Valentino Rossi Wins Battle With Ducatis In Qatar

Valentino Rossi began his 20th season in Grand Prix racing with a spectacular come-from-behind victory under the lights at the Losail Circuit in Qatar. Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone finished second and third, respectively—an unexpected all-Italian podium—in the race debut of the Ducati GP15. Margin of victory was 0.174 seconds.

Tenth at the end of the first lap, the 36-year-old factory Yamaha rider set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:55.267, on the fifth go-around and soon reeled in the leading trio of Jorge Lorenzo, Dovizioso, and Iannone, passing Dovizioso for the top spot on lap 19 of 22. Lorenzo faded to fourth when padding in his helmet came loose and partially blocked his vision.

What about the reigning world champ, Marc Marquez? The Spaniard was forced wide in turn one, rejoined the field dead last, and sliced (literally, in the case of the front brake line of Alvaro Bautista’s Aprilia) through the field to finish fifth. Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, suffering once again from arm pump, was sixth.

After running as high at 13th, American Nicky Hayden dropped a further four spots at the checkers. “Mid-race, tire performance dropped dramatically,” Hayden said. “We had chosen the softer compound, and when it wore out I started to suffer electronic problems. The traction control was triggered too often, and I could barely ride.”

Dovizioso showed his hand early, using Ducati’s top-speed advantage to pass first Lorenzo and later Rossi on Losail’s long start/finish straight. Rossi countered with corner speed—his final lap was a 1:55.352—to generate a gap large enough exiting the final corner to hold off Dovizioso at the line.

“We had different cards to play,” Rossi said afterward. “From this morning, I improved a lot. Yesterday I wasn’t so sure to be able to fight with the Ducatis, but at the end of the race, my bike was very good.”

In an effort to save his rear tire, Dovizioso rode “less than 100 percent” for half of the race. “I was able to make similar lines as Jorge and Valentino,” he said. “It is more than what we expected. My bike was really fast in the straight, but Valentino had more traction, and I couldn’t overtake him. Second position in the first race is really good.”

Rossi called the battle with Dovizioso one of the best of his career. “Dovizioso rode in a very clever way,” he said. “He was very aggressive and gave the maximum. It was very difficult, but I didn’t give up. We have some problems in the qualification lap. Our bike behaves very well for 22 laps. If I can start on the second row, it will be better.”

Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, is the next stop for the MotoGP world championship. “For me, the race of the two Hondas was a surprise,” Rossi said. “The next race is Austin—the home of Marquez. It will be very tough.”

Valentino Rossi began his 20th season in Grand Prix racing with a spectacular come-from-behind victory under the lights at the Losail Circuit in Qatar. Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone finished second and third, respectively—an unexpected all-Italian podium—in the race debut of the Ducati GP15. Margin of victory was 0.174 seconds.

Tenth at the end of the first lap, the 36-year-old factory Yamaha rider set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:55.267, on the fifth go-around and soon reeled in the leading trio of Jorge Lorenzo, Dovizioso, and Iannone, passing Dovizioso for the top spot on lap 19 of 22. Lorenzo faded to fourth when padding in his helmet came loose and partially blocked his vision.

What about the reigning world champ, Marc Marquez? The Spaniard was forced wide in turn one, rejoined the field dead last, and sliced (literally, in the case of the front brake line of Alvaro Bautista’s Aprilia) through the field to finish fifth. Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, suffering once again from arm pump, was sixth.

After running as high at 13th, American Nicky Hayden dropped a further four spots at the checkers. “Mid-race, tire performance dropped dramatically,” Hayden said. “We had chosen the softer compound, and when it wore out I started to suffer electronic problems. The traction control was triggered too often, and I could barely ride.”

Dovizioso showed his hand early, using Ducati’s top-speed advantage to pass first Lorenzo and later Rossi on Losail’s long start/finish straight. Rossi countered with corner speed—his final lap was a 1:55.352—to generate a gap large enough exiting the final corner to hold off Dovizioso at the line.

“We had different cards to play,” Rossi said afterward. “From this morning, I improved a lot. Yesterday I wasn’t so sure to be able to fight with the Ducatis, but at the end of the race, my bike was very good.”

In an effort to save his rear tire, Dovizioso rode “less than 100 percent” for half of the race. “I was able to make similar lines as Jorge and Valentino,” he said. “It is more than what we expected. My bike was really fast in the straight, but Valentino had more traction, and I couldn’t overtake him. Second position in the first race is really good.”

Rossi called the battle with Dovizioso one of the best of his career. “Dovizioso rode in a very clever way,” he said. “He was very aggressive and gave the maximum. It was very difficult, but I didn’t give up. We have some problems in the qualification lap. Our bike behaves very well for 22 laps. If I can start on the second row, it will be better.”

Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, is the next stop for the MotoGP world championship. “For me, the race of the two Hondas was a surprise,” Rossi said. “The next race is Austin—the home of Marquez. It will be very tough.”

Valentino Rossi: “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-lap race, and I was very strong.”

“This is a special result for Ducati and for me after everything we have been through in the last few years,” Andrea Dovizioso said. “It rewards the work that we have done together to arrive at this point. It really is an extraordinary result.”

Andrea Iannone: “It is my first podium in MotoGP, and it’s really incredible to have done it on my debut race as a factory Ducati rider. I didn’t expect to be so competitive in the first race, so it really is a fantastic sensation.”

“On the speed and in braking,” Jorge Lorenzo said, “the Ducati was much stronger than our bike, but we could recover on corner speed while the acceleration was similar. I thought that I could win the race, but suddenly there was something wrong in the top part of the helmet; the foam came loose and I lost half of my vision.”

Marc Marquez: “We should be happy because we have salvaged 11 important points, when we could easily have left here with none. The positive that I’ll take from today is that we rode at a similar pace to the lead group.”

“We had a few issues with the machine,” Aleix Espargaro said, “but we all know that the main problem now is the power. Engineers in Japan are working hard, I know, but unless we get some more horsepower, it will be very hard to get to the front.”

Dani Pedrosa: “Tonight’s race didn’t go to plan, and unfortunately, I had serious problems with my right forearm, which isn’t good news for me. I will do my best to find a solution but in this moment it is difficult to imagine what it could be.”

Nicky Hayden: “It is clear that we have to work with Honda to make the bike work better with used tires. Also, we need more support from Magneti Marelli to better manage this electronics package.”

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