Words- Harkamal Singh
Photos- Harish Madhu from Throttler’s
One of the most overused words in the motorsports world is “Incredible”. And I have no option but resort to using this commonly used word to describe the opening round of 2014 MotoGP Championship. Incredible the 2014 Qatar MotoGP surely was for it saw defending World Champion Marc Marquez storming his way to the victory, a victory that did not come easily! Nine times World Champion Valentino Rossi provided a spectacle for the fans. Rossi started from 10th position on the grid, the Italian was riding at his very best. Last year Rossi was suffering from braking problems but this year Yamaha and Rossi’s new crew chief Silvano Galbusera are able to rectify those troubles. Both Marc and Rossi fought for the victory until the last laps. It was classic display of premier class racing where no corner was being left open by both riders. They kept on trading places. Towards the end of the race Marc was able to manage just enough distance between him and Rossi which secured him his first win of the season.
The other Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo had a bad day. The Majorcan lad crashed out very early on a cold front tire. He was not even able to finish a single lap. Moving further, Dani Pedrosa clinched the final spot at the podium. Dani had to battle his way through couple of strong riders around him. The LCR Honda rider Stefan Bradl was having a pretty good race and he was leading for 8 laps but unfortunately he crashed at turn 6. Alvaro Bautista also suffered a similar low side like Lorenzo. Next of the fallers was Bradley Smith who was having a good race running at 5th.
Once again Aleix Espargaro proved everyone that why he deserves a factory ride in future. The elder Espargaró scored a solid 4th despite his double crash in qualifying. His younger brother Pol Espargaró made a mistake during closing stages of the race and he dropped to 15th position but later on he had to return to the pit lane due to some problem. Both Ducati riders Andrea Dovisiozo and Cal Crutchlow finished 5th and 6th respectively. It was a decent start for Crutchlow on a Ducati. There was another Rookie rider who was making his debut this season; Scott Redding finished a good 7th position after fighting a good battle with 8th placed Nicky Hayden. The American Veteran Colin Edwards scored a 9th position as he was still learning to develop a new riding style. Andrea Iannone completed the top 10 spots with Hiroshi Aoyama finishing 11th.
One thing is crystal clear after the first race that we should expect a lot of close racing in coming months. During last few years MotoGP racing has been infamous for not being exciting enough for the fans. Electronics are great from a development point of view but they do harm the fun factor of racing. Manufacturers like Honda and Yamaha spend huge amount of money on electronics to make their bikes one step ahead. Dorna turned up with a solution (although a complicated one) of an ‘OPEN CLASS’ for a level playing field. Results were great; we have not experienced such rush in the opening round from a long time. 2014 Qatar GP will be remembered for all the right reasons as old Dog returns to his winning pace as he challenges Marc Marquez in upcoming rounds. Valentino Rossi has once again rediscovered himself; on the other hand Marc Marquez remains a young gun, a Wunderkind.
Marc Marquez: “I’m very happy with the result today. The 25 points are important but it’s also been an important race, because I was coming back from an injury that caused me to miss most of the pre-season. Also, this weekend there were a lot of riders up at the front, all with a great pace, and seeing how the race went, this win is a big one. The battle with Valentino was the best part of the race besides the win, I really enjoyed it!”
Valentino Rossi: “I’m very happy but a little bit upset because I lost. Marc is very strong and I enjoyed very much the whole race. It was a great race, very funny from the beginning, I started from behind and I had to risk in the first laps. I was very precise and didn’t make any mistakes. At the end I played my card with Marc but he was stronger than me so he won and he deserved it. It’s the first time it looked like an old race from MotoGP from ten years ago, all together on the same pace, some mistakes, going wide and so on. Maybe Dorna had a great idea! The Yamaha is always good in Qatar and I worked very hard in the practice for the race. I’m very happy with the work of my team and the bike was great in the race too. But anyway I am so happy for this start to the year, now we have to continue like this. Usually Jorge is so fantastic and so strong in the first laps so I don’t understand what the mistake was.”
Dani Pedrosa: “Third place is a positive result. We’ve finished on the podium this weekend at a circuit that’s difficult for me, because it isn’t well suited to my style. So it’s a good way to start. We were close, but with the way the race went -with so many crashes- it was important to finish. So from here on in we will try to keep improving and try to fight for the win at the next race.”
Aleix Espargaro: “I’m happy with this result for myself and the team. Yesterday’s two mistakes made my race really difficult. I started from the third row and I struggled a lot with the full tank to overtake the two Ducati that had a great advantage in terms of top speed in the long straight. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, so I didn’t push as I wanted from the beginning. I was patient and waited for the right moment to pass. It’s a pity because we had the pace to fight with the front guys but I have to be happy because we are 4th in the championship. I thank my team and Colin that gave me some parts of his second machine to rebuild my bike that was completely destroyed after yesterday’s qualifying crashes.”
Andrea Dovizioso: “We have to look at the positive aspects of this result, because in view of the championship a fifth place is always important. But another important objective for us was to reduce the gap to the winner, and we managed to cut that down by half from last year, and that’s another important fact. We still have under steer problems that condition our performance in the race, but I am pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, even though we still have to work hard to improve our bike.”
Cal Crutchlow: “It was a bittersweet race for me. Finishing in sixth place is a good result; I needed to repay the boys with a finish because they worked hard after the warm-up, when I crashed out. In the race, from lap 5 onwards, we had an electrical problem: the transponder wasn’t working, the dash switched off and the bike began to behave strangely. I was pleased to be competitive until mid-way with Aleix and Dovi but I struggled to finish the race because the problem got worse towards the end. However it was important to get this race distance under our belt for Ducati and come away from here in not too bad a shape.”
Scott Redding: “I am very happy! I was expecting to be able to follow Hayden for a few laps, not for the entire race and even beat him! In the first laps I wanted to exploit the potential of the softer tire and I was pretty aggressive, making some moves. At that point I followed Hayden for a lot of laps, then I felt that he let me pass, only to overtake me soon after. I knew, however, that I could be faster than him, so in the latter part of the race I tried to overtake him on the fast sector, with a big move, then I pushed as much as I could for the last two laps. We reached our goal, which was to be the best Open class Honda”.
Nicky Hayden: “We had to change our start procedure tonight and it wasn’t easy, there were riders everywhere but I managed to get into a better rhythm than the test and practice here, setting consistent 1.56s. I tried everything to stay with Espargaró, but in the end I had worn out the left hand side of the tire and ran off. It ended up a straight battle between me and Scott, we passed each other a few times and he got me on the line. A few riders crashed but we made it to the end and picked up eighth. We set a great pace at the start of the race, now we need to work on the second half and try to improve on what we have learnt here. I want to thank the team, Honda and all the sponsors for their efforts. Now we need to look ahead to the next race.”
Colin Edwards: “It is not the race I wanted as I struggled a lot with the grip from the beginning. The main issue remains the same: I can’t get my bike turn. We will keep on working and I’m confident that we can improve. I’m happy for the team. We got good points and I look forward to the Texas GP, my home race.”
Andrea Iannone: “I’m sorry for how it went tonight; I crashed immediately on the second lap after a good start. The front end closed on me as I was cornering, but I was not pushing. When I got back on track I gained a good rhythm that was about the same as the riders in the front group. I think I could have done a good result here. I thank the team and Ducati for support.”
Jorge Lorenzo: “I made a mistake; it was a long time ago that I last did that in a race! We are not perfect; we are only human and sometimes we make mistakes. The tires were different to last year and the temperature of the tarmac was a little colder. I didn’t take these circumstances into account and I was too fast into the corner when the front and rear tire were not ready yet. It’s a pity to lose so many points with Marc and Valentino and Dani who are the favorites. Valentino demonstrated that the Yamaha can fight even with these tires and the championship is very long so let’s see what happens in Austin.”
Alvaro Bautista: “Luckily I’m fine, but it was a strange crash: I entered corner number 2 in the same way as the previous laps but I suddenly lost the front. I had some problems with the brakes during the race: I don’t know if this has contributed to the fall, however I am very sorry for the team. Until the crash I was having fun battling for the first positions: my start was not so good, but gradually I was able to charge through the field. At one point I found myself in second place and surely we could get on the podium. Too bad we haven’t finished the race. I apologize to the team and my fans, and I hope to bring home the result next time”.
Bradley Smith: “It’s plain to see that this wasn’t the ideal way to finish the opening race of the season as I gave everything that I possibly could have during the race. I was feeling good on the bike; however it was difficult to close the final second to the front runners but with five or six laps to go I was determined to try and catch them. Unfortunately, I then fell. I want to thank my team, especially after the big crash and the repairs that they had to do on Friday. Now I need to refocus a little bit, taking all the positives out of this weekend and then go to Austin with this new found confidence and be as competitive there”.