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Qatar MotoGP: Lorenzo sees off Ducati threat to win season opener

Qatar MotoGP: Lorenzo sees off Ducati threat to win season opener
Mar 20, 2016, 6:51 PM

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:

SpainJorge Lorenzo  Yamaha YZR-M1  42:28.452 
ItalyAndrea Dovizioso  Ducati GP16  +2.019 
SpainMarc Marquez  Honda RC213V  +2.287 
ItalyValentino Rossi  Yamaha YZR-M1  +2.387 
SpainDani Pedrosa  Honda RC213V  +14.083 
SpainMaverick Viñales  Suzuki GSX-RR  +15.423 
SpainPol Espargaro  Yamaha YZR-M1  +18.629 
United KingdomBradley Smith  Yamaha YZR-M1  +18.652 
SpainHector Barbera  Ducati GP14  +21.160 
10  United KingdomScott Redding  Ducati GP15  +24.435 
11  SpainAleix Espargaro  Suzuki GSX-RR  +35.847 
12  IrelandEugene Laverty  Ducati GP14  +41.756 
13  SpainAlvaro Bautista  Aprilia RS-GP  +41.932 
14  AustraliaJack Miller  Honda RC213V  +41.982 
15  SpainTito 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  
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