Reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo won the first MotoGP round of 2016 at Qatar, warding off the early challenge of the works Ducatis to record a dominant win.
Although Lorenzo led from pole at the start on his Yamaha, he was quickly overpowered by the massive straightline speed advantage of the works Ducatis.
But during a heated battle for the lead with his teammate Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone tumbled out of second in a shower of sparks on lap five.
Lorenzo retook the lead on lap nine from Dovizioso, and surged away to seal a relatively comfortable victory by two seconds.
Honda’s Marc Marquez battled hard with Dovizioso in the closing moments for the runner-up spot, but the Italian repelled a last-corner attack to finish second.
Marquez was third from Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi.
Story of the race
Lorenzo led from pole at the start, with Iannone rising to second as Marquez and Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) made poor launches from the front row.
Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was briefly third, but slipped back behind Dovizioso, Rossi and Marquez almost immediately.
Iannone pressured Lorenzo at the end of the opening lap, and then both the Ducatis simply blitzed past him, demonstrating a huge top speed advantage on the start/finish straight.
Marquez passed Rossi on lap three for fourth, as the top five pulled clear of Pedrosa and Vinales.
The race then settled down briefly with Iannone leading Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Marquez and Rossi, Pedrosa kept Vinales at bay, with Cal Crutchlow joining them on his LCR Honda.
The Ducatis were both running the soft tyres front and rear, but didn’t sprint away at the front.
Iannone repelled an attack from Dovizioso at Turn 1 on lap five, but couldn’t hold him back a few corners later, and then crashed out from second moments later at Turn 13.
Crutchlow also crashed out a lap later out of seventh place.
Lorenzo retakes control
Reigning champion Lorenzo retook the lead on lap nine, easing past Dovizioso in the sweeping corners and this time was able to keep him at bay on the start/finish straight.
As the laps ticked down, Lorenzo hammered out some masterful laptimes, dipping into the 1m55.1s bracket with six laps remaining.
Dovizioso was still within 0.5s, however, with Marquez (using the medium rear tyre) right behind him and Rossi dropping back a little in fourth – and was instructed to change his engine braking settings on his pitboard.
Rossi ran wide at Turn 6 in the closing stages, dropping a second to the battling Dovizioso and Marquez.
Marquez slipped past Dovizioso for second with three laps to go, and set off after Lorenzo – but was 1.3s down.
But Lorenzo responded to the threat, pulling out 0.3s in the second sector of the following lap alone. The gap quickly extended to over 2s.
Battle for second resolved
Dovizioso retook second from Marquez at Turn 1 on the last lap, using his top speed advantage to regain his runner-up spot.
Despite a last-corner lunge from Marquez, Dovizioso held on to finish second for the second successive year. Marquez finished third, with Rossi just 0.1s behind him.
Pedrosa was a distant fifth, having resisted the advances of Vinales throughout the race.
Pol Espargaro surged through the midfield to finish seventh on his Tech 3 Yamaha, ahead of teammate Bradley Smith, the fast-starting Hector Barbera and Scott Redding on their satellite Ducatis.
Aprilia’s Stefan Bradl crashed out at Turn 16 on lap 12, and Loris Baz also suffered a heavy fall early on.
2016 Qatar GP Results:
|1||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha YZR-M1||42:28.452|
|2||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati GP16||+2.019|
|3||Marc Marquez||Honda RC213V||+2.287|
|4||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha YZR-M1||+2.387|
|5||Dani Pedrosa||Honda RC213V||+14.083|
|6||Maverick Viñales||Suzuki GSX-RR||+15.423|
|7||Pol Espargaro||Yamaha YZR-M1||+18.629|
|8||Bradley Smith||Yamaha YZR-M1||+18.652|
|9||Hector Barbera||Ducati GP14||+21.160|
|10||Scott Redding||Ducati GP15||+24.435|
|11||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki GSX-RR||+35.847|
|12||Eugene Laverty||Ducati GP14||+41.756|
|13||Alvaro Bautista||Aprilia RS-GP||+41.932|
|14||Jack Miller||Honda RC213V||+41.982|
|15||Tito Rabat||Honda RC213V||+54.953|
|R||Stefan Bradl||Aprilia RS-GP|
|R||Loris Baz||Ducati GP14|
|R||Cal Crutchlow||Honda RC213V|
|R||Andrea Iannone||Ducati GP16|
|R||Yonny Hernandez||Ducati GP14|