Round 1 - Qatar MotoGP
25 March, 2014
Ok… We’re off! One down, 17 to go - or just 10 until Silverstone MotoGP!
I seriously cannot remember seeing so many crashes in a MotoGP race. I imagine the teams will be pleased they have three weeks before Round 2 at Austin, Texas to get parts made. All the bikes and parts are shipped to Qatar in two Boeing 747 freight planes in purpose-built packing cases, and will be sent direct from Qatar to Texas - but one plane will be a skip not full of packing cases I guess!
Ever since I first went to the Losail track in Qatar 10 years ago for the opening race, I found it hard to grasp that it was a real race with proper championship points as it’s so weird…..racing in the dark on a sandy track with barely any spectators. Personally, the best part about going was that you could spend the days by the hotel pool then go to work at night.
Nevertheless, this year we did get a great MotoGP race with the old master Valentino Rossi showing he’s still got it. As I said in my last blog, I’m sure he can win races, but when we get back to the more conventional tracks The Doctor will have to dig very deep in his experience pocket!
Marc Márquez was sensational, having just got back onto his bike in the first Free Practice after four weeks off since breaking his leg, then to take the win from Rossi by 0.259 seconds with Pedrosa third.
When the lights went out to start the 22 lap race it was Jorge Lorenzo who led after turn one. It looked like Mr Consistent was going to romp away with the win like last year, but a massive crash at turn 15 has really screwed his Championship start.
Our own Bradley Smith, starting on the front row for the first time in his MotoGP career, had a flying start and kept in with the lead group right up until his crash just four laps from the end. Stefan Bradl, Iannone and Bautista also crashed out whilst battling hard for the lead. At a rough guess $1,000,000 of wrecked factory Yamaha, Honda and Ducati parts will be in that skip!
So what can we deduce from Round One:
Márquez is a remarkable young man, and with 25 points is off to his favourite track, fully fit for Round Two in three weeks. I can’t imagine what his competitors are thinking but I bet they are hoping he misses his plane!
Jorge will be praying Bridgestone finds him a tyre that will work for his Yamaha and his style. Valentino and Yamaha must be applauded for getting the Yamaha to finish strongly within the 20-litre fuel limit, but will have tracks that are tougher on fuel to contend with.
Cal Crutchlow will be pleased with his Alpinestars Airbag leathers as he has given them a real bashing this weekend, both he and Dovizioso should be satisfied with sixth and fifth respectively. And what a fantastic ride from another Brit Scott Redding, coming home seventh in his first ever MotoGP race! However I am sure these riders will all be acutely aware that five riders crashed out in front of them, moving them nicely up the field.
In the Moto 3 class I was very pleased to see Jack Miller, the colourful young Australian, who seems to have dodged the characterless academy bores we often get to see, take his first GP win and put on a fine display of celebration stunt acts on the slowdown lap. Good on ya mate! We also saw a fine ride by another Brit, the young Scottish lad John McPhee, who took a commendable 11th place and scored those all important points.
Moto 2 was as always a great race with Estevez Rabat just grabbing the win from Nakagami, who was later disqualified for an illegal air filter. The team is appealing, but it handed the Marc VDS Team a one and two on the podium - the same team that Scott Redding rode for last year.
Sam Lowes put on a stunning performance to end up sixth in his first ever Grand Prix, on a track he had never seen before and on a bike that still needs sorting - I am expecting great things from the Lincolnshire lad.
For the first day back at school, our boys did us proud with their potential. Bradley, Scott and Sam all got gold stars from me!
As for Cal, well he has had enough gold, he just needs a little help from his Ducati team engineers, who have decided to check out the current bike’s potential before designing a new model. In fairness, Dovizioso was much nearer the lead bike than 12 months ago, but that lead bike was ridden by a young man with a broken leg!
What we can all be thankful for is that despite all the high speed crashes we saw at Qatar there were no real physical injuries. Even after retiring from motorcycle racing 25 years ago I still have front end crash nightmares!
Next round Austin Texas…Yeeha!
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