Repsol Honda’s Marquez only 0.027s off victory in Qatari thriller
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) commenced the historic 70th season of motorcycle Grand Prix racing with a breath-taking ride to second place under the floodlights in Qatar.
The reigning World Champion played a lead role at the front of the pack to take the lead at the very last corner, then ran fractionally wide, allowing Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) to win by just 0.027 seconds.
The race was an epic, with at least half a dozen riders in the lead pack for most of the 22 laps. At half distance the top eight riders were covered by just 1.2 seconds!
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) also played their part in the hugely entertaining battle, finishing fourth and seventh.
Marquez led the first lap, then spent much of the race fighting for position in the lead group, with early leader Johann Zarco (Yamaha), Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and then Dovizioso.
During the final few laps the leaders were able to up their pace – Dovizioso out front and Marquez chasing hard, just ahead of Rossi, while Zarco ran out of grip and dropped back.
On the final lap Marquez rode on the very limit to put himself in the position to attack Dovizioso. As always, his approach was ‘all-in’, the 25-year-old diving inside his Italian rival at the final turn 16. He did briefly lead, but he had carried so much speed into the corner that he couldn’t quite hold his line and Dovizioso was able to regain the advantage as they accelerated out of the corner. Nonetheless Marquez was delighted with his ride at a track that’s always been a challenge both for him and for Honda. HRC have revised the RC213V engine for this year, which allowed the youngster to mount his strongest challenge in years at Losail. This was his best result here since he won the 2014 MotoGP race.
Crutchlow also had reason to be cheerful. Although the 32-year-old Briton missed the podium by just one position he finished top independent-team rider. Also, this was by far his best-ever ride at Losail, just two seconds away from victory, confirming that this year he is more competitive than he has ever been. His pace and confidence were even more impressive considering that he slid off during this afternoon’s warm-up session.
Pedrosa finished the race just 4.6 seconds behind the winner, fighting throughout after qualifying on the third row of the grid. This was a significant event for the 32-year-old former 125cc and 250cc World Champion: it was his 200th start in the premier-class, 13 years after he made his MotoGP debut at Jerez, Spain, in March 2006.
Honda has three rookies in MotoGP this season, so tonight’s race was a landmark event for all of them. Reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) enjoyed an excellent premier-debut to score points in 12th place. He took the checkered flag 16.274 seconds behind the winner, a difference of just 0.739 seconds per lap; a very promising start from the talented Italian.
Fellow Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) finished just out of the points in 16th and 17th, separated by 0.365 seconds. Both men rode strong races, despite the windy and sandy conditions. Luthi missed the last World Championship point for 15th pace by just nine tenths of a second!
Nakagami bounced back well from yesterday’s crash, which left him 23rd on the starting grid.
Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) scored his first Moto2 victory in stunning style, leading the whole race, apart from turn 15 on the final lap, when Lorenzo Baldassari (Pons HP40 Kalex) pounced into the corner, only for Bagnaia to regain the advantage on the exit. The 21-year-old former Moto3 winner held that advantage to the finish line, by just 0.112 seconds.
The first Honda CBR600-powered Moto2 race of 2018 was a tense three-way contest between Bagnaia, Baldassarri and Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex), who all rode inch-perfect races, gaining and losing nothing more than a tenth here and there.
Baldassarri and Marquez had a brief battle at half-distance, exchanging second place several times on lap 11. Baldassarri won this duel, then Marquez ran into rear-brake issues a few laps later, which ended his hopes of mounting an end-of-race victory attack.
Bagnaia started the final lap just 0.14 seconds ahead of Baldassarri, who inched closer and closer until he was able to squeeze past into the lead at the penultimate corner. But he had carried too much momentum into the turn and Bagnaia was able to regain the lead as the pair accelerated towards the final corner.
Marquez meanwhile had to work hard during the final laps to defend the last place on the podium from the threat of Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex). Finally Marquez took the checkered flag one second ahead of the Italian veteran.
Pasini had earlier broken clear of a thrilling five-way skirmish with two pairs of team-mates: Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM), then Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP Suter) and Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP Suter). The quartet finished in that order, separated by 1.3 seconds.
Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) and Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex), completed the top ten, just 0.21 seconds apart. Top rookie was reigning Moto3 World Champion Joan Mir (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex), who did superbly to fight his way through to 11th from 24th on the grid.
Victory in the first race of the day and therefore the first of the season went to Moto3 star Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) who won a race-long duel with fellow NSF250RW rider Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) by just 0.023 seconds. The all-Honda podium was completed by Italian Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW).
The two leading Spaniards broke away from the pack and raced on their own once Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) had slid off while battling with them. Canet led on several occasions but Martin always swiftly retook the lead. However, was Canet playing a waiting game? He drafted Martin out of the final corner but didn’t quite have the speed to slingshot past on the start-finish. This was 20-year-old Martin’s second Grand Prix victory, following his first at last November’s season-ending Valencia GP, and was particularly impressive considering that he had slid off in warm-up.
Dalla Porta’s third-place finish was a real thriller, the 20-year-old Italian crossing the line at the front of a frantic group of 11 riders, separated by just two seconds! This was Dalla Porta’s first podium finish.
Pole-starter Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) had a more complicated race, dropping to tenth place at one point, but recovering to finish fourth, 0.045 seconds behind Dalla Porta. Gabriel Rodrigo (KTM) was the first non-Honda rider in fifth, chased past the checkered flag by Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) and Japan’s great hopes Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW).
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team: 2nd
“What a race! I’m really happy with our second-place finish because this is one of the tracks on the calendar where we struggle most. After the preseason tests we knew what we could expect. With the hard front tyre I was struggling a bit in the left corners but with the medium I wouldn’t have finished the race. I tried to pass Dovi in the last corner but he beat me. Honestly, I was expecting that, but I had to try the move anyway, to see if there was any way we could make it happen. In the end, Dovi had something more than me and he deserves this win. Even if he was a bit behind at the start, I was waiting for him; I was waiting for the red! I knew his tactic was to push at the end and when he passed Zarco I said to myself, ‘let’s go!’ I followed him and almost went wide, but it was a great race and a great show. The thing I’m most happy about is that this time, we were able to stay with him on the straight and this is very good.”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL: 4th
“I’m happy. Obviously, the aim today was to finish on the podium, but then again the aim was to get points here, because the last two years we have gone away without any points. It’s a long championship, so we have to be thankful to the LCR team which has done such a great job over the winter. Honda has also done a great job with our engine. We were able to be more competitive, especially on the straights and so we didn’t have to fight the bike so much in the corners. All credit to the guys who finished on the podium, they did a great job. But it’s not nice when you’re in a race like that, because you’ve got no idea if you’re going to win or finish ninth. I remember looking at one of the big TV screens at one point and there were seven riders abreast on the straight. I was thinking: why am I in the middle if this?! But it was good fun. The team did a great job, so now we are looking forward to Argentina.”
HONDA Moto2 RIDER QUOTES
Francesco Bagnaia, Sky Racing Team VR46: 1st
“I’m really happy to have started the season in this way! Today we have collected the fruits of the great work done in these months. We focused on the race pace and this was the key for the victory. I decided to get on track with the hardest compound available, but it went well. Compared to last year, I made an important step on the management of the first laps, when the tank is full and today I was really fast. A long race: I started strong, but Marquez and Baldassarri reduced the gap and in the last laps I had to close all the doors. This is the first victory for me and for the Team in Moto2: I dedicate it to all those who work on this project and have always supported me, my family and the guys at the VR46 Riders Academy.”
Lorenzo Baldassari, Pons HP40: 2nd
“It’s great to finish the first race of the season in second place. I am very happy with the result and I’m also happy with this great start with my new team. Throughout the weekend I felt very comfortable and it was the same in the race. I tried to win because I thought I was capable of doing this, but when I took the lead on the final lap I braked too late and couldn’t keep first place. But it’s a very positive result. I want to thank the team, the sponsors and all those who support me.”
HONDA Moto3 RIDER QUOTES
Jorge Martin, Del Conca Gresini Moto3: 1st
“It’s been a difficult day, which started this morning with a crash. I got a good start to the race and I pushed hard in the first ten laps, but when it was only between Canet and I, I chose to save the tyres for the end of the race. I realized I was a little faster than him at the penultimate corner, so I made the most of it in the final lap. It was very important to win the first race, because it’s a confidence boost; now I hope to be battling for the win in the next races as well.”
Aron Canet, Estrella Galicia 0,0: 2nd
“The race was tricky because after the start I was running in ninth or tenth, but I fought hard to reach the front group. Jorge broke away slightly, but I was able to recover ground and I set out the strategy of following him and trying to overtake him on the last straight, which would have been perfect, if it had worked out. In the end, however, it wasn’t to be, because we had the wind against us and when I got out of his slipstream my speed was not fast enough to pass him. I’m happy to be in second position in the World Championship.”
MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2018
Round 01: Qatar Race
|1||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)|
|2||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)|
|3||Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)|
|4||Cal CRUTCHLOW (LCR Honda CASTROL)|
|5||Danilo PETRUCCI (Alma Pramac Racing)|
|6||Maverick VIÑALES (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)|
|7||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)|
|8||Johann ZARCO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|9||Andrea IANNONE (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)|
|10||Jack MILLER (Alma Pramac Racing)|
|11||Tito RABAT (Reale Avintia Racing)|
|12||Franco MORBIDELLI (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|13||Alvaro BAUTISTA (Angel Nieto Team)|
|14||Hafizh SYAHRIN (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|15||Karel ABRAHAM (Angel Nieto Team)|
|1||Francesco BAGNAIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|2||Lorenzo BALDASSARRI (Pons HP40)|
|3||Alex MARQUEZ Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|4||Mattia PASINI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|5||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|6||Brad BINDER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|7||Marcel SCHROTTER (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|8||Xavi VIERGE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|9||Luca MARINI (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|10||Jorge NAVARRO (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|11||Joan MIR Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|12||Remy GARDNER (Tech 3 Racing)|
|13||Hector BARBERA (Pons HP40)|
|14||Simone CORSI (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2)|
|15||Dominique AEGERTER (Kiefer Racing)|
|1||Jorge MARTIN (Del Conca Gresini Moto3)|
|2||Aron CANET (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|3||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA (Leopard Racing)|
|4||Niccolò ANTONELLI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)|
|5||Gabriel RODRIGO (RBA BOE Skull Rider)|
|6||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO (Del Conca Gresini Moto3)|
|7||Kaito TOBA (Honda Team Asia)|
|8||Ayumu SASAKI (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|9||Jakub KORNFEIL (Redox PruestelGP)|
|10||Andrea MIGNO (Angel Nieto Team Moto3)|
|11||Adam NORRODIN (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|12||Jaume MASIA (Bester Capital Dubai)|
|13||Kazuki MASAKI (RBA BOE Skull Rider)|
|14||Marco BEZZECCHI (Redox PruestelGP)|
|15||Marcos RAMIREZ (Bester Capital Dubai)|