Qatar GP: Raceday roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
The 2016 MotoGP™ World Championship got off to a fiery start in Qatar as Jorge Lorenzo blitzed the field ahead of Dovizioso and Marquez
With new Michelin tyres and new unified electronics, the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar was set to not only start a new season of the MotoGP™ World Championship, but also begin a new era. Testing had given fans a preview of who was fast and what bikes were working well, but few had any idea what would happen as the lights went out on the first race of the 2016 season.
Qualifying saw incredibly tight times, all of the top 12 riders within a second and the front row divided by under a tenth of a second. All signs pointed to it being a stunning race, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) lining up in pole position for the 62nd time in his Grand Prix career as he aims for back-to-back premier class titles for the first time.
Just behind Lorenzo on the grid was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), the factory Honda rider having to push harder than ever to overcome several of Honda’s issues, adopting an even more wild riding style. Completing the front row was rising star Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar), the young Spaniard aiming to return Suzuki to the podium for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) started in fifth, he and Lorenzo having exchanged words in the press after an incident in FP4. The scene was set for an explosive start to the season.
As the lights went out it was Lorenzo who roared into the first corner ahead of Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team). It was a poor start for Marquez who dropped back outside the top five. After the opening corners, Lorenzo led with Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) behind, the Desmosedici GP again starting well in Qatar. Meanwhile Rossi looked on in fourth.
The top end speed of the Ducati proved a force to be reckoned with as both Iannone and Dovizioso blasted past Lorenzo on the straight, dropping the World Champion to third as they ended the first lap. At the back of the leading trio Rossi stayed just ahead of Marquez as all five began to settle into their rhythms.
It was Andrea Iannone who led across the line at the end of the lap, both he and Dovizioso able to open up a lead of several tenths over the pursuing Yamaha pair. Meanwhile Pedrosa and Viñales, sixth and seventh, attempted to close the gap. At Turn 6 on lap three Marquez slid up the inside of Rossi to grab fourth, Rossi dropped back slightly after the pass, 0.3s from Marquez.
Fastest lap after fastest lap couldn’t split the top five, the Michelin tyres improving with each lap. On the sixth lap ‘Desmo Dovi’ tried to take the lead but was quickly pushed back by an aggressive move from his teammate, Iannone living up his nickname of ‘The Maniac’ but Dovizioso wasn’t deterred and struck again later in the lap. Pushing harder and harder, Iannone suffered a fast fall at Turn 13 as he attempted to go up the inside of his teammate. Although he was unhurt, not finishing was a bitter pill to swallow. His fall was soon followed by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who crashed out of the race at Turn 4.
With Iannone gone, Lorenzo took up the challenge and pushed Dovizioso hard for the lead. Dovizioso was regularly at least 5km/h faster down the straight than Lorenzo, but on lap nine the Majorcan struck and went into the lead. A small gap emerged, allowing Lorenzo to maintain his lead even down the straight.
A string of fastest laps of the race followed as the Qatar GP entered the middle stages, both Lorenzo and Dovizioso exchanging fastest laps of the race. By mid race Lorenzo had an advantage of over 0.3s, working hard to stay ahead. Neither Marquez nor Rossi were able to make a serious impression on the leading pair, Rossi appeared to be fading away but then produced a 1’55.281 on the 14th lap of the race. The Michelin tyres went the distance as riders throughout the field were setting personal bests and fastest race laps till the end.
As the race entered its final five laps, Marquez closed in on Dovizioso for second as Lorenzo maintained and extended a half second lead to a second. With four laps to go Marquez effortlessly slid up the inside of Dovizioso to move into second. Marquez tried to close in on Lorenzo but soon found himself in the company of Dovizioso and Rossi once more. As the riders charged down the straight to begin the final lap Dovizioso passed Marquez into Turn 1.
Lorenzo would eventually cross the line a dominant 2.019s ahead of second, Dovizioso repeating his second place finish of 2015 after Marquez tried to pass in the last corner. The Spaniard settled for third with Valentino Rossi 0.1s behind in fourth. Dani Pedrosa completed the top five but was over 13 seconds back on the race winner.
Viñales, Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) and Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) completed the top ten.
There were further crashes for Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) and Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). Both were unhurt.
The MotoGP™ World Championship are back on track on the first of April for Free Practice 1 of the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina.
Starting from pole position and having won the 2015 edition of the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, many saw Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) as the race favourite. The German got a great launch from the line and soared into the lead, unaware of the issues unfolding behind him.
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) settled in behind Folger, but the German was off like a rocket and opened up a one second lead by the end of the first lap. Lowes and Nakagami were joined by Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) but disaster quickly struck for a number of riders behind.
Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport), Sam Lowes, Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) were all handed ride through penalties for jumping the start. Zarco came into the pits first followed by Lowes, Schrotter and Rins on the following lap.
While this drama was unfolding, Folger continued to push at the front but the German quickly found he had exceeded the limit and fell at Turn 4, crashing out of a comfortable lead on the third lap. “I was pushing really hard to make a gap, it would have been the last lap of pushing hard. It was my fault, I expected a lot more,” he said after the incident.
This handed the race lead to Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), the Italian battling with Luthi out at the front. As Luthi took the lead Nakagami and Robin Mulhauser (CarXpert Interwetten) were also handed ride through penalties for jumping the race start. At this stage Nakagami was sat in third position.
The battle continued to rage between Luthi and Morbidelli at the front, the Italian living up to his reputation as one of the hardest men in the intermediate class, throwing himself up the inside of Luthi whenever a gap opened.
With 15 laps to go Nakagami came into the pits for his ride through penalty, promoting Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) to third with Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) right behind him. Luthi and Morbidelli remained locked in combat, two great battles for first and third lifting the crowd to their feet. The Swiss rider showed his experience, staying cool, calm and collected despite the constant assault from Morbidelli.
On lap ten Morbidelli regained the lead of the race and attempted to open up a gap ahead of Luthi. Behind the leading duo, Cortese latched onto Corsi like a rabid dog, doing everything he could to remain with the Italian as they raced for the final podium spot.
The battle for fifth was also thrilling, Luis Salom (SAG Team) leading a group of five riders including reigning Moto3™ World Champion Danny Kent (Leopard Racing). Little did they know this would quickly become a battle for the podium. On the 14th lap of the race it was announced that the race starts of Morbidelli and Cortese, who were at the time in first and fourth, were under investigation by race direction.
Unaware of what was going on, Morbidelli continued to push at the front with Luthi in tow, the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS man doing all he could to earn his first race victory in the World Championship.
In the closing laps Morbidelli was able to hold a steady lead of just over a tenth of a second from Luthi but midway through the penultimate lap the Swiss rider saw his chance and began to close in. Unfortunately for the Italian and his team it was announced on the final lap that Morbidelli would be handed a 20 second penalty after the race. Sandro Cortese was also given the same penalty.
This fact was unknown by the leading duo, Morbidelli and Luthi continuing to fight for the win as normal. Luthi just edged out the Italian as they dragged to the line, but it would be of little consequence as Morbidelli found himself pushed down to seventh.
Luis Salom and Simone Corsi completed the podium, both in their first races with new teams. Corsi was also the leading non-Kalex machine, a great first result for Speed Up.
There was a stunning fourth place finish for Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) who ended ahead of experienced campaigner Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten).
On his return to the Moto2™ class, Kent secured sixth ahead of Morbidelli. A great ride after his jump-start penalty saw Alex Rins end the race in eighth ahead of Lowes, who also received a penalty for the same incident.
Completing the top ten was Moto2™ rookie Luca Marini (Forward Team), Rossi’s half brother battling through the pain barrier for a top ten finish after a heavy crash in Qualifying on Saturday.
Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) crashed out of the race. With 14 laps remaining Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) fell at Turn 4. Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team) fell with five laps remaining, but remounted before retiring. Axel Pons (AGR Team) slid off at Turn 14 late in the race, as did Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing). No riders were seriously injured.
The 2016 Moto3™ World Championship officially began at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, a thrilling racing unfolding under the floodlights as 33 riders hunted a strong result to start their 2016 campaigns with. All riders opted for the medium front and medium rear tyre options.
Starting from pole position, Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) charged off the line to lead during the opening corners with Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) hot on his tail. Loi attempted to take the lead with 17 laps to go before running wide at Turn 1, dropping outside the top five.
Brad Binder and Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) tried to break away but the great impact of the slipstream in Qatar saw all of the top 20 riders running together. Positions constantly changed as the top five slowly began to ease out an advantage with 15 laps remaining. The straight continued to see dramatic changes in position, the rider leading out of the final corner frequently finding themselves sucked back to fifth.
Throughout the race Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) was the strongest Mahindra, the Italian a stalwart of the top five. The Mahindra rider was able to dice with the likes of Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold), repeating his superb ride from the 2015 race.
As the laps ticked down, rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) hunted the riders ahead, his aggressive style from the Moto3™ Junior World Championship going nowhere since stepping up. With 11 laps remaining the Italian cut the gap down to under three tenths, able to finally benefit from the leader’s slipstream.
With half race distance complete, Binder once again took the lead, benefiting from the frantic fighting behind. Try as he might to escape, the South African was caught by Fenati on the straight and the brawl resumed once more. The leading six continued to tussle, Binder able to stretch a small lead through the corners but caught each time down the straight.
Behind the leading six a large eight-rider battle rumbled along for tenth position, Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) controlling the second group for much of the race.
With four laps to go rookie Bulega struck and took the lead, Binder responding immediately as the two KTM men sparred for supremacy. Bulega was able to retake the lead as his teammate Romano Fenati put in several hard moves to wrestle his way into second; meanwhile Enea ‘The Beast’ Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) cut the gap with each lap.
In true Moto3™ style it all came down to the last lap, Binder beginning it in the lead as Romano Fenati ran wide at the first corner and dropped to sixth. The corners ticked down as Antonelli tucked in behind the South African, waiting for his chance to strike.
The drag to the line was where it all happened as Antonelli played the race to perfection, pulling out of Binder’s slipstream to steal the race by 0.007s. Binder was second with Bagnaia putting his Mahindra on the podium. This is Antonelli’s third career victory and his best ever start to a season. In similar fashion, Binder’s seventh career podium is by far the South Africans best opening round.
Fenati secured a solid fourth from pole while Bastianini rounded out the top five.
Bulega’s heroic charge saw him end sixth on his full time World Championship debut ahead of Jorge Navarro, Livio Loi, Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) and Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) completing the top ten.