Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V) made a stunning MotoGP debut under the Losail floodlights this evening, finishing the race in a fighting third position. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) crossed the line 3.2 seconds behind his team-mate in fourth place.
Alvaro Bautista (Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V) completed the season-opening race in sixth place, while Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) slid off while contesting fifth position.
The race was won by reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, ahead of his Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi.
Marquez and Pedrosa spent much of the race together, chasing Lorenzo who led from start to finish. Marquez – who afterwards revealed that he was more nervous than ever before the race – made his move on his team-mate with six laps of the 22 laps remaining. Three laps later it was Marquez’s turn to come under pressure as Rossi came past, having made up for a couple of mistakes he had made in the early stages. The pair stayed locked together during the final few laps, providing a thrilling climax to the race. Marquez refused to give in and fought with his more experienced rival all the way to the finish. At the flag he was just 0.221 seconds behind Rossi. It was a remarkable performance from a rider with zero race experience in the premier class.
Pedrosa came into the race following a strong qualifying performance which followed a difficult first two days of practice. The Spaniard had worked with his crew to fix a lack of rear grip but still struggled with the issue during the race. He rode as hard as he knows how but this time he didn’t have the grip he required to match his rivals.
Bautista had hoped for better than sixth but was forced to ease his pace after a few concerns with front-end feeling into corners. He was the only prototype rider to choose the softer option Bridgestone front slick (all riders ran the harder rear) but this was not enough to give him what he needed to attack the corners with full confidence.
His team-mate Bryan Staring (GO&FUN Honda Gresini FTR Honda) had hopes of learning plenty in his first MotoGP race, only to slide off his CBR1000RR-powered CRT bike on the second lap. He was unable to continue and will have to wait for round two at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas to go for his first MotoGP finish.
Bradl was racing with Rossi when he lost the front at Turn Seven on lap nine. He walked away from the tumble unharmed but hugely disappointed. During practice the German had struggled with lack of front-end feeling, but by yesterday evening he seemed to have solved the issue which then mysteriously returned for the race.
The MotoGP World Championship continues with the Grand Prix of the Americas at the new COTA circuit in Austin, Texas, on April 21.
Honda MotoGP rider quotes
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: 3rd
“To tell the truth, I was pretty nervous on the grid because it was my first MotoGP race. I do not think I’ve ever been so nervous before. I found it hard to keep calm and I was not as focused as I used to be in Moto2. However, I regained my concentration at the last moment. The start was important and we knew that we were taking off from the dirty part of the track. I did not get off well, but I was able to attack on the opening laps and overtake many riders. I think that this was the key. When I rode behind Dani I learnt a lot; also later on with Valentino. Fighting against him is always nice to watch, but it’s always tough at the same time. Valentino was a tough rival to try and overtake on the final laps. He beat us this time, but we hope to learn from him and from everyone who went faster than us.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 4th
“Today’s race was good, in part. I rode strongly and at a good level, although I had to slide around a lot during the entire race to combat a lack of rear grip. I saw from the opening lap that Lorenzo was going much faster and I tried to keep my position, because I knew that in the corners the traction issue came into play. I tried as hard as I could to keep my position, but then Rossi came through at a blistering pace and, to tell the truth, I could not stop him. I did all that I could, but it was not enough. Maybe there was a set-up issue with the rear, because I had problems with it all weekend and we did not have enough grip tonight. In the end I was off the podium, which is a shame considering that we had some good preseason tests and that the set-up was good in those tests. For some reason, it just did not work for us tonight.”
Alvaro Bautista, Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini:
“We had the same problems in the race as we had in practice. I tried to push hard at the start and stay with the lead group but I didn’t have the feeling or stability under braking. I stayed with them for a while but I was taking too many risks so I just had to try and make it to the end and defend my position. We’re hopeful that the problems we have had here, which were also the same problems as last year, are down to the track conditions and won’t be as bad in the coming races. We will keep working, but I am happy with the job the team is doing and I expect us to make big progress in Texas.”
Bryan Staring, GO&FUN Honda Gresini:
“I am disappointed because I didn’t want to finish my MotoGP debut in this way. We made progress throughout practice but then I ruined it all with a stupid crash. I am disappointed for myself and for the team, who have helped me out so much. Hopefully I can make up for it in Texas.”
Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP:
“From the beginning of the race I didn’t have a confident feeling with the front tyre and I had the same issue we had on Friday, probably even worse. The bike didn’t feel so bad in the warm-up session, when I was lapping consistently fast. Unfortunately in the race I could not push the front too hard and so I couldn’t do anything to improve my pace. Rossi passed me and I was not able to follow him because of the issue – I was losing the front in every corner. Honestly, I didn’t make a mistake, so I cannot exactly explain why I crashed. Now we will check the data together with my technicians.”