Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi has opened the 2014 MotoGP season by taking his second consecutive second place finish at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar this evening.
The nine-time world champion made strong start from tenth on the grid, quickly closing down and passing several riders to take fifth by the end of the first lap. With rival Dani Pedrosa in pursuit, Rossi kept the pace up over the following laps, eventually passing Bradley Smith for fourth on the brakes going into turn one with 17 laps to go. Alvaro Bautista was the next to go as a determined Rossi moved up to third, keeping pole man Marc Marquez in his sights and engaging in the first of many fights with the young Spaniard.
One lap later race leader Stefan Bradl crashed out, promoting the two battling riders. Rossi then took the lead with a pass on Marquez on turn 15. The two remained less than half a second apart, with Marquez regaining the lead with nine laps remaining. He was unable to shake his rival off, Rossi keeping within a couple of tenths until the final laps where he made several attempts to snatch glory. A final move on turn four on the penultimate lap was quickly taken back by Marquez, leaving Rossi to cross the line in second, just 0.259 seconds behind.
The result gives Rossi 20 points and second place in the standings as the championship starts.
Teammate Jorge Lorenzo had a disastrous start to his 2014 Championship tonight, crashing out of the Qatar Grand Prix on the first lap. Lorenzo made a trademark stunning start from fifth on the grid to grab the holeshot into turn one, leading the GP pack. His luck was not to last, a cold front tyre causing a low side crash just a couple of turns later and ending his race. He was luckily able to walk away without any major injuries and will be fit and ready for the next round in Texas in three weeks time.
Valentino Rossi - 2nd, +0.259, 22 Laps
"I’m very happy but a little bit upset because I lost. Marc is very strong and I enjoyed very much the whole race. It was a great race, very funny from the beginning, I started from behind and I had to risk in the first laps. I was very precise and didn't make any mistakes. At the end I played my card with Marc but he was stronger than me so he won and he deserved it. It’s the first time it looked like an old race from MotoGP from ten years ago, all together on the same pace, some mistakes, going wide and so on. Maybe Dorna had a great idea! The Yamaha is always good in Qatar and I worked very hard in the practice for the race. I’m very happy with the work of my team and the bike was great in the race too. But anyway I am so happy for this start to the year, now we have to continue like this. Usually Jorge is so fantastic and so strong in the first laps so I don't understand what the mistake was.”
Jorge Lorenzo - DNF
“I made a mistake, it was a long time ago that I last did that in a race! We are not perfect; we are only human and sometimes we make mistakes. The tyres were different to last year and the temperature of the tarmac was a little colder. I didn’t take these circumstances into account and I was too fast into the corner when the front and rear tyre were not ready yet. It's a pity to lose so many points with Marc and Valentino and Dani who are the favourites. Valentino demonstrated that the Yamaha can fight even with these tyres and the championship is very long so lets see what happens in Austin.”
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“Not a good beginning of the season. The pace was finally good after a couple of days testing. Our target was to have a good start but not go crazy and push a lot because we knew it was quite slippery. Jorge lost the front very suddenly like Bautista and Bradl did so I think it was a tricky point of the track and it caught him out. We have to look forward and I think its good to see that even with problems we are able to find solutions which is a positive point.”
Wilco Zeelenberg - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Manager
“This race has a double face. It has been a great pity for Jorge to crash when he was leading, for sure he was pushing hard as he is used to do and a mistake can happen. The other face has been a fantastic race Vale started from the fourth row, I always thought it was going to be a tough for him just to think of the podium because of this, but he made an impressive race with many overtakes. At a certain point I thought we could even win but anyway second place is a great success. For me the most important thing is that step-by-step we were able to recover the gap we had starting from the first practice. We never gave up and always pushed and were able to deliver the pace we did.”
Difficult start for Tech3 in Qatar
Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro suffered ill luck during an eventful opening race of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship at the Commercial Bank of Qatar Grand Prix. Both Tech3 riders did not finish the race with Britain’s Bradley Smith falling whilst challenging for a podium position on lap 19, and Spanish rookie Pol Espargarohad a mechanical issue forcing him to retire on lap 18.
The opening race began in emphatic fashion for Bradley Smith, who qualified in a personal best ever position of 3rd on the front row of the MotoGP grid. The young English rider was in 2nd place during the opening laps and was in contention of leading the Grand Prix, before settling into a steady rhythm. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider remained close to the front for the duration of the race, and as he was preparing his attack on the leading four on lap 19, Smith lucklessly lost the front of his Yamaha YZR-M1 at turn 6.
Pol Espargaro’s positive form during the preseason and free practice sessions unfortunately came to an unsuccessful conclusion at the opening race at the floodlit Qatar circuit, due to an technical problem causing him to pull into the pits and retire. The reigning Moto2 World Champion ran competitively all weekend and impressed with his rookie performances on the MotoGP bike during all sessions. Espargaro started the MotoGP race strongly, and was placed inside the top ten comfortably. The young Spanish rider set into a good race pace and held 8th position until the gearbox issue struck on lap 18 with only four laps remaining around the 5.83 kilometre Losail International Circuit.
Bradley Smith - DNF
“It’s plain to see that this wasn’t the ideal way to finish the opening race of the season as I gave everything that I possibly could have during the race. I was feeling good on the bike, however it was difficult to close the final second to the front runners but with five or six laps to go I was determined to try and catch them. Unfortunately, I then fell. I want to thank my team, especially after the big crash and the repairs that they had to do on Friday. Now I need to refocus a little bit, taking all the positives out of this weekend and then go to Austin with this new found confidence and be as competitive there”.
Pol Espargaro - DNF
“I really can’t say that luck helped us today, even if we deserved it after this weekend. We didn’t start with the best of terms as I am still not completely healed from my shoulder injury. Then I crashed on Friday and my confidence fell slightly. The good news was that my injury didn’t worsen because of this, and the team did a great job helping me to raise my confidence. With regards to today, it’s unfortunate that this happened as I could have finished inside the top six on my MotoGP debut. I am still happy with my performance because the results all weekend were competitive Before my problems started, I was just eight seconds behind the leader and catching Dovizioso and Aleix, which was more than I could have hoped for. Now I will rest and prepare for the next race in Austin as I definitely want to be at my 100% there”.
Herve Poncharal - Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team Manager
“This weekend wasn’t great for us. Bradley qualified well, started positively and was running a good pace near the front, continuing the excellent job that he had been doing all weekend. For sure, the crash is a disappointment but there are still many positives to consider such as, qualifying in front row and running comfortably in the top 5. I felt really bad for Pol who had been trying very hard all weekend, even though the circumstances were not ideal for him with his injury. We think there was a gearbox problem, although we are not sure yet, but without this technical issue, he would have easily got into the top 8. We have been strong all weekend and it’s a shame to come out with no points after all the effort we put in. We will now focus on the upcoming race in Austin”.
Espargaro close to the podium in debut race
It was a very good start of the 2014 season for the NGM Forward Racing Team in Qatar GP. Aleix Espargaro made a stunning MotoGP debut on his Forward Yamaha under the Losail floodlights, finishing the race in fourth position and was the first rider of the new open spec to cross the finish line.
It was a good race also for his team mate Colin Edwards who, despite struggling a lot with the grip for the whole race, recovered important positions, closing in 9th place.
Thanks to the good results of Espargaro and Edwards, the NGM Forward Racing team leaves Qatar in third position of the Constructor Championship and in fourth place in the Team Classification with 20 points.
Aleix Espargaro - 4th, +11,623, 22 Laps
“I’m happy with this result for myself and the team. Yesterday’s two mistakes made my race really difficult. I started from the third row and I struggled a lot with the full tank to overtake the two Ducati, that had a great advantage in terms of top speed in the long straight. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, so I didn’t push as I wanted from the beginning. I was patient and waited for the right moment to pass. It’s a pity because we had the pace to fight with the front guys but I have to be happy because we are 4th in the championship. I thank my team and Colin that gave me some parts of his second machine to rebuild my bike that was completely destroyed after yesterday’s qualifying crashes”.
Colin Edwards - 9th, +39.547 22 Laps
“It is not the race I wanted as I struggled a lot with the grip from the beginning. The main issue remains the same: I can’t get my bike turn. We will keep on working and I’m confident that we can improve. I’m happy for the team. We got good points and I look forward to the Texas GP, my home race”.
Giovanni Cuzari - Team Owner
“It was a great weekend for the whole team and I want to thank the four riders and the mechanics. It was a great team work and the result of the great atmosphere that there is in the garage together with true passion and motivation. A special thank to Aleix that made a fantastic debut with our team. He confirmed that we can fight for the font positions and I look forward to next race in Texas, Colin’s home GP”.