MotoGP Qatar: Rossi wins thriller

Valentino Rossi wins at Losail over resurgent Ducatis of Andrea Dovisioso and Andrea Iannone; Jorge Lorenzo fourth, Marc Marquez fifth after first turn mistake puts him dead last, Dani Pedrosa faces uncertain future after suffering arm pump problems

As the race wound down to the final laps, Rossi used his hard compound front tire choice and considerable racing guile to maintain the lead when it counted across the finish ahead of the faster Ducati of Dovisioso.
Andrea Dovisioso showed that the new GP15 is indeed competitive in race trim by nearly winning the opening Qatar MotoGP race. This shot gives an impression of how close the action was at the front, with Dovisioso just ahead of Jorge Lorenzo (partially hidden), Valentino Rossi (behind Lorenzo, hidden), and Andrea Iannone.
Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo was very much in the mix for the race win when a piece of his helmet came loose a handful of laps from the end, partially obstructing his vision and forcing him to fall back to fourth.
This shot of the exit of Turn One at the start of the race shows Marc Marquez coming back on the track after running wide. He rejoined the race in dead last, and was forced to work his way up to fifth at the finish.Jaime Olivares Camps GGPP 2015

The opening race of the 2015 MotoGP season could easily be titled “The Italian Job”, as Valentino Rossi, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone took up all the three steps of the podium after a thrilling battle won by the nine-times world champion only by a tenth of a second on the finish line. Back in the early 2000s, before the coming of age of the so-called Spanish school, seeing three Italian flags on the rostrum would have hardly been considered news. However, it was almost a decade since the last time it happened in the top class—in 2006 in Motegi, when Loris Capirossi won ahead of Rossi and Marco Melandri. Whether that will mark a true renaissance, only time will tell. But, for now, it is clear that Italy has three tenors capable of challenging their Spanish counterparts.

“This must have been one of the best battles of my career,” said Rossi, who clocked a scorching 1:55.352 during the final lap. “I knew I had to get a good start, which I didn't do, because I hesitated and was taken off the line. But, we worked really well with the whole team and the bike gave me an amazing feedback. I know they counted us out after the tests and the qualifiers, but the race is a different matter (laughs).”

To further boost Rossi's confidence, Marquez ran off the track at the very first turn. Despite mounting a furious comeback—he finished in fifth position—the reigning world champion lost too much time passing competitors, and thus could not reconnect with the leading group. “I made a mistake in the first corner and ran wide, and when I came back I was in last position," said Marquez. "It was disappointing because I had to pass many riders, and I stressed the tires too much, they soon became very slippery.”

“When I saw Marc going outside the track, I told myself 'I have to hurry, because I can really win now that he's out' (laughs),” Rossi added. “Honestly, the warm-up really gave me the confidence I needed to push for the victory. I could really ride hard.”

Dovizioso had to settle for second place, a somewhat disappointing result given the final gap. The Italian, however, used to shrug even at podium predictions only a month ago, when the GP15 was taken to the track in Sepang for the first time. The work done by Luigi “Gigi” Dall'Igna is already bearing its fruits, despite having planted the seeds only nine months ago when he first joined Ducati after many successful years with Aprilia.

“It's fantastic to fight against Valentino and end within a tenth of a second from the victory, but honestly I'm a little disappointed now,” Dovisioso commented. “That said, the bike has only a few miles under its belt so this was the best we could do. In the last lap, I didn't have any grip left and couldn't attack Rossi under braking as he always pulled away in acceleration. But, it's been years since I was able to fight for a win. I could smell it, so it's a shame we didn't get, but I'd give myself a nine.”

In third place, Iannone passed Lorenzo with three laps to go, seizing his first MotoGP podium and further reinforcing Ducati's strong statement. “I rode on the limit throughout the race, as I had some grip issues and was forced to try to make up for the lost ground under braking,” Iannone analyzed. “I was worried about the front tire's wear, but recovered in the last few laps and got my first podium in the first race as a factory rider, so I'm happy.”

Lorenzo was slowed by an inner piece of his helmet coming loose, partially blocking his vision. “I know it sounds like an excuse, but it was the helmet. Seven laps from the end, a piece that holds the foam came down and I lose 50 percent of my vision. In the corners, I could barely see where I was going. I lost concentration and I had to slow my pace. I just couldn’t push at the limit with so much risk.”

It was much worse for Dani Pedrosa, who never could get with the lead group and eventually finished a disappointing sixth. Pedrosa revealed after the race that he has been suffering from chronic arm pump issues with his right forearm, despite having undergone surgery to correct the problem last year. Where the Spaniard goes from here is up in the air at this point. "Last year I struggled at every single race, I couldn't perform as well as I know I can. I've been trying all this time to fix it, and I haven't been able to get any good answers. I went through one surgery, it wasn't successful; this winter I was traveling all around the world trying to get many different opinions from several doctors trying to find out if I can have a new surgery to fix it and be ready for this championship. All of the opinions recommended me not to have surgery due to the risk involved with more surgery on that arm. So I followed the advice and did a lot of work in the non-aggressive way, but we had this bad situation today. I have to find a way to solve this problem, I cannot continue racing this way. My future is obviously uncertain at this point, I hope to have some answers soon."

The difficulties encountered by the top Spaniards such as Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa, who took the positions from fourth to sixth, marked somewhat the end of an era, as no Spanish riders stepped on the podium in the lower classes either. It was the first time it happened since the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix (with the exception of Laguna Seca, which hosts only the top class). This is just the beginning, though—in two weeks' time, another “shootout” is scheduled in Austin.

MotoGP Qatar race results:
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
2. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Ducati Team
3. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Ducati Team
4. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
5. Marc Marquez (SPA) Repsol Honda
6. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda
7. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) CWM LCR Honda
8. Bradley Smith (GBR) Monster Tech 3 Yamaha
9. Pol Espargaro (SPA) Monster Tech 3 Yamaha
10. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Pramac Racing Ducati
11. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Team Suzuki Ecstar
12. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Pramac Racing Ducati
13. Scott Redding (GBR) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
14. Maverick Viñales (SPA) Team Suzuki Ecstar
15. Hector Barbera (SPA) Avintia Racing Ducati
16. Stefan Bradl (GER) Athina Forward Racing Yamaha
17. Nicky Hayden (USA) Team Aspar Honda
18. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Team Aspar Honda
19. Mike Di Meglio (FRA) Avintia Racing Ducati
20. Alex De Angelis (RSM) Octo Racing Project Aprilia
21. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
22. Loris Baz (FRA) Athina Forward Racing Yamaha
23. Karel Abraham (CZE) AB Motoracing Honda
24. Jack Miller (AUS) CWM LCR Honda
25. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini