The 21-year-old Spaniard fractured the leg while dirt-track training, and many expected a mediocre season-opening performance. Practice results were dull, and it appeared Marquez may have a rough start to the 2014 MotoGP seasonBut this all changed Saturday when Marquez took the pole for Qatar – his 10th pole since joining the series in 2013. His performance on sticky qualifying Bridgestone rubber was impressive, but one question remained – could Marquez’s leg handle the torture of 22 laps around Losail? Especially with the added psychological stamina needed to endure a night race?But by lap 8, it was obvious Marquez could win. The Spaniard was in second, attempting to close the gap on the then-leader, LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl. The German was given the lead after Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo crashed on the opening lap. And the same scenario happened for Marquez when Bradl crashed out with 14 to go.Once in the lead, Marquez was forced to battled with the other factory Yamaha pilot, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi. The two swapped the lead numerous times up to the final corners of the race. And even with healing leg, the youngster was able to outride the 34-year-old Rossi – the most experienced racer on the grid in modern MotoGP.Marquez would beat Rossi to the line by 0.259 of a second. Taking the final podium position was Marquez’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, who finished 3.370 of a second back. Equally as impressive as Marquez’s performance was Aleix Espargaro’s; he finished fourth on the Open-option Yamaha.Following one of the most exciting races that ushered in the new era of MotoGP that features Factory- and Open-option motorcycles, the riders had much to say. Following are rider quotes from 2014 Qatar MotoGP:Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP) says: “I’m very happy with the result today. The 25 points are important but it’s also been an important race, because I was coming back from an injury that caused me to miss most of the pre-season. Also, this weekend there were a lot of riders up at the front, all with a great pace, and seeing how the race went, this win is a big one. The battle with Valentino was the best part of the race besides the win, I really enjoyed it!”Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1) says: “I’m very happy but a little bit upset because I lost. Marc is very strong and I enjoyed very much the whole race. It was a great race, very funny from the beginning, I started from behind and I had to risk in the first laps. I was very precise and didn’t make any mistakes.“At the end I played my card with Marc but he was stronger than me so he won and he deserved it. It’s the first time it looked like an old race from MotoGP from ten years ago, all together on the same pace, some mistakes, going wide and so on. Maybe Dorna had a great idea! The Yamaha is always good in Qatar and I worked very hard in the practice for the race. I’m very happy with the work of my team and the bike was great in the race too. But anyway I am so happy for this start to the year, now we have to continue like this. Usually Jorge is so fantastic and so strong in the first laps so I don’t understand what the mistake was.”Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP) says: “Third place is a positive result. We’ve finished on the podium this weekend at a circuit that’s difficult for me, because it isn’t well suited to my style. So it’s a good way to start. We were close, but with the way the race went -with so many crashes- it was important to finish. So from here on in we will try to keep improving and try to fight for the win at the next race!”Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “I’m happy with this result for myself and the team,” Espargaro commented. “Saturday’s two mistakes made my race really difficult. I started from the third row and I struggled a lot with the full tank to overtake the two Ducatis, as they had a great advantage in terms of top speed in the long straight. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, so I didn’t push as I wanted from the beginning. I was patient and waited for the right moment to pass.”“It’s a pity because we had the pace to fight with the front guys but I have to be happy because we are fourth in the championship. I thank my team and Colin Edwards as they gave me some parts of his second machine to rebuild my bike that was completely destroyed after the qualifying crashes.”Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “I made a mistake, it was a long time ago that I last did that in a race! We are not perfect; we are only human and sometimes we make mistakes. The tires were different to last year and the temperature of the tarmac was a little colder.“I didn’t take these circumstances into account and I was too fast into the corner when the front and rear tyre were not ready yet. It’s a pity to lose so many points with Marc and Valentino and Dani who are the favorites. Valentino demonstrated that the Yamaha can fight even with these torso and the championship is very long so lets see what happens in Austin.”Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000RR MotoGP) says: “We had to change our start procedure tonight and it wasn’t easy, there were riders everywhere but I managed to get into a better rhythm than the test and practice here, setting consistent 1.56s. I tried everything to stay with Pol Espargaro before he stopped, but in the end I had worn out the left hand side of the tyre and ran off.”“It ended up a straight battle between me and Scott Redding, we passed each other a few times and he got me on the line. A few riders crashed but we made it to the end and picked up eighth. We set a great pace at the start of the race, now we need to work on the second half and try to improve on what we have learnt here. I want to thank the team, Honda and all the sponsors for their efforts. Now we need to look ahead to the next race.”Hiroshi Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R MotoGP) says: “It was a tough race because as the night progressed the temperatures dropped and the feeling with the tyres worsened, which is why so many riders crashed. Personally I chose the softest option tyre and it was difficult to adapt my pace according to the temperature but I got in a fight with Hernandez and even though my pace was better than his I couldn’t get away.”“If I hadn’t got caught up with him I might have finished higher up but anyway I am happy because it has been a tough weekend and the team has done a great job. We found a good setting yesterday and it has paid off today with eleventh place.”Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V MotoGP) says: “Luckily I’m fine, but It was a strange crash: I entered corner number 2 in the same way as the previous laps but I suddenly lost the front. I had some problems with the brakes during the race: I don’t know if this has contributed to the fall, however I am very sorry for the team.“Until the crash I was having fun battling for the first positions: my start was not so good, but gradually I was able to charge through the field. At one point I found myself in second place and surely we could get on the podium. Too bad we haven’t finished the race. I apologize to the team and my fans, and I hope to bring home the result next time.”Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V MotoGP) says: “I am very happy! I was expecting to be able to follow Hayden for a few laps, not for the entire race and even beat him! In the first laps I wanted to exploit the potential of the softer tire and I was pretty aggressive, making some moves.“At that point I followed Hayden for a lot of laps, then I felt that he let me pass, only to overtake me soon after. I knew, however, that I could be faster than him, so in the latter part of the race I tried to overtake him on the fast sector, with a big move, then I pushed as much as I could for the last two laps. We reached our goal, which was to be the best Open class Honda.”Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team GP14 MotoGP) say: “We have to look at the positive aspects of this result, because in view of the championship a fifth place is always important.“But another important objective for us was to reduce the gap to the winner, and we managed to cut that down by half from last year, and that’s another important fact. We still have understeer problems that condition our performance in the race, but I am pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, even though we still have to work hard to improve our bike.”Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team GP14 MotoGP) says: “It was a bittersweet race for me. Finishing in sixth place is a good result, I needed to repay the boys with a finish because they worked hard after the warm-up, when I crashed out. In the race, from lap 5 onwards, we had an electrical problem: the transponder wasn’t working, the dash switched off and the bike began to behave strangely.“I was pleased to be competitive until mid-way with Aleix and Dovi but I struggled to finish the race because the problem got worse towards the end. However it was important to get this race distance under our belt for Ducati and come away from here in not too bad a shape.”Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V MotoGP) says: “Actually it’s difficult for me to express my feelings right now. In somehow I did a very good job because I took a good start from the third row making a perfect first lap. Honestly I was not expecting such a strong performance considering the issues we had in the last days but for the race I felt strong and determined.“Basically I can not say why I crashed because I made the same maneuver of the lap before but I lost the front in turn six. Luckily I am OK and the positive thing is that I have done a big step in the race. Many riders crashed on left corners so probably the humidity was too high and affected the grip level ..Anyway let’s go ahead to Austin which is another track that I like very much.”Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “It’s plain to see that this wasn’t the ideal way to finish the opening race of the season as I gave everything that I possibly could have during the race. I was feeling good on the bike, however it was difficult to close the final second to the front runners but with five or six laps to go I was determined to try and catch them.“Unfortunately, I then fell. I want to thank my team, especially after the big crash and the repairs that they had to do on Friday. Now I need to refocus a little bit, taking all the positives out of this weekend and then go to Austin with this new found confidence and be as competitive there.”Pol Espargaro (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “I really can’t say that luck helped us today, even if we deserved it after this weekend. We didn’t start with the best of terms as I am still not completely healed from my shoulder injury.“Then I crashed on Friday and my confidence fell slightly. The good news was that my injury didn’t worsen because of this, and the team did a great job helping me to raise my confidence. With regards to today, it’s unfortunate that this happened as I could have finished inside the top six on my MotoGP debut.“I am still happy with my performance because the results all weekend were competitive Before my problems started, I was just eight seconds behind the leader and catching Dovizioso and Aleix, which was more than I could have hoped for. Now I will rest and prepare for the next race in Austin as I definitely want to be at my 100 percent there.”
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.