MotoGP: Viñales reigns in tough desert dual at opening race of 2017 in Qatar
Rain, delays, uncertainty and a decision for a slightly shortened race distance prefaced the 20 laps that then blew the drama out the water: MotoGP is back for 2017, and in some style. After stealing the headlines throughout preseason, Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) retains them after his first win for Yamaha – but easy it wasn’t, as the polesitter fought it out with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in an awesome desert duel. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completed the podium in third after storming back from P10 on the grid.
A stunning start from Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) from P2 was soon overshadowed as rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) slammed into the lead in the first laps, getting away and making a gap as Viñales found himself falling back into the clutches of his teammate. But despite an incredible display, the fairytale came to an early end for the Frenchman as he slid out of the lead soon after – leaving ‘DesmoDovi’ out front.
Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP– “I feel incredible and it shows in the results. We did a great job during the whole weekend and we started good in the test, then in FP1 we were already feeling really good. The race was difficult, it started to rain and there was a bit of confusion because we didn‘t know what to do. The first laps were very challenging, the track was so slippery and I wanted to take it easy and stay calm. I knew I had a good pace, so I tried to push at the very end of the race. There were many crashes at the front, so I waited for the right moment and finally we took the victory. The feeling when I crossed the line was incredible. As the first victory with Yamaha, it was even more important than the first MotoGP victory, because there was so much pressure. We were leading all the test, “You can do it”, and finally we did, so I‘m happy how I handled the pressure and also that the team worked really good. The electronics were ready and the grip of the tyres was really good on the last laps. The third sector was honestly so crucial, because Andrea [Dovizioso] used the soft tyres, so he collected the benefits and could accelerate better all the time and he didn‘t waste the tyre, so it was hard to beat him, but in sector three I was really strong the whole weekend. I set my best sector three on the last lap and it was the minimum to take the victory, it‘s really great, I‘m so happy. I hope for a perfect start in Argentina. The start here was good, but I just went outside of the line and when Zarco came he crashed into me, so I had to pick up the bike and then Marquez and Dovi passed me so it was a bit chaotic on the early laps, but then I was able to concentrate. We have to continue like that and maintain this concentration.”
With the number 4 Ducati getting away in the lead, Iannone then crashed out of the fight for second – leaving reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Viñales and Rossi chasing the leading Desmosedici. After a classic scuffle between the number 46 and 93, the ‘Doctor’ set off in pursuit of his teammate.
And then there were three: Viñales, Dovizioso, and Rossi.
It wasn’t long, however, before there was some fresh air between lead two and the number 46 – with a duel setting in that saw Viñales’ corner speed pitched against the sheer might of the Ducati. After trading places for a few laps and the race impossible to call, the Spaniard was then able to hold off the Italian on the penultimate lap – and made it to the line to take his second MotoGP™ win; his first in Yamaha colours
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)- My secret is my team, it‘s Yamaha. We never give up and we always keep up our concentration. I always feel the support and the trust from all the guys around me, which is great. We know our potential and we know we have a great bike and race rider. Sincerely, when I was in the top five I already said “this is OK”, but arriving on the podium is something even better. I‘m very happy to start the season like this, because the podium is always better and, like was said, it comes after a difficult period. We have to continue like this. This result is very good for us, both for our feeling and also for the technical side, because we now understand a lot of things.
Marquez crossed the line fourth, just ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa by the flag – who took fifth after getting the better of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). Espargaro’s result was a historic first top six for Aprilia in the stunning first ride in Noale colours for the rider from Granollers. Impressive performances from Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) and Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) saw the two men come home in P7 and P8, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) top rookie in P9 – just ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Jonas Folger, who completed the top ten.
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) went wide on the first lap after a solid start, down to near the back of the grid after carefully rejoining and then beginning a steady fight back through the field. Up into tenth with 12 laps to go, the ‘Spartan’ crossed the line in P11 by the end of play.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) crashed out of contention before rejoining and then suffering the same fate, with Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) crashing out soon after, as well as Octo Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci – joining Iannone and Zarco on the list of unluckies in round one, but sure to be back for more next time out.
Now, the paddock heads west to Argentina and Termas de Rio Hondo – ready for another amazing chapter of 2017 from April 7th to 9th.