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MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2014

Round 01: Qatar

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March 23, 2014
 
 
 
 
 
 

Honda Claims Scintillating First Win of New MotoGP Season

Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez opened the defence of his debut-season MotoGP World Championship in the style of a champion – returning from injury to claim a fighting victory after a fierce battle with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) that lasted all the way to the end of the 22-lap race, held under floodlights at the Losail circuit in Qatar.

#93 Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)zoom
#93 Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)
Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)zoom
Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)

Already the youngest ever premier-class title winner, Marquez was back on a bike for the first time in six weeks at Qatar after breaking his leg in a training accident. In spite of missing the final tests, he was soon up to speed, qualifying on pole position for the opening round – the only race of the year to be run after dark, to avoid searing daytime desert heat.

Last year, aged 20, Marquez made his MotoGP debut at Qatar, finishing a sensational third. The Repsol Honda RC213V rider would finish on the rostrum in all but two of the races, where a crash and a black flag resulted in no scores, claiming six wins on his way to a stunning rookie title win.

Repsol Honda RC213V team-mate Dani Pedrosa made it a double podium for the HRC team, finishing a close third after a well-judged race, taking the benefit of his experience at one of his least favourite circuits. Pedrosa bided his time while several riders crashed on the treacherous track, and came away with the reward.

It meant a strong start also for the veteran Repsol Honda rider's title campaign. The former 125cc and double 250cc World Champion is in his ninth season with the HRC team.

Marquez's ride was the highlight of an exciting race – not only first of the season, but the first run under new rules with “Factory Option" and “Open" machines competing under different technical rules. The greater leveller, however, was the tricky 5.38-km Losail circuit, with several riders falling victim to the treacherous surface, where a slippery coating of sand awaits any rider who strays too far off line.

The first victim was fast starter Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), who took the lead into the first corner, but did not complete the first lap. Then LCR Honda RC213V rider Stefan Bradl took over for the first eight of 22 laps, only for the German to suffer the same fate.

After ten laps, there were still five riders within one second of new leader Rossi. By now Pedrosa had moved to third, while Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Gresini Honda RC213V) and Bradley Smith (Yamaha) were close behind.

Smith would also fall, and then Bautista as well, after mounting a strong attack on Pedrosa.

Marquez led over the line for the first time on lap 14, and over the last two laps he and Rossi engaged in furious combat, changing places repeatedly until the Honda rider gained a small advantage he was able to hold to the line, winning by 0.259 seconds. Pedrosa had been a close spectator, and was happy with a safe third place.

Bradl and Bautista escaped injury in their tumbles, and had to take comfort from the erstwhile strength of their performances; Bradl leading the race and Bautista a major protagonist in the rostrum fight. Bautista has a supplementary role, as race-tester for Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, made by Japanese companies with strong links with Honda.

Four more of the new Honda RCV1000R production racing machines competed under the new “Open" rules. The best of them laid on an exciting race-long battle for seventh, finishing only three hundredths of a second apart. Winner by inches was class rookie Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Honda RCV1000R), defeating 2006 Honda World Champion Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R).

The other pair of new Hondas also finished in the points, with former 250cc World Champion Hiro Aoyama 11th on the second Drive M7 Aspar machine, and Czech star Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) 13th.

In the all-Honda-powered Moto2 class, Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Esteve “Tito" Rabat claimed the narrowest of victories after a typically close and exciting race - with all entries powered by identical race-tuned CBR600 engines supplied by the organisers, the margins are reliably small.

The Spaniard, third overall in last year's championship, was a nail-biting 0.040 seconds ahead of early race leader Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), with second Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Mika Kallio just one second adrift.

With last year's top two riders gone to MotoGP, Rabat's first-race win (his fourth in the Moto2 class) reinforces his position as pre-season favourite. The narrowness of the win however bodes well for a tense season to come.

After the race, a shock: technical inspection found an infringement concerning the air filter on Nakagami's bike, and he was disqualified. The team appealed, without success.

Not far behind, former 125cc champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter) had come through to fourth on track, barely half-a-second clear of class rookie Maverick Vinales (Pons HP 40 Kalex), winner of last year's Moto3 World Championship. Both were promoted one position by the disqualification.

The pair had caught and passed long-time fourth-place rider Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing Forward-KLX), more than one second behind at the flag.

The second high-placed rookie was grand prix first-timer Sam Lowes (Speed Up), in an excellent sixth. Lowes moved into MotoGP as reigning World Supersport Champion.

Sandro Cortese was a brave seventh at the head of a close group. The Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex rider suffered a fracture in his leg after qualifying on the front row, missed morning warm-up, but returned for the race. Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) was inches behind in eighth, with Anthony West (QMMF Racing Team Speed Up) almost alongside. Another second down, French SAG team rider Louis Rossi completed the top ten.

In the Moto3 class, where rival manufacturers battle it out using 250cc four-stroke engines, Honda claimed two out of three podium places. The company's revised RS250FW missed victory in the first race of the evening by a mere 0.233 of a second, in a last-lap brawl that put the first five riders over the line within 0.369 seconds, the last podium slot decided by a photo-finish.

Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Marquez led over the line for 17 of the 18 laps, though changing places out on the track now and then with Australian Jack Miller (KTM). Second Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Rins, who started from pole position, had led a small group up to catch the leaders by the end.

Results were in doubt until the final yards after a hectic final lap. Miller was first, Marquez almost alongside in second, with a photo-finish giving third to SaxoPrint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez, by five-hundredths from Miguel Oliveira (Mahindra). Rins was dropped to fifth, a tenth adrift, in the final scramble.

The rest of the group was still close, with Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda) a strong seventh in the thick of it.

New Honda rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda) finished 18th.

The next race, the GP of the Americas, is at Austin, Texas in the USA, on April 13. There are 18 rounds in the World Championship, which concludes in Valencia in Spain in November.

Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)zoom
Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)
#26 Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team), #19 Alvaro Bautista (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)zoom
#26 Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team),
#19 Alvaro Bautista (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)

Honda MotoGP Rider Quotes

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: 1st
“I'm very happy with the result today. The 25 points are important but it's also been an important race, because I was coming back from an injury that caused me to miss most of the pre-season. Also, this weekend there were a lot of riders up at the front, all with a great pace, and seeing how the race went, this win is a big one. The battle with Valentino was the best part of the race besides the win, I really enjoyed it!”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd
“Third place is a positive result. We've finished on the podium this weekend at a circuit that's difficult for me, because it isn't well suited to my style. So it's a good way to start. We were close, but with the way the race went – with so many crashes – it was important to finish. So from here on we will try to keep improving and try to fight for the win at the next race.”
Scott Redding, GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 7th
“I am very satisfied, as I was expecting to be able to follow Nicky Hayden for only a few laps and, although he was the target, I wasn't really expecting to beat him. In the first laps I wanted to take maximum advantage of the soft tyre and I was pretty aggressive with the passes. I got through on Nicky and thought I'd got away from him, but then he came back at me. But I knew I was faster than him, so I waited until two laps from the end before making a move, retaking the place and then holding him off to the finish. Tonight we achieved our goal; to be the first open class Honda home, so I'm pleased with that.”
Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 8th
“We had to change our start procedure tonight and it wasn't easy – there were riders everywhere, but I managed to get into a better rhythm than the test and practice here, setting consistent 1'56s. I tried everything to stay with Espargaro, but in the end I had worn out the left hand side of the tyre and ran off. It ended up a straight battle between me and Scott, we passed each other a few times and he got me on the line. A few riders crashed but we made it to the end and picked up eighth. We set a great pace at the start of the race, now we need to work on the second half and try to improve on what we have learnt here. I want to thank the team, Honda and all the sponsors for their efforts. Now we need to look ahead to the next race.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 11th
“It was a tough race because as the night progressed the temperatures dropped and the feeling with the tyres worsened, which is why so many riders crashed. Personally I chose the softest option tyre and it was difficult to adapt my pace according to the temperature. I got in a fight with Hernández and even though my pace was better than his I couldn't get away. If I didn't get embroiled with him I might have finished higher up but anyway I am happy because it has been a tough weekend and the team has done a great job. We found a good setting yesterday and it has paid off today with 11th place.”
Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing Honda: 13th
“I am happy and angry at same time – 13th is perfect for the points, but with all the riders crashing it was a lucky position. Otherwise I would have been 18th. I am very happy I managed to finish the race, because it was difficult with my injured shoulder. I made some mistakes, and it was difficult to try to get back again to catch the group, because by then my shoulder was getting harder and harder to work with the bike, especially on the left-hand hairpin. I couldn't turn the bike, or push hard.”
Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda: DNF
“Actually it's difficult for me to express my feelings right now. In some ways I did a very good job because I took a good start from the third row, making a perfect first lap. Honestly I was not expecting such a strong performance considering the issues we had in the last days but for the race I felt strong and determined. Basically I cannot say why I crashed because I made the same manoeuvre the lap before at Turn 6, but this time I lost the front. Luckily I am OK and the positive thing is that I have made a big step in the race. Many riders crashed on left corners so probably the humidity was too high and affected the grip level. Anyway let's go ahead to Austin which is another track that I like very much.”
Alvaro Bautista, GO&FUN Honda Gresini: DNF
“Luckily I'm fine, but it was a strange crash: I entered Turn 2 in the same way as the previous laps but I suddenly lost the front. I had some problems with the brakes during the race: I don't know if this has contributed to the fall, however I am very sorry for the team. Until the crash I was having fun battling for the first positions. My start was not so good, but gradually I was able to charge through the field. At one point I found myself in second place and surely we could get on the podium. Too bad we haven't finished the race. I apologize to the team and my fans, and I hope to bring home the result next time.”

Honda Moto2 Rider Quotes

Tito Rabat, Marc VDS Racing Team, 1st
“I'm happy to have come here to Qatar and taken the first win of the season on my debut for the Marc VDS team. I got a good start, but then Taka Nakagami braked really late into turn one and I made a mistake and ran wide. It took me a good few laps to work my way back to the front, but I was pushed all the way by Taka and Mika. In the end I managed to defend the lead to take the win, but I need to think about the early laps and also how to manage better the end of the race. It was a great way to start the season and now we need to look ahead to the next race in Austin.”
Mika Kallio, Marc VDS Racing Team, 2nd
“I got a good start, making up places off the line and managed to slot into second behind Taka Nakagami, who'd already pulled a gap at the front. It took me two laps to catch him, and I had the pace to pass, but I decided to sit in behind, stay as smooth as possible and save my tyres for the last few laps. The lap times were quick, but I felt comfortable, until Taka upped the pace again with about eight laps to go. Then Tito came past me and I started to struggle for grip in the right hand turns. I was making up ground in the left corners only to lose it again in the right corners. I lost contact with them on the final lap and decided to settle for third and the points. Unfortunately for Nakagami but luckily for me, it then became second. Although we could have won tonight, I'm happy to finish on the podium after such a big crash yesterday. Thanks to my crew, who put in long hours to rebuild the bike last night. Thanks also to Petronas Raceline Malaysia for the loan of a frame.”
Thomas Luthi, Interwetten Paddock Moto2, 3rd
“I lost my chance to fight for victory in the first five laps. I had problems with the front on right-handers and it kept pushing me wide. After a few laps the rear grip went down, and that helped me. I was able to get a good rhythm, and from t en it was a good race. What pleases me I'm fit, feel very good, even now after the race. This is nice, especially when I think back to my injury a year ago. I was not able to cross the line in third, but my lap times in the second half of the race would have been good enough for such a position. For the season, therefore I already believe that much is possible.”

Honda Moto3 Rider Quotes

Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0.0, 2nd
“I made a rookie mistake tonight; I hit a false neutral when cornering on the final lap. Despite that, I am pleased to have taken second place and claimed 20 points, because it is a very good result with which to start the World Championship season. I think that throughout the race I had a good pace when on my own at the front. When Jack [Miller] took the lead, however, we went slower and the chasing pack managed to close in on us. That is why I tried to push as hard as I could on every lap. We have to continue as we have been doing and I am very happy with this first race with Honda.”
Efren Vazquez, Saxoprint RTG, 3rd
“I'm very happy with this – it is my first podium in the Moto3 class. I started 15th on the grid, which is not great, so didn't really expected to get on podium. But the new Honda is great, and the team found a perfect set for the sixth gear for a good top speed ... so, pushing lap by lap, I got the result.”
Alex Rins, Estrella Galicia 0,0, 5th
“At the start I made a small mistake, because I released the clutch prematurely. Then I tried to push hard during the race to reach the front, waiting to see if the others made any errors. In the end it wasn't to be, but we go to Austin happy with all the work we've done with Honda and even more eager to do well. Most of all, I have to thank the whole team and Honda, because the bike was working very well. Throughout the weekend we had a very good pace and that's what we will draw upon when thinking ahead to Austin and the coming races.”
#6 Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP), #93 Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)zoom
#6 Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP),
#93 Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)

MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix
Round 01: Qatar

MotoGP
Rank Rider (Team) F/O
1Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)F
2Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)F
3Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)F
4Aleix ESPARGARO (NGM Forward Racing)O
5Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)O
6Cal CRUTCHLOW (Ducati Team)O
7Scott REDDING (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)O
8Nicky HAYDEN (Drive M7 Aspar)O
9Colin EDWARDS (NGM Forward Racing)O
10Andrea IANNONE (Pramac Racing)O
11Hiroshi AOYAMA (Drive M7 Aspar)O
12Yonny HERNANDEZ (Emergy T.I. Pramac Racing)O
13Karel ABRAHAM (Cardion AB Motoracing)O
14Danilo PETRUCCI (IodaRacing Project)O
15Broc PARKES (Paul Bird Motorsport)O

* F=Factory option, O=Open category

Moto2
Rank Rider (Team)
1Esteve RABAT (Marc VDS Racing Team)
2 Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)
3 Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten Paddock Moto2)
4 Maverick VIÑALES (Pons HP 40)
5 Simone CORSI (NGM Forward Racing)
6 Sam LOWES (Speed Up)
7 Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)
8 Jordi TORRES (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2)
9 Anthony WEST (QMMF Racing Team)
10 Louis ROSSI (SAG Team)
11 Jonas FOLGER (AGR Team)
12 Ricard CARDUS (Tech 3)
13 Randy KRUMMENACHER (IodaRacing Project)
14 Luis SALOM (Pons HP 40)
15SYAHRIN Hafizh (Petronas Raceline Malaysia)

* Takaaki Nakagami took the checkered flag as the 2nd place finisher but was disqualified from the race for a violation of the regulation on his machine which was found after the race.

Moto3
Rank Rider (Team)
1Jack MILLER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)
3Efren VAZQUEZ (SaxoPrint-RTG)
4Miguel OLIVEIRA (Mahindra Racing)
5Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)
6Jakub KORNFEIL (Calvo Team)
7Alexis MASBOU (Ongetta-Rivacold)
8Isaac VIÑALES (Calvo Team)
9Niccolò ANTONELLI (Junior Team GO & FUN Moto3)
10Francesco BAGNAIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)
11John MCPHEE (SaxoPrint-RTG)
12Romano FENATI (SKY Racing Team VR46)
13Danny KENT (Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo)
14Karel HANIKA (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
15Brad BINDER (Ambrogio Racing)

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