Spoiler Alert: 2015 Qatar MotoGP results from Losail International Circuit listed below.
When we reported on Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso’s sensational pole at Losail International Circuit yesterday, we said the skeptics who questioned the new GP15 had been hushed.
This proved true in Sunday’s 22-lap season opener, though Dovi was denied the win, which would have been the first for Ducati since Phillip Island in 2010 (Casey Stoner). Dovizioso gave it all he got, proving the GP15 developed by Ducati’s new Team Manager Luigi Dall’Igna is competitive.
But following an intense duel, he was edged out by a rider who didn’t perform too well during free practice or qualifying – nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi.
The 36-year-old Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1 pilot Rossi – the oldest rider in 2015 MotoGP – used his experience to open up a tiny gap on Dovi during the final two laps. The Italian would finish 0.174 of a second ahead of Dovi. Taking third was yet another Ducati GP15 – the factory Desmosedici piloted by Dovi’s teammate Andrea Iannone.
The reigning MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez, who won the opening 10 races of 2015 MotoGP, fought for a respectable fifth after falling back to last place. This was Rossi’s 109th GP victory; his last win arrived at Phillip Island last season. Also, the last time Rossi won a season opener was in 2010 (Yamaha).
“In the last three seasons I always rode solid races and arrived on the podium but to come back with a victory is another thing. I am so happy because we suffered a lot during the practices and also the tests, but we worked very well for the 22 laps race and I was very strong,” Rossi says.
“First of all you have to be lucky, but especially the work that we do with the team during the weekend makes the difference for my pace in the race. It was definitely one of the best races of my career, considering where we were yesterday. I really have to thank all my team, my engineers and all at Yamaha because I think today we did something amazing.”
Starting from pole, Dovi got to turn one first, but two-time MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo was the immediate threat. Behind, Marquez – who qualified third – ran wide on turn one, falling back to last place (25th). From there he would began picking off riders.
Up front, Lorenzo’s Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1 was strong on the brakes, but couldn’t match the straightaway speeds of Dovizioso’s GP15. As the two swapped the lead multiple times, Iannone ran smoothly behind in third, waiting for a mistake from the leaders.
Rossi made his way to the front from a 10th-place start, and by mid race he took Iannone for third. Up front, the battle continued between Lorenzo and Dovizioso. While Lorenzo was in the lead with four laps remaining, Dovi made his way past, and Rossi followed.
Then began some epic battling between Dovi and Rossi for first, and Iannone and Lorenzo for the final-podium position. Rossi would edge out Dovizioso for the win, and Iannone would do the same to Lorenzo for the final-podium position.
This was Ducati’s first double podium since 2010 Aragon MotoGP when two-time MotoGP Champion Stoner won and former Ducati pilot Nicky Hayden finished third.
Following the race, Dovizioso said “This is a special result for Ducati and for me, after everything we have been through in the last few years, and it rewards the work that we have done together to arrive at this point. I never expected to be so competitive in the first race, and it really is an extraordinary result.
“I want to thank all the engineers and the people in Bologna, who managed to get the bike ready in time for the Sepang 2 tests, the mechanics who have worked so hard this weekend and all the guys in Ducati Corse for the commitment they have demonstrated with this project. Iannone and I managed to get two podiums for Ducati and that’s a great result, but above all now I believe that this is only a starting-point for the future.”
As for Lorenzo, he reported having some issues with his HJC helmet: “It was a difficult race. After the first lap, I found myself in second place and I followed Dovizioso. I was faster and I passed him where I could in the fast corners. On the speed and in braking the Ducati was much stronger than our bike, but we could recover on corner speed while the acceleration was similar. To be honest, I thought that I could win the race, though it surely wasn‘t going to be easy, because Valentino had a very strong pace at the end of the race.
“I was feeling better and better, but suddenly there was something wrong when in the top part of the helmet the foam came loose and came down so I lost half of my vision. I couldn‘t see the corners very well and couldn‘t concentrate or ride like before and I was losing half a second or more per lap. In a race where, at minimum I could fight for the win, I finished fourth.”
After putting into an impressive performance, Marquez took a lonely fifth 7.036 seconds behind Rossi. He was surely on a rampage, setting a new record speed of 217.66 mph en route to fifth. The 22-year-old’s teammate and Spanish compatriot Dani Pedrosa followed, 10.755 seconds behind Rossi. Pedrosa had issues once again with arm pump in his right forearm, and doctors have advised against another operation. His future is uncertain.
Rounding out the top 10 were the top-satellite pilot, CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (-12.384 seconds), Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith (-12.914), Smith’s teammate Pol Espargaro (-13.031) and Pramac Racing Ducati’s Yonny Hernandez (-17.435).
Aleix Espargaro finished 11th for Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR’s debut, and Marco Melandri 21st for Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s debut. Avintia Racing Ducati’s Hector Barbera finished 15th (-33.625) to take the top Open class time.
As for the sole American in 2015 MotoGP, Aspar MotoGP Honda’s Nicky Hayden finished 17th, 38.970 behind Rossi.
With his win, Rossi now has a perfect 25 points – five ahead of Dovizioso and nine ahead of Iannone.
The 18-round 2015 MotoGP Championship now breaks for two weeks before heading to Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. The new North American road-racing series spearheaded by three-time 500cc Champion Wayne Rainey – MotoAmerica – also makes it debut that weekend.
2015 Qatar MotoGP Results:
1. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha: 42:35.717
2. Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati: – 0.174s
3. Andrea Iannone, Ducati: -2.250s
4. Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha: – 2.707s
5. Marc Marquez, Honda: -7.036s
6. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda: -10.755s
7. Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda: – 12.384s
8. Bradley Smith, Tech 3 Yamaha: -12.914s
9. Pol Espargaro, Tech 3 Yamaha: -13.031s
10. Yonny Hernandez, Pramac Racing Ducati: -17.435s
11. Aleix Espargaro, Suzuki: -19.901s
12. Danilo Petrucci, Pramac Racing Ducati: -24.432s
13. Scott Redding, Marc VDS Honda: -32.032s
14. Maverick Vinales, Suzuki: -33.463s
15. Hector Barbera, Avintia Racing Ducati: -33.625s
16. Stefan Bradl, Forward Racing Yamaha: -33.944s
17. Nicky Hayden, Aspar Honda: -38.970s
18. Eugene Laverty, Aspar Honda: -46.570s
19. Mike Di Meglio, Avintia Racing Ducati: -59.211s
20. Alex de Angelis, IodaRacing Project ART/Aprilia: 1:14.981
21. Marco Melandri, Aprilia Gresini: -1:48.143
22. Loris Baz, Forward Racing Yamaha: – 3 Laps
DNF (crash) – Karel Abraham, AB Motoracing Honda
DNF (crash) – Jack Miller, LCR Honda
DNF (technical issues) – Alvaro Bautista, Aprilia Gresini