The MotoGP World Championship finally fired up in Qatar with the first race of the season under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit. The early running was made by Andrea Iannone but after he slid off on the fifth lap it was left to his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso to do battle with Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi. Lorenzo took control on the ninth lap and never looked back as he eventually opened up a narrow but crucial gap over the rest, making his escape on lap sixteen and converting a 0.4 second lead to two seconds by the chequered flag, clocking the fastest lap of the race two laps from the end. Behind him the battle raged for the podium, with Dovizioso holding off a late lunge from Márquez for second as Rossi missed out.
In difficult conditions only fifteen riders actually managed to finish the race, including the excellent Eugene Laverty. The Irishman received a new engine on Thursday and after spending a couple of days adjusting the settings he and his crew made a breakthrough last night that gave him confidence going into the race. After establishing a strong and consistent pace in warm-up the ASPAR rider overcame some early race issues to battle with Bautista and Miller for a hard-fought twelfth place. However, it wasn’t to be Yonny Hernández’s night again, the Colombian who had already had to deal with three defective tyres during practice, broke down on the second lap with a broken sensor.
12th Eugene Laverty: “We made big progress here compared to preseason, suddenly on Saturday we had a big breakthrough and today we achieved a positive result. I had a problem at the start with a bit of wheelspin off the line because I was on a dirty part of the track and then on lap one Loris Baz ran me wide off the track. So it was a disastrous start but after that we managed to come back well. I had a good fight with Miller and Bautista and I think we can be happy to start the season with a twelfth place. The next race is Argentina, I rode there for the first time last season and already it became one of my favourite tracks. It really suits my riding style so I am happy to be leaving here with some confidence in the bag, the team is working fantastic and I think we can go to Argentina now to fight for the top ten.”
Yonny Hernández (DNF): “It is a shame to have finished the weekend like this. I could see in the warm-up my pace was good and I was able to follow guys like Rossi and Smith, I felt strong. Then I had a crash, which was my mistake, but I knew why it had happened so I still felt confident for the race. I focused hard on getting a good start and sticking with the guys in front of me in the first part of the race. Everything was going to plan and my feeling was fantastic but then the engine stopped. It is a shame it ended this way because we have worked hard all weekend to find the best setting for the bike but luck was not on our side here. The positive thing is my pace from warm-up and my start to the race. We leave Qatar with a good base that should allow us to be fighting for top ten finishes soon.”