Gordon Hatch, MotoGP correspondent
2010 champion takes classy win ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner
Jorge Lorenzo entered the record books on his Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 after claiming the maiden victory of the new 1000cc MotoGP class at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar at the floodlit Losail International Circuit with Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa finishing second and his teammate Casey Stoner in third despite leading for the majority of the race.
Lorenzo grabbed the holeshot going into turn one after Pedrosa tried to edge past and the number 99 went into the lead for the first two laps until Stoner came by at the start of lap three. Ben Spies also got off to a good start and remained, for the first few laps of the race at least, in 4th where he started. Andrea Dovizioso started very well for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad and he was being followed by Ducati Racing rider Nicky Hayden.
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was chasing down Hayden while Alvaro Bautista was running well in the opening stages with his San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V machine one place ahead of Hayden’s teammate Valentino Rossi who himself was being chased by the satellite Pramac Ducati of Hector Barbera. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) was next along ahead of the first of the CRT machines in the hands of NGM Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards with Randy De Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) close behind.
What an amazing race! I put everything I have, I never gave up, kept pushing and trying.
Yonny Hernandez was next along for the Avintia Blusens team with Aleix Espargaro and the Power Electronics Aspar team following and ahead of Mattia Pasini (Speed Master), Danilo Petrucci (Came IodaRacing), Ivan Silva (Avintia Blusens) and James Ellison and the Paul Bird Motorsport team. Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini) had to pit during the race with technical problems leaving the Italian losing a number of laps.
Back at the front of the field, Crutchlow was now stalking Dovizioso in the battle for 4th and 5th while Stoner was edging out a gap on both Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Spies had unexpectedly fallen out of the top ten in just a few laps while Rossi was having a nightmare race after running off while Barbera came passed him forcing the seven time MotoGP World Champion to lose ground and languishing around 10th position for the middle part of the race. Rossi’s teammate Hayden however was locked in battle for 7th with MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl giving everyone a big surprise with Bautista and Barbera close behind.
Karel Abraham retired with machine trouble on lap 10 while at the front Stoner, although comfortably in the lead still, began to slide around a little pointing at rear grip issues for the reigning World Champion and Lorenzo doing his best to reel the Repsol Honda in with Pedrosa in close pursuit behind. Crutchlow was now in 4th after moving past his teammate Dovizioso with Hayden close to making a move on Bradl.
Moving into the final third of the race and Stoner had unexpectedly lost a large amount of time and Lorenzo and Pedrosa began to reel the Australian in who appeared to be having increased trouble with his rear Bridgestone tire. Pedrosa then made a move on Lorenzo at the first turn and moved into second with both Spaniards now right behind Stoner. Lorenzo stalked both Repsol Hondas for another lap before making his move on Pedrosa and then on Stoner into the final corner to lead the race.
Meanwhile in the battle for 4th Crutchlow and Dovizioso were riding hard but Crutchlow kept up his momentum and keeping his teammate at bay. The battle for 6th now had Bradl, Barbera and Bautista in close formation with Hayden a slight gap behind after losing some ground. Rossi was in a lonely 10th spot with Spies in 11th while Edwards, still the best CRT by miles, was a respectable 7 seconds back off the prototype YZR-M1.
Pedrosa moved in front of Stoner after making a pass on his teammate going into the penultimate lap with Lorenzo now with a good lead built up. Crutchlow was holding onto 4th ahead of Dovizioso with Hayden now back into 7th behind Barbera with Bradl now in 9th place. Barbera then ran on letting Hayden, Bautista and Bradl all going through. The CRT machines remained in formation for the remainder of the race and it was Colin Edwards claiming the best CRT machine of the day in a 12th position finish.
Lorenzo maintained his lead to the end with Pedrosa in second and Stoner in third while Crutchlow was delighted to grab a 4th place finish ahead of Dovizioso. Hayden managed to pass Bautista for 6th with Bradl claiming 8th place in his first ever MotoGP race with Barbera in 9th and Rossi in a lonely 10th place and Spies in 11th and lucky not to get caught by Edwards.
Lorenzo was delighted with his win and to take a maximum 25 points going into the next round at Jerez in two weeks time. “What an amazing race! I put everything I have, all my energy into the track, this victory is because I never gave up, kept pushing and trying. Casey was very strong at the beginning and opened a gap. Fortunately for us he struggled at the end and dropped his pace where I could keep mine so I managed to pass him. I am very grateful to Yamaha because they have made a big step this winter on the YZR-M1,” Lorenzo said.
Pedrosa was also very happy with his second place finish after having trouble with his machine throughout the weekend and minor sickness to deal with. “I'm very happy with this result because we have been able to turn around all the problems we had during the weekend, “ Pedrosa said while continuing, “After a good pre season we got here and everything went wrong: I had flu and a fever, I crashed on Friday, then the qualifying practice was a disaster… So, it's very good to leave here with this podium, even if I feel little bit sad because I thought I could win this race, I had it in my hands for a while.
"The team did a fantastic job and we saw things very different after warm up; then I managed a perfect starts, which was a key moment in the race, and I was able to stay with Casey and Jorge. In the end, with 4 laps to go I tried to take the lead, but Lorenzo was cleverer than me this time and choose a better strategy. I passed him but he overtook me immediately and also Casey, then I was behind Casey for 1 lap and lost contact with Jorge. Anyway, it's a good start to the season and we will try to do better in Jerez,” Pedrosa added.
Stoner wasn’t pleased with his third place finish and while most thought he had suffered from rear tire grip issues, it was a bout of arm pump that forced the reigning MotoGP World Champion from being able to maintain his lead. Stoner said, "It wasn't really the way we wanted to finish the race weekend here, after FP3 and Qualifying it was always going to be a tough race for us but in the end it came in the wrong areas. The bike was working well for us, I definitely had the package and the pace to lead the field which was really positive.
"However, I suffered from really bad arm pump. After three or four laps I felt it but it gradually got worse, I tried to pull a little gap from Jorge and Dani and put in the minimal effort possible to retain the gap and try and win, but as the race continued it got worse and worse and eventually the muscles had nothing more to give. I couldn't hold onto the handle bars properly and it made things really difficult so it was a disappointing race for this reason, but for many other technical reasons it was very promising,” Stoner said.