Reigning MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo kicked off the defence of his title tonight in the best possible way, delivering a flawless ride under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit to take a perfect victory in the Grand Prix of Qatar. Lorenzo put the hammer down from pole position, taking the hole-shot into turn one and never looking back. He remained untouchable throughout, dispatching the 22 laps in isolation with trademark efficiency to claim his first victory of the season and add 25 Championship points to his 2013 title bid.
Valentino Rossi proved he still hasn’t lost his magic in tonight’s race, thrilling fans with a sensational run to claim second on the podium, completing a Yamaha Factory Racing one-two finish with his teammate Lorenzo. Rossi made sure his first race back with Yamaha was one to be remembered, having started from seventh on the grid he quickly moved up to fourth only to mistime a pass on Andrea Dovizioso and drop back to seventh again. By lap eight he was charging back up the field, closing down a gap of over three seconds to catch the podium battle and join the fight for Qatar honours. The nine-time World Champion dispatched fellow Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow and Honda rival Dani Pedrosa before entering into a fantastic duel with MotoGP rookie Marc Marquez in the final laps for second place. Rossi emerged from the battle the victor, crossing the line in second position just under six seconds behind Lorenzo to take 20 Championship points.
Jorge Lorenzo 1st - Position 1st- Time 42.39.802
“Half an hour before the race I felt a little bit nervous so I had to really concentrate and relax on the grid. I knew it was going to be difficult to open a gap but I had to try, I made a good start and pushed more than 100%. In the beginning it was hard to open the gap as Pedrosa didn’t want to let me get away, he tried to stay with me but after six or seven laps I opened the gap which made me more confident to keep my pace. I’m very happy for Yamaha and happy for Valentino as he has now passed two difficult years.”
Valentino Rossi - 2nd - Position 2nd- Time +5.990
“I’m more than happy, very happy indeed because it was my dream to come back with Yamaha. To arrive on the podium at the first race was my target from November and I put all my effort to arrive at the maximum here. It was a difficult weekend, especially yesterday in qualifying, but I know I had great pace so I tried to recover in the beginning but I made a mistake and I lost time. I had to do a great second part of the race and step by step I came close to my podium. In the end there was a great battle, especially with Marc for the second place. I’m so happy for me, for my team, for my friends and all my fans who stay with me through two difficult years and also for Yamaha, to start the season with first and second place is not so bad!”
Wilco Zeelenberg - Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“What a terrific start to the season, we are of course very pleased with the result. There are 17 races to go and it looks like it will be a fantastic season. The first race is always quite important to get a little advantage and have a good feeling. To have your first win for Jorge and of course second with Vale is great for the team and for the spirit because it will be a long season as we know so for everybody it's a big boost. We go to Austin now where we struggled a bit in the test but we have improved the bike already quite a bit. Hopefully we’ll be able to close the gap and have a good race there as well.”
Massimo Meregalli - Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“I have to say that this weekend started very well and finished even better. We couldn’t expect anything more. We won the race with a big gap and we finished second with Vale after he made an incredible comeback. I think the team did a really great job since Sepang test one, making the bike better and better and I thin this result is the icing on the cake. Everyone put in a lot of effort so I have to make a big thank you to then all. This is the best way to start the season and we won’t give up to until the end.”
Crutchlow fights for podium in thrilling season opener
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Cal Crutchlow finished tonight’s opening MotoGP round in Qatar in fifth position after putting up a fantastic fight for the podium in a nail-biting 22-lap encounter at the Losail International Circuit.
After starting from the front row of the grid for the eighth time in his MotoGP career, the British rider was quickly locked in a thrilling battle for second position with Spanish duo Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez in the unique Qatar night race. Crutchlow exerted immense pressure on Pedrosa and Marquez but as he calculated where he could try and attack in the final laps, the battle for second became a four-way fight by lap 16 with Valentino Rossi joining the action.
Crutchlow’s challenge for his third MotoGP podium came to an unfortunate end though on lap 18 when he ran off at the first corner while trying to defend his position against a hard-charging Rossi.He lost just over three seconds with the off-track excursion but such was his fast and consistent pace earlier in the race that he was able to easily secure fifth position and start the 2013 World Championship in positive fashion.
Bradley Smith’s long-awaited MotoGP debut started brilliantly and a lightning start off the line saw him pass Marquez on the run to the first corner to move into the top six. As the early action intensified, Smith settled into a comfortable rhythm and he was just about to launch an assault on the top 10 when he crashed out unhurt on lap five at the seventh corner.
Cal Crutchlow - Position 5th - Time +18.764
“It’s positive to finally kick of the Championship after a long winter, but to be honest after the way I had been performing in practice and qualifying, finishing fifth is a little bit frustrating. My pace was promising and I think I would have deserved to be on the podium, but it was clear to see that I was lacking a bit of speed on the straight. That meant I had to push hard to close the gap in the corners and if we can resolve that small issue I’ve no doubt I can have the possibility to really challenge the guys at the front. It was a good battle with Dani and Marc but I just get close enough to them to try and make a pass, but credit to Valentino because I was over three seconds clear of him and he caught and passed me. He rode awesome but so did Jorge, who proved yet again that he is going to be the man to beat. It was a great nig ht for Yamaha but also for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team because I showed that I can battle for the podium. The top four are the best riders on the best bikes but I pushed them as hard as I could until the small mistake stopped me. I’m best of the rest and that’s pleasing and hopefully I can be up there again in Austin.”
Bradley Smith - DNF
“It is frustrating to crash out of my first MotoGP race so early because I need to be gaining all the experience I can. We changed the bike for tonight and the bike was much better on corner entry. Unfortunately I lost the front at Turn 7 and I was down. I’d had a couple of warnings and I will know for the future that I am close to the limit when that happens. There are a lot more positives than negatives to come out of this weekend but I can’t deny it would have been great to start the year with a top 10 finish. We move onto the next race in Austin where the goal again will be to build up my experience and learn more about the bike.”
Hervé Poncharal - Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team Manager
“It has been a positive start to the season and Cal did an incredible job during practice and qualifying and also during the race he definitely showed that he’s made another step forward during this winter. Finishing fifth is a little bit disappointing when he was in the battle for the podium for so long but there is a lot of positives we can take from this weekend and it was great to seeing him be the only one to put pressure on the factory guys. He was the best of the rest again and he proved that the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team is once again very competitive. It was a big shame for Bradley because it would have been good to start the Championship inside the top 10. He really could have picked up a lot of information to get more experience to learn from, but these things can happen and the crash shouldn’t detract from the fact th at he had a very encouraging weekend that bodes well for the future. We are looking forward to seeing his development during the next races but I’ve no doubt he is going to be regular inside the top 10. I also want to pay huge compliments to Yamaha for an incredible start to 2013. Jorge was outstanding and showed why is the World Champion and Valentino showed in the last five laps that this year could be fantastic.”