Rossi rules stunning season opener in Qatar

Teammate Jorge Lorenzo also put on an impressive performance during the opening round at the Losail International Circuit, finishing in fourth place.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi opened the 2015 MotoGP season tonight with a stunning victory at the Grand Prix of Qatar. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo also put on an impressive performance during the opening round at the Losail International Circuit, finishing in fourth place.

What started as a battle that could have been anybody‘s race, ended in a thrilling duel.

Rossi rode an incredible race. Starting from eighth on the grid, the nine-time world champion fell back to tenth position and took a few laps to get a feel for the situation. He then ploughed through the order on his way to the front of the field. He quickly overtook several riders to take fifth in a duel with rival Pedrosa on lap four.

Keeping up his pace, he soon passed Hernandez for fourth and continued his podium chase by bridging a 1,5 second gap to rider in third. He then clawed his way to the front group of Dovizioso, Lorenzo and Iannone. This was the start of an incredible final battle between the two factory teams as the riders changed positions several times.

I really have to thank all my team, my engineers and all at Yamaha because I think today we did something amazing.

Valentino Rossi

Rossi fought hard, eventually overtaking Iannone with four laps to go. A nail biting last few rounds with rival Dovizioso followed, with the Doctor giving one of his best performances in his 20 year MotoGP career. Fighting until the very last corner he gave everything to hold enough of an advantage to clinch the first victory of the 2015 season, with a margin of 0.174s.

Teammate Jorge Lorenzo also had a great start to his 2015 Championship, flying from sixth on the grid to grab second place into turn one. He continued to chase Dovizioso, as rival Marquez had run wide. Lorenzo took over at the front in turn 12 of lap two, but was unable to create a lead. The Mallorcan and Dovizioso battled fiercely and were later joined by Iannone and Rossi. Lorenzo feeling the heat of the following riders, made many attempts at reclaiming the lead, but was unable to hold first position. He fought bravely, but with four laps to go was forced to let his teammate and rivals go through due to a problem with his helmet. He finished fourth, 2.707s from the front.

Rossi‘s superb win earns him first place in the championship standings with 25 points. Lorenzo now holds fourth place in the championship with 13 points.

Thanks to today‘s results Movistar Yamaha MotoGP take the lead in the teams‘ championship with 38 points. The next round will be held at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), United States, in two weeks‘ time.

Valentino Rossi (1st / 42'35.717 / 22 laps): “In the last three seasons I always rode solid races and arrived on the podium but to come back with a victory is another thing. I am so happy because we suffered a lot during the practices and also the tests, but we worked very well for the 22 laps race and I was very strong. First of all you have to be lucky, but especially the work that we do with the team during the weekend makes the difference for my pace in the race. It was definitely one of the best races of my career, considering where we were yesterday. I really have to thank all my team, my engineers and all at Yamaha because I think today we did something amazing.”

Jorge Lorenzo (4th / +2.707 / 22 laps): “It was a difficult race. After the first lap, I found myself in second place and I followed Dovizioso. I was faster and I passed him where I could in the fast corners. On the speed and in braking the Ducati was much stronger than our bike, but we could recover on corner speed while the acceleration was similar. To be honest, I thought that I could win the race, though it surely wasn‘t going to be easy, because Valentino had a very strong pace at the end of the race.

I was feeling better and better, but suddenly there was something wrong when in the top part of the helmet the foam came loose and came down so I lost half of my vision. I couldn‘t see the corners very well and couldn‘t concentrate or ride like before and I was losing half a second or more per lap. In a race where, at minimum I could fight for the win, I finished fourth.”

“It has been an incredible start to the season. Vale‘s race was a masterpiece! He rode well and really got what he deserved. Unfortunately Jorge had a problem with his helmet seven laps to the end and had to slow down a bit. Otherwise I think we could have had both riders on the podium. Especially considering how we started the weekend, this is a great result. Our target was to start with a victory and we achieved it. I want to say a big thank you to everybody who made this happen. The whole team has been putting in hard work, starting from last week. We now look forward to the next race in two weeks time.”

Bright start under the floodlights in Qatar for Smith and Espargaro

Bradley Smith commenced his 2015 MotoGP campaign with an assertive ride to seize 8th at the Losail International Circuit under the floodlights. The young British rider began the race from the head of the third row in 7th and leapt forward as the lights went out to complete the first lap in 5th. Smith remained focused and set into his strong race pace and by the 4th lap, he was running in 7th place. The 23 year old rode consistently over the following laps and was in 8th position with eight laps left to run.

This was whilst being locked in a fierce battle to be the top satellite rider as well as 7th place with three other MotoGP competitors. After being pushed back to 9th on lap 15, he burst past Hernandez to reclaim 8th shortly afterwards, before crossing the line only marginally behind Crutchlow who was half a second ahead. The encouraging finish sees the British rider open his 2015 account with a positive result and leaves him optimistic of obtaining another top finish at the next round in Texas.

On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team garage, Pol Espargaro finished the challenging Qatar night race right behind his teammate in 9th position after undertaking a strong effort. The young Spaniard completed the first lap in 6th position and was right in the hunt with the front running bikes. He was bumped back to 10th on the fifth lap but remained completely focused on regaining ground on his Yamaha YZR-M1.

With only a quarter of race distance left to run, Espargaro was involved in the dice for 7th with his teammate and expertly clinched 9th on the 17th lap. The fastest satellite MotoGP rider of 2014 eventually met the chequered flag in this position, concluding the weekend with a positive collection of points and leaving him primed for success at the next race.

Bradley Smith (8th / +12.914 / 22 laps): “I must admit that despite the good result, I am slightly disappointed as we were so close to being the top satellite bike at Qatar. This is our ambition for the year, so to miss this opportunity is a bit annoying. However, to finish only half a second back from Cal isn’t bad at all, especially at this early stage of the season. I had a good feeling with the bike during the whole race and we kept a consistent pace. Yet, I wasn’t really able to race how I wanted to and I had to remain riding in a smooth style throughout the whole distance.

This was a bit difficult when battling with the Honda or Ducati’s because those bikes require different riding styles, which need the rider to be a bit more aggressive. Nevertheless to finish 8th and collect some valuable points as well as some useful experience and being so close to our objective of the top satellite bike is not a disappointment. In addition, we will improve and learn from Jorge and Valentino in order to be closer to the front at Austin.”

Pol Espargaro (9th / +13.031 / 22 laps): “It’s been a difficult weekend for us. We experienced some issues on the first two days, yet we were able to improve them yesterday and during this morning’s warm up, I felt truly confident on the bike. Having said that, we have had a slight problem with the electronics throughout the weekend, which we were not able to clarify so we didn’t adjust the traction control in order to remain in the best possible way. Therefore the setup of the anti wheelie also wasn't ideal and I lost a lot in acceleration. I just couldn't pass the riders in front and I was often late on the brakes, so to be honest it was a real struggle.

However, the main positive is that we managed to finish the Grand Prix and in any case, this weekend is normally a bit of an unusual one as we run at night and the conditions of the track are always changing so it’s difficult to take conclusion out of today's race. Of course, I’m not over the moon about today’s result as it was not my ambition. Yet, now we have to work on solving these problems at the next race in Austin where we must take advantage of the weekend as soon as the first session commences.”

Bradl a whisker away from winning Open class at Losail

Stefan Bradl finished second in Open class rumble and Loris Baz was 22nd in the first race of the 2015 season for the Athinà Forward Racing team at the Losail circuit.

Bradl, who started from 18th position on the grid, had a good start and went back immediately to the points-zone. The German had a long battle with his direct opponent, Barbera, to lead the Open category. A small mistake, committed within sight of the finish line, lost him the victory in this class. Bradl was 16th under the chequered flag, just three-tenths from the first points of the season.

It was an uphill race for his teammate Loris Baz who started from 23rd. The Frenchman lost grip on the front from the very beginning. He was forced to come into the pits to change the tyres and crossed the finish line in 22nd position.

Stefan Bradl (16th / +33.944 / 22 laps): “I cannot say I’m satisfied at all with this race, even if I was close to the lead of the Open and I was finally able to battle with my rivals. I was really close to win my class, but at the last corner I braked too late and Viñales and Barbera passed me. It has been a difficult weekend but I'm happy with the work done by the team and I have come to know more about the Yamaha Forward. It was not a bad race, not counting the small final mistake, I proved to be able to fight with the other Open bikes.”

Loris Baz (22nd / +3 laps / 19 laps): “I did not start well, but I recovered quickly and I started to get close to the points-zone. Unfortunately, after a couple of laps, I started to lose grip on the front and the bike became difficult to ride. I did not want to risk it and I came back to the pits to change tyres. Too bad, I was really close to the points and with new tyres I kept the same pace as those fighting for the Top15. Overall it was a good weekend: I learned so much and I have collected a lot of info for the race in Austin.”

Yamaha Motoracing

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Event Qatar GP
Sub-event Sunday post-race
Track Losail International Circuit
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Bradley Smith , Jorge Lorenzo , Stefan Bradl , Loris Baz , Pol Espargaro
Article type Race report
Tags yamaha