix.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) commenced his second season in MotoGP with a strong ride to ninth, only 7.4 seconds behind the winner. Marquez’s new team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) had a difficult day, following two tumbles yesterday. He finished 13th.
The race was so good that it made history, with the top 15 riders taking the checkered flag separated by 15.093 seconds, the closest-ever top 15 in the premier class – a great way to start the year in which the championship celebrates its 70th birthday.
The race was enthralling, with Marquez and Dovizioso riding wheel to wheel throughout most of the 22 laps. Both men knew they had to look after their tires to ensure they had good grip all the way to the finish and they proved masters at this tactic.
Marquez’s performance was particularly impressive because he doesn’t count Losail as one of his better tracks and he isn’t yet at full strength following surgery to his left shoulder, carried out last December. The 26-year-old spent most of the race following Dovizioso, biding his time for one of his famous last-gasp attacks. And just like last year he gave it his all, sneaking inside at the final corner, albeit very briefly. Unusually, Marquez chose the medium-option front slick instead of the hard, which caused him to work the rear tire extra hard.
Crutchlow currently has only 70 percent movement in his right ankle, which makes it difficult for him to use the rear brake into corners and through corners. But the determined 33-year-old Briton got better as the race went on. During the first half he battled with Alex Rins, Jack Miller and Danilo Petrucci, then in the final quarter he upped his pace, chased after the leaders and got the better of Rins when the Spaniard ran slightly wide with two laps to go. Rins came past again, but Crutchlow used the amazing straight-line speed of his RC213V to blast back into third position on the start-finish straight. He maintained that advantage to the finish line, completing the race just three tenths behind the winner.
Nakagami was hoping for a top-five result on his 2018-spec RC213V and had shown during practice that he had some good speed. Ninth place wasn’t what the 27-year-old from Chiba wanted, but his average lap pace was only three tenths of a second slower than the winner’s, so he can go into the next race in Argentina knowing he is very competitive. Today’s result wasn’t Nakagami’s best MotoGP finish – he took sixth in last November’s rain-lashed Valencia GP – but it was by far his closest finish to the winner.
Lorenzo had high hopes for his first race on an RC213V. Despite a still-weak left wrist – from a training accident in January – he completed Friday’s first session a brilliant second fastest, which promised great things for the remainder of the weekend. However, two crashes during yesterday’s cooler and trickier conditions, which claimed many other victims, left the 31-year-old Spaniard battered and bruised and not in great shape for today. The three-times MotoGP king took a sensible approach to the race, ensuring he made it to the finish to gather vital data for his next few outings.
The first Moto2 race of the season was won by Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex), the 22-year-old Italian taking his first victory since last May’s Spanish Grand Prix. Baldassarri dominated the 20-lap event but came under serious pressure from Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) during the final two laps. Luthi had fought his way through the pack after a difficult start to the race.
Luthi tried to find a way around Baldassarri during the final lap but couldn’t quite make it past until he slipstreamed his rival on the way to the checkered flag, sneaking ahead for a moment, only for Baldassarri to regain the advantage and cross the finish line 0.026 seconds ahead.
Baldassarri’s third Moto2 victory was a cause for celebration within his team, owned by Spanish legend Sito Pons, who won the 1988 and 1989 250cc World Championships with Honda. The podium was completed by Luthi’s team-mate Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex), who had started the race from pole position (his first in 158 starts) and finished 2.1 seconds behind the winner.
Team-mates Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) and Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) commenced their full-time Grand Prix careers tonight. Ekky Pratama learned plenty on his way to a creditable 24th-place finish, but Chantra had a less useful evening, retiring after one lap.
Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) made history in the first race of the day when he became the first Japanese rider to win a Moto3 World Championship event. The 21-year-old from Fukuoka, on Japan’s Kyushu Island, rode a superbly judged race at the head of a lead pack that sometimes numbered more than a dozen riders.
In the final stages the race for victory became a three-way battle between Toba, fellow NSF250RW rider Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) and Spanish teenager Aron Canet. Dalla Porta led out of the final corner but Toba knew that the fastest way down Losail’s long 1.068km start/finish straight is to use the draft of another rider. And that’s just what he did – he cleverly tucked in behind 21-year-old Italian Dalla Porta and swept ahead just before the checkered flag to win by 0.053 seconds.
Toba’s historic victory was greeted with great joy in the Honda Team Asia garage, where team manager and Honda’s 2009 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama thanked his squad for providing their rider with a winning machine. The success also proved the efficacy of the Honda-backed Asia Talent Cup, designed to mentor up-and-coming riders from Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and other Asian nations. Toba was the first Asia Talent Cup champion in 2014.
The top 11 riders crossed the finish line separated by less than a second, with Toba’s team-mate Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) in that 11th position.
Dalla Porta’s team-mate Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) took fourth place, two tenths of a second behind third-finisher Canet. That made it three Honda riders in the top four, proving that the latest version of the NSF250RW has both the power and the handling to defend Honda’s triple crown of Riders, Constructors and Teams World Championships.
Two other Honda riders finished in the top ten. Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) took eighth place, 0.850 seconds behind Toba, and Romano Fenati (Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW) crossed the line in ninth, 0.890 seconds down on the winner.
Fenati led the race at half-distance and was riding beautifully, using impressive corner speed to overtake his rivals wherever he could, but with four laps to go he made a mistake and ran off the track, which dropped him to 11th. The 23-year-old Italian, who finished on the podium on his Grand Prix debut here in 2012 would otherwise have been in with a chance of his first Moto3 victory since Motegi 2017.
Ogura’s 11th-place finish was an excellent start to his first full World Championship season, which promises great things for the 18-year-old from Tokyo. He was chased over the line by Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW). The last World Championship point went to Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW), who rode a brave race after breaking a collarbone during the final pre-season tests here just over a week ago. Rodrigo had the fracture plated in Barcelona to allow him to race today.
Both Tatsuki Suzuki (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) were out of luck, falling in the early stages.
The MotoGP paddock now heads to Argentina for the second round of the 19-race season at Rio Termas Honda on March 31.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team: 2nd
“It was exactly the same as last year! I tried to push hard but here when you overtake you just run wide and you can’t keep the line. I tried to be there, to push a little and just be there until the end. I’m very happy with these 20 points because normally we struggle here and this weekend especially we worked a lot. We changed some things that meant I couldn’t push like I normally do in braking. But we finished the race and took good points..”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL: 3rd
“It’s great to even be back racing in MotoGP, let alone come away with a podium finish, but my LCR Honda Castrol Team did a great job. We worked hard this weekend because the tests were a bit of a waste of time for me. This weekend has been difficult, and if you had asked me after warm-up if I’d finish on the podium I would have laughed! I played my cards in the race, I felt good and once we started the race myself and Marc Marquez had similar tactics – saving the rear tire and managing things a little bit more. What a great start to the season for everybody, for my team, for the riders and the fans here in Qatar and for the people watching at home. It seems every race in MotoGP is always a battle and it was nice to be in it and race and get a podium. It’s a dream to be honest. At one point we didn’t know if I was going to be coming back at all.”
Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU: 9th
“I felt really comfortable on the bike – especially at the beginning of the race I felt really strong. Last year I struggled to find my speed at the start of races, but this new season we’ve got a big improvement. After that, I was a little bit disturbed by [Jack] Miller and [Joan] Mir, so I tried to overtake them and fine a good rhythm. At the end my lap times were quite good, I was doing mid and high 55s. The race was good and I’m really happy to finish in the top ten. Of course, I still need to make improvements because I’m not so happy with P9. I chose a soft rear tire and I think that was the correct choice for me. With the medium tire I would not have been so confident at the beginning of the race. Maybe things would have been easier at the end, but I want to be strong at the beginning, so I am happy with my decision. Thanks to the team for their hard work this weekend.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team: 13th
“There are many positive things today even if where we finished is not what we thought we could achieve. I was very limited by the crash yesterday, it was a very big impact everywhere and especially on my shoulder. It limited everything. From then, I was always slower than at the start of the weekend. I had some problems in the opening laps and lost about three or four seconds there. Without doubt we have much more potential and if we’re not unlucky we can be stronger.”
Lorenzo Baldassarri, Flexbox HP 40: 1st
“Today we did a very good race. I went well and when I could I took first position. I set my pace and concentrated hard to keep it, and I saw that the guys behind me didn’t catch me. I didn't expect Luthi’s attack, but I closed all the corners because I wanted the victory. Thanks to the team and the sponsors, we have done a good job and we must continue like this.”
Thomas Luthi, Dynavolt Intact GP: 2nd
“It could not have been better to start the season this way to be honest. The victory would have been sweeter though, as I had the pace for it. I did not have a really good feeling with the front of the bike from the beginning. I had problems to find the rhythm and speed, but later on it went quite well. I want to thank my team for their great work this weekend. To overtake during the last lap would have been possible, but it was too much of a risk. The conditions have been perfect this evening. I struggled with the warmer conditions during warm-up, but with the cooler air and less wind it was almost perfect tonight. I knew that if the conditions would be like that tonight, we could really do it. I am now looking forward to the next race.”
Marcel Schrötter, Dynavolt Intact GP: 3rd
“I was really lucky today. At the end of the race I had some chattering problems and I didn’t want to make a mistake during the first race of the season. Of course I tried to close up to Baldassarri, but in the last two laps, when Tom closed up, I was not able to go faster anymore. But nevertheless this was a great start to the season. It is better you take the third place home than to risk too much and crash at the end. It’s a fantastic result for the team, but I am still a little bit disappointed, as I was strong all weekend – even with used tires I was able to go fast. But anyway, I think we can really be satisfied with this result.”
Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia: 1st
“It’s an amazing feeling! I don’t have words to express it at the moment. When I crossed the line it was like living a dream, a dream come true! I’m super happy because also this week the team worked very hard and they did a good job. At the beginning I didn’t want to take too many risks and I dropped some positions, but at the end of the race I was thinking of my strategy to get the victory. And it worked! I am super happy!”
Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Leopard Racing: 2nd
“It was an amazing race and I really had fun. Throughout the race the tire didn’t dropped so much, so the team did a very good job. I'm very happy. My strategy wasn’t perfect but in the end second position is a nice result. I wanted the victory and I tried until the end. We will try again in Argentina!”
Marcos Ramirez, Leopard Racing: 4th
“I'm very happy after getting fourth place in the first race with my new team – it is an amazing result. I felt better with the bike and I was able to recover many positions. Unfortunately, on the last lap I made some mistakes and I wasn’t able to finish on the podium. Many thanks to the team because they've done an amazing job. I can't wait for the next race!”
|1||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Mission Winnow Ducati)|
|2||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)|
|3||Cal CRUTCHLOW (LCR Honda CASTROL)|
|4||Alex RINS (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)|
|5||Valentino ROSSI (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)|
|6||Danilo PETRUCCI (Mission Winnow Ducati)|
|7||Maverick VIÑALES (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)|
|8||Joan MIR (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)|
|9||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (LCR Honda IDEMITSU)|
|10||Aleix ESPARGARO (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)|
|11||Franco MORBIDELLI (Petronas Yamaha SRT)|
|12||Pol ESPARGARO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)|
|13||Jorge LORENZO (Repsol Honda Team)|
|14||Andrea IANNONE (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)|
|15||Johann ZARCO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)|
|16||Fabio QUARTARARO (Petronas Yamaha SRT)|
|17||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|18||Karel ABRAHAM (Reale Avintia Racing)|
|19||Tito RABAT (Reale Avintia Racing)|
|20||Hafizh SYAHRIN (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|RT||Bradley SMITH (Aprilia Factory Racing)|
|RT||Jack MILLER (Alma Pramac Racing)|
|RT||Francesco BAGNAIA (Alma Pramac Racing)|
|1||Lorenzo BALDASSARRI (Flexbox HP 40)|
|2||Thomas LUTHI (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|3||Marcel SCHROTTER (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|4||Remy GARDNER (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team)|
|5||Augusto FERNANDEZ (Flexbox HP 40)|
|6||Sam LOWES (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|7||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|8||Luca MARINI (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|9||Enea BASTIANINI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|10||Xavi VIERGE (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|11||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO (+Ego Speed Up)|
|12||Brad BINDER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|13||Andrea LOCATELLI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|14||Jesko RAFFIN (NTS RW Racing GP)|
|15||Jorge MARTIN (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|16||Bo BENDSNEYDER (NTS RW Racing GP)|
|17||Khairul Idham PAWI (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|18||Dominique AEGERTER (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward)|
|19||Simone CORSI (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2)|
|20||Stefano MANZI (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward)|
|21||Lukas TULOVIC (Kiefer Racing)|
|22||Joe ROBERTS (American Racing KTM)|
|23||Philipp OETTL (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|24||Dimas EKKY PRATAMA (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|25||Xavi CARDELUS (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)|
|26||Marco BEZZECCHI (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|RT||Tetsuta NAGASHIMA (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team)|
|RT||Jake DIXON (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)|
|RT||Somkiat CHANTRA (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|RT||Jorge NAVARRO (+Ego Speed Up)|
|RT||Nicolo BULEGA (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|RT||Iker LECUONA (American Racing KTM)|
|1||Kaito TOBA (Honda Team Asia)|
|2||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA (Leopard Racing)|
|3||Aron CANET (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team)|
|4||Marcos RAMIREZ (Leopard Racing)|
|5||Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|6||Albert ARENAS (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)|
|7||Fernandez Raul (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)|
|8||Niccolò ANTONELLI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)|
|9||Romano FENATI (Snipers Team)|
|10||Jakub KORNFEIL (Redox PruestelGP)|
|11||Ai OGURA (Honda Team Asia)|
|12||Alonso LOPEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|13||John MCPHEE (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|14||Andrea MIGNO (Bester Capital Dubai)|
|15||Gabriel RODRIGO (Kommerling Gresini Moto3)|
|16||Tony ARBOLINO (Snipers Team)|
|17||Vicente PEREZ (Reale Avintia Arizona 77)|
|18||Can ONCU (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|19||Kazuki MASAKI (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race)|
|20||Ryusei YAMANAKA (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|21||Filip SALAC (Redox PruestelGP)|
|22||Riccardo ROSSI (Kommerling Gresini Moto3)|
|23||Makar YURCHENKO (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race)|
|24||Tom BOOTH-AMOS (CIP Green Power)|
|RT||Tatsuki SUZUKI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)|
|RT||Dennis FOGGIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|RT||Darryn BINDER (CIP Green Power)|
|RT||Ayumu SASAKI (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|RT||Jaume MASIA (Bester Capital Dubai)|