Grand Prix of Qatar
18 March 2018
Dovizioso takes a great victory from Márquez and Rossi
The 2018 season opener was full of drama, battles and overtakes.
MotoGP isn't really a contact sport! But you wouldn't guess that by the number of times riders touched each other as the race went on!
The lights went out and it was Marc Márquez who flew from the start along side pole man Johann Zarco. Márquez tried to take the lead on the inside, Zarco was having none of it and retook the lead. Zarco recovered from drifting wide at turn 16 on the opening lap to dive back up the inside of Márquez at turn 1 to lead, while Andrea Dovizioso had a poor start and was tenth.
A few laps later though, Factory Repsol Honda rider, Márquez got by Zarco as he went wide at turn one. The Frenchman, Zarco, managed to slipstream past Márquez to take the lead again.
Starting eighth on the grid, Valentino Rossi used his skill and experience to pick off riders, one by one, getting past Dani Pedrosa to take third. Fast starting Dani Pedrosa dropped back down the order as the top seven pulled away at the front from Maverick Viñales, the Qatar race winner from 12 months ago.
Rossi caught Márquez and soon passed him to take second behind Zarco. Rossi was patient, looking where the Yamaha Tech3 rider was weakest, before making his pass for the lead. Fellow Yamaha rider, Maverick Viñales, in eighth, stepped up his pace and set the fastest lap in a bid to catch the leaders. Dovizioso then made the fastest lap of the race getting with the leading three.
With Zarco and Rossi dicing for the lead, Márquez made a daring pass to take second with 12 laps to go. Meanwhile, race favourite, Andrea Dovizioso, who made a poor start, started working his way past the riders.
Álex Rins was the first rider to crash out, midway in the race. The Factory Ducati riders had different fortunes. Lorenzo slipped off on lap 13 at turn four as Dovizioso began his charge up the order.
With seven laps still to go, the race was still wide-open with any of the seven in the leading pack capable of claiming victory. The seven rider train, led by Dovizioso, was joined by Viñales after his tricky start.
Soon Dovizioso was up with the leaders. Behind Rossi, the two swapped places a few times before he made it stick and took third behind Márquez and Zarco. Zarco was looking good and in control in the lead.
Dovizioso's speed meant he was real threat as he passed Márquez again for second and then into first past Johann Zarco on lap 15. Márquez pushed passed Zarco and Rossi followed as Zarco dropped down to fourth as his soft tyres deteriorated.
Dovizioso got by Rossi and Márquez, but he could not shake off Márquez. The two headed into the final lap with little to choose between them. Márquez pushed to the limit and had a go at the final corner as he went for the inside, but Dovizioso switched to the inside and quickly put on the power take the win by just 0.027 of a second in front of Márquez.
Rossi tried all he knew to challenge the leading pair, but had to settle for third as his tyres gave up. Valentino kept up the Movistar Yamaha's podium run at the Losail International Circuit with third place. LCR Honda's Cal Crutchlow, the British rider claiming top independent team in fourth place.
Behind the top four, Danilo Petrucci had to settle for fifth place for Pramac Ducati after fading from his impressive start. Factory Yamaha Maverick Viñales climbed to sixth place late on. Pedrosa got the better of fading Zarco to take seventh place at the finish.
Andrea Iannone picked up points for the Factory Suzuki Team in ninth place, while Jack Miller rounded out the top ten on his Pramac Ducati debut.
Tito Rabat had a good start to 2018 in 11th place for Reale Avintia Ducati Team, ahead of top finishing rookie Franco Morbidelli on his Marc VDS Honda debut, ahead of Alvaro Bautista 13th, Angel Nieto Ducati, Hafizh Syahrin, Tech3 Yamaha and Karel Abraham, Angel Nieto Ducati, who complete the top 15 finishers.
It was a thrilling battle between the two racers, following on from last season as Márquez and Dovizioso continued their rivalry. Once again it was Dovizioso who got the better of Márquez in the last corner shoot out. He takes his first win at this circuit, after finishing second at Qatar for the last three years.
GRAND PRIX OF QATAR MotoGP Race Classification
Doha, Sunday, March 18, 2018
Compiled and provided by motogp.com
Post Race Rider Interviews
Rossi explained it was difficult to assess if he had podium pace he told MotoGP.com
"This year the problem was that the first ten riders had a very similar pace, so you had to wait for the whole race to see what was enough for the podium. But I am happy because in the last period, the strongest on the track were Dovizioso and Márquez, so to stay with them until the end is a good way to start the season".
"At the beginning, I didn't want to overtake Zarco, but after you overtake there is slipstream and air, and this is difficult to control so I went wide and at the moment Márquez overtook, who was followed by Dovi. I tried to overtake, but at that moment all the wolves behind were attacking - they were trying to take a leg or my arm! Without that mistake I might have had the pace to fight for the win with these guys, but I don't know if I am able to win."
"It's a very good way to start the season, for me personally it's a different situation to last year. Arriving on the podium last year was a surprise, one I didn't expect to at all especially after the warm-up, but this time I knew I could do a good race."
"After qualifying I was not very happy about the balance, and we modified it to save the front tyre. This meant we saved the tyre, but lost speed so on Sunday we tried everything and if not, then 'Ciao!' We were able to improve everything, but the good and the bad will change from one track to another, and the difference will be big, so no one knows what will happen in Argentina."
Marc Márquez had this to say after the race.
"I'm very happy with how we finished the weekend in second place and with 20 points,"
"It's one of the most difficult circuits for me and for Honda and we were able to be there, and we were able to start the season as we finished - it's like deja vu! Like the last corner in the Red Bull Ring and Motegi, and again I tried, again I lost! But today Dovi deserved the victory because he was faster than us and this second is like a victory for us".
When asked if he'll manage to pull of that last corner overtake he said
"I'll try," smiles Márquez.
"Someday maybe I'll do it. But today he beat me again!"
We asked about his tactics for the last corner Marc said
"I needed to make the move to be able to sleep tonight. I was able to brake late, but Dovi braked very, very late also and I tried to be close enough, to brake, to stop the bike, but I struggled and he stopped better than me. I tried to be tight but he was faster, and he overtook me before the finish line. Anyway, for the show it was a great race!"
Race winner Andrea Dovizioso
Told MotoGP "I'm not sure I'll be able to keep doing this tactic! But I will try every time, for the win!"
"I have to change strategies," grins the Italian, "because I think now he understands! I'm joking. I couldn't do anything different and I'm happy to make the right manoeuvre, but it was even more difficult and I had to pass through the kerb on the inside." And once again, the strongest point for the Italian machine came into play: "I used the power of the Ducati to keep the lead."
"In the last four laps when I was at the front, I tried to create a gap but I couldn't," explains 'Dovi', "because the tyre was finished. So, this confirms that everyone was on the limit - it was very soft, softer than last year so everybody had to do the same. But I'm really happy because it confirms the work we did last winter and the test we did here. We arrived here with a really good bike, better than last year, but in the next two rounds it will be difficult for our bike so let's see, because we are faster and we have to improve to fight for the championship."
That's the fantastic first race.
MotoGP 2018 Round Two Argentina
Next it to South America, to Termas de Rio Hondo International Circuit, Argentina on Sunday 8 April 2018. Free practice starts Friday 6th April.
My race report, photos and rider interviews will be here soon after the flag waves!
Coming soon my Argentina preview.
An interesting look at the circuit and surrounding areas.
- Roland Potter