The opening round of the MotoGP season was nothing short of exciting today as Factory Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo put on a lesson in patience, smoothness and tire management to claim the first MotoGP victory of the season at the Losail International Circuit, beating out Repsol Honda teammates Dani Pedrosa and defending World Champion Casey Stoner.
Lorenzo, who qualified on pole position, quickly led the start of the race for the first three laps. However his Yamaha did not prove fast enough for Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner who passed quickly and went to work on widening the gap. Stoner managed to pull a lead of close to 2 seconds over the Yamaha, while Dani Pedrosa made an impressive start from the third row to round out the trio of riders in the hunt for the podium. Pedrosa continued to pace Lorenzo in the chase for Stoner throughout most of the 22-lap race. Fading Bridgestone tires were a concern among all riders, as the Honda’s started to lose a step but the patient Lorenzo was able to continue his smooth ride.
With less than 7 laps remaining, Stoner started to show signs of slowing, while Lorenzo began to close the gap. With less than 3 laps to go, Lorenzo passed the Australian to take over the lead. While Lorenzo pulled away from the Honda’s, it was Dani Pedrosa who would pass his teammate in a bold move on the brakes in turn one, with 2 laps remaining to take the second spot on the podium. Defending World Champion Casey Stoner finished in third.
In the post race press conference, a very ecstatic Lorenzo expressed that this race was similar to Jerez in 2010 where he knows the value of never giving up. According to Lorenzo, “In the middle of the race, I thought it was impossible to win this race,” but he attributes his victory to his unrelenting attitude that helped him eventually take over the lead when Stoner showed signs of slowing down.
Pedrosa believed his good start was a key to the race, after qualifying in 7th position on Saturday. “This weekend we many, many issues on the bikes and myself and finally yesterday we had a horrible qualifying,” explained the Spanish rider. He was able to start the race well and hold third position without giving up too much gap, and in the end he was able to make a pass on his Repsol Honda teammate to take 2nd.
While Stoner held the lead for most of the race, he cited early problems with his hand the forced him to slow down, eventually giving up the lead. According to Stoner, “The problems started really early on in the race” as he felt his right arm tighten up and he started to slow down and not ride as aggressively as he normally does. The Australian had been battling with arm pump for the majority of the race and was not able to control the motorcycle.
Equally as impressive was the battle for 4th place as Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow battled for position. Crutchlow was all over Dovizioso for the majority of the race and despite several attempts that saw him run wide, the British rider was not able to get around his Italian teammate. That all changed on the 17th lap, and with only 5 laps remaining Crutchlow was able to get around Dovizioso to ride to a best-ever 4th place finish, while Dovizioso followed in 5th.
Ducati’s Nicky Hayden finished in 6th place following a race-long battle with San Carlo Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista and MotoGP rookie (and 2011 Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl) who came home in 8th position aboard his LCR Honda following a lonely time in 6th place for much of his first MotoGP race.
Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera was also in the mix for 6th position before he ran off the racetrack with his Ducati in the final turns of the race. Barbera re-entered the race and finished in 9th place, while Ducati Team rider Valentino Rossi, who appeared to struggle early on, rounded out the top ten.
Factory Yamaha’s Ben Spies finished in 11th place, while fellow American Colin Edwards (NGM Forward Racing) took home top honours in the CRT class, finishing ahead of Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar), Yonny Hernandez (Avintia Racing MotoGP), and Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics Aspar).
Karel Abraham (Cardio nab Motoracing), Danilo Petrucci (Came lodaracing Project) and Michele Pirro (San Carlo Gresini Honda) did not finish.
The second round of the MotoGP World Championship takes place April 27-29 in Jerez, Spain.