Last season, Repsol Honda’s Marc Márquez snatched the MotoGP title, with the Spaniard claiming his fourth premier-class championship in five years. In hot pursuit was Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso.This rivalry between the Spaniard and Italian was renewed last month at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit for the opening round of 2018 MotoGP. This time, it was Dovizioso who came out on top, the GP18 Desmosedici fending off a daring last-corner pass attempt to claim the victory by a mere 0.027 of a second ahead of Márquez.
Finishing third was Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi, who pleased his fans in March by announcing a two-year extension to continue competing in MotoGP with the factory Yamaha team.The 19-round 2018 MotoGP Championship now heads to South America for the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, a 25-lap race around the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, which will host Grand Prix motorcycle racing for the fifth-straight year.Dovizioso played it smart at Qatar, keeping his tires ready for the end: “Towards the end, after passing (Johann) Zarco, I tried to pull out a gap on Marquez and Rossi but I didn’t have any more grip and was unable to increase my lead.“At the last curve I had to be very careful because I knew that Márquez would try and pass me, and that’s how it went. He closed the door on me even more than in Austria and Japan, but I passed him on the inside of the curb and then took advantage of the power of my Desmosedici to stay ahead. Once again it was a great satisfaction!”Dovizioso, who claimed his eighth-career MotoGP win under the floodlights, will now seek satisfaction once again this weekend in Argentina. He surely won’t want a repeat of last season when he retired after Aleix Espargaró (Aprilia Gresini) tucked the front and crashed into Dovi, taking the Italian out of the race. Dovizioso’s best finish at Termas de Rio Honda was second back in 2015.“This circuit is rather unusual, in that the conditions change a lot between Friday, when the track surface is usually very dirty, and Sunday, when the asphalt has improved considerably,” Andrea Dovizioso says.“Last year at Termas we struggled a lot, but the Desmosedici GP has improved a lot since then and after the win in Qatar we are very excited, so our aim now is to get a good result also in Argentina!”As for Márquez, his results are split 50/50 in Argentina – two DNFs and two wins. Last season, Márquez claimed his fourth-straight pole in Argentina, but crashed out while dueling with eventual winner, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales.Márquez knows this will be a tough season, but is ready to stay out front in Argentina.“We started the season with a great race and a close podium finish in Qatar, and we had a positive test in Jerez last week,” Marc Márquez says. “I feel good at the moment, happy with my bike and with how my team is working, but we’re just at the beginning of what will surely be a tough season. We must wait and see how it goes at different circuits, starting with Termas this Sunday.“I like the Argentinian track and I enjoy the atmosphere with the fans, who are always very passionate and supportive, but we must not lower our guard. After the excitement of the first race, it’s now time to be calm, concentrate, and work hard to try and be faster. I think this Championship is very open, with many strong rivals that can fight for the victory on Sunday. At the moment everything seems very equal, and during the season we’ll see who is able to improve and to consistently stay at the front.”Rossi finished Qatar in third, and last season, he finished second behind Vinales. The nine-time World Champion also finished second in 2016, and won there in 2015.“Last year we were very strong in Argentina,” Valentino Rossi says. “We came first and second and I think it was the best race of our team that season. But since then the balance of the rider field has changed – our rivals are stronger now. It will be a hard fight, but I like the track and usually our bike works well there. It could be a surprising weekend, but I hope to be strong.”Viñales began his debut season with Yamaha last year by claiming the opening two rounds, including the round-two win in Argentina. However, he would only claim one additional win at Le Mans, and finished third overall in 2017. Viñales struggled at Qatar three weeks ago to seventh, but will be looking for redemption at Termas de Rio Hondo.Two other factory pilots will also seek redemption in Argentina—Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo and Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo, who DNFed at Argentina the past two seasons, suffered a brake problem at Qatar, and crashed out. As for Pedrosa, he finished seventh in Qatar while struggling with a left-hand injury from a crash during testing.As for Independent Riding Team pilots, Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johann Zarco was leading the pack at the beginning of Qatar, but fell back only to finish eight due to worn tires. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow also performed well at Qatar, finishing just off the podium. Crutchlow also finished on the podium last season in Argentina.As for the rookies, the battle is one between Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) after the reigning Moto2 Champion finished 12th in Qatar, and Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in 14th.Free practice gets underway Friday, April 6, ahead of Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s MotoGP race.
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!