Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after a thriling season opener at Qatar:
Viñales Victorious with Rossi Third in Opening Round Stunner
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales made an incredible Yamaha debut at the start of the 2017 MotoGP season tonight, securing a perfect victory at the Grand Prix of Qatar. Teammate Valentino Rossi also put in a stellar performance during the opening round at the Losail International Circuit, finishing in third place for a double Movistar Yamaha MotoGP podium.
Doha (Qatar), 26th March 2017
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi kept their heads cool under unnerving circumstances before the race and stormed to first and third position respectively.
As all sessions were cancelled yesterday, due to standing water on the track, thereby lessening the riders’ time to practice and perfect their race settings, the level of adrenaline on the grid was even higher than usual. The race start then being delayed twice, due to sudden rain causing dangerous track conditions, added even more to the tension. Eventually, after two warm-up laps to give the riders a feel for the track, the race got under way 45 minutes later than scheduled.
Viñales secured his first MotoGP pole position thanks to a stunning lap in FP1, but it didn’t help him at the start of the shortened 20-lap race. The young Spaniard gunned off the line and arrived at the first corner in second place, but had to sit up as 23 riders dashed through the first corner, losing him time and positions and pushing him back to fifth. He slowly picked up the pace as he got a feel for the conditions and, feeling the hot breath of his teammate down his neck, six laps into the race, he knew exactly when to put the hammer down.
As fellow Yamaha rider, Johann Zarco crashed out of the lead, the Spanish youngster saw the promise of a podium position dangling in front of him. He bridged the gap to Andrea Iannone and tapped on his back with eleven laps to go. A lap later the Italian cracked under the pressure and crashed in front of Viñales, who skilfully avoided him and pushed up to third place. Now on a charge, the Spaniard soon flew past Marc Marquez to start the hunt for leader Andrea Dovizioso.
Viñales put his head down to decrease the margin of 1.2s, making big strides. Two laps later he passed the Italian, clinching first position. Dovizioso fought back, overtaking the young hero at the end of the long straight, but Viñales used the nimble character of his YZR-M1 to perfection. The last five laps were filled with constant push and pull action between the two riders, but the Yamaha debutant's stunning last lap, a personal best of 1'56.157s, saw him take the chequered flag in first place, 0.461s ahead of his closest rival. This victory makes Viñales the second youngest rider to win in the premier class with different manufacturers, after Mike Hailwood.
Teammate Rossi had to start his 2017 campaign from tenth position, but the Doctor didn’t take long to cut through the field. Launching his YZR-M1 past various rivals as the starting lights went out, he grabbed seventh place, despite a collision in turn one. With 18 laps to go the Italian was the quickest man on track, trying to pass Dani Pedrosa in front of him. Seeing the front group break away, he made his move a lap later and slotted in behind his teammate.
The Yamaha duo moved up two places as Zarco and Iannone fell victim to the high pace needed to stay in contention in the first hot battle, under unfamiliar track conditions. Rossi ran wide going into turn 1 with ten laps to go, but he recovered quickly. He followed his teammate past Marquez, making the crowd cheer, as now both Movistar Yamaha riders were in for a podium place.
The veteran bided his time as Viñales and Dovizioso battled for the lead. With four laps to go he set his personal best time, a 1’56.398s, and was looking threatening, but due to tyre wear he was unable to join in on the fight for the victory and had to settle for a hard-fought third place, crossing the line +1.928s behind his teammate.
Viñales' superb win earns him first place in the championship standings with 25 points. Rossi now holds third place in the championship with 16 points. Thanks to today’s results Movistar Yamaha MotoGP take the lead in the teams' championship with 41 points, whilst Yamaha leads the Constructor standings with 25 points.
The next round will be held at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit, in Argentina, in two weeks’ time.
What a way to start the season! It’s been a very difficult day for everybody: first we had to wait because the start was delayed twice and when we finally got the race underway we were still not certain about what the track conditions would be like. Maverick did a superb job and showed a great level of maturity. He waited for the right time to cut his way to the front of the pack and his battle with Dovizioso was an incredible treat for all the motorsport fans. It's a big achievement to claim the win at his first race with Yamaha and his result is the award for the superb job he’s been doing since he joined Yamaha, back in January. Valentino again delivered one of his salvage races, when he worked his way through the field, even despite being hit in the first corner by a fellow rider. It was a shame that his tyres were too used towards the end, else he could have joined the fight for first place. Winter tests were really challenging for him and he’s never given up, together with his team, to try to find the right feeling with the 2017 bike. Today’s third place is the result of the deep dedication and massive effort he and his crew put into this race. We leave Doha with the first double podium. Now we look forward to the next race!
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Rider
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.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Rider
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.
Andrea Dovizioso ran a splendid race today to finish runner-up in the Qatar GP. Eleventh place for Jorge Lorenzo on his Ducati debut
Andrea Dovizioso put in a great race today at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar to finish in second place in the opening round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship. The Ducati Team rider led for several laps but had to settle for the runner-up slot, less than half-a-second behind winner Viñales, with whom he had a terrific battle throughout the second part of the race. Today’s result was the third time in the last three years that the Italian rider has taken second place. The race started with a delay of 45 minutes due to the weather conditions, and it was shortened from 22 to 20 laps.
Dovizioso started well from row 2 and moved up from fourth to second in the opening six laps, taking the lead on lap 7 after Zarco crashed out. He remained in the lead until lap 13, holding off first Marquez and then Viñales, who passed him for the next four laps. Dovizioso was again back in front of the Spanish rider on lap 17, but Viñales overtook him on the next lap and held the Ducati rider off until the chequered flag.
Jorge Lorenzo’s debut race for Ducati proved to be a tough one. The rider from Mallorca started well from row 4, but on the opening lap he went wide at Turn 5 and dropped to sixteenth. Jorge then began a recovery through the field, lapping at the same times as the leading group which took him into ninth position by the mid-point. Six laps from the end however Lorenzo had to slow his pace and he finished the race in eleventh place.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 2nd
“I’m very pleased with the result and the job we did this weekend: it was difficult for everyone because of the conditions we encountered, but we worked well and we calmly arrived at the race with a competitive set-up. We were even better at choosing the rear tyre on the grid, changing strategy and switching to the soft tyre. In the final part of the race I tried to hold back Maverick but I don't think that we could have done anything better today.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 11th
“It was a very complicated race from all aspects. I started off well, but on the opening lap I went wide and lost a lot of positions, and this conditioned me in my efforts to get back up. Then I felt better on the bike and I started to lap at the same pace as the leaders, but unfortunately in the final part of the race I started to lose confidence in the tyres and my bike became a lot more physical to ride, so I had to slow the pace and I was unable to finish in the top 10. I want to be positive about things however, even though my first race with Ducati didn’t go the way we expected. It’s true that we are just at the start, and we know we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Marquez fourth, Pedrosa fifth in weather-affected Qatar evening
Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa took fourth and fifth place, respectively, in today’s Qatar Grand Prix. The Losail evening was affected by mixed weather conditions that created quite a tricky situation.
A brief, light rain shower fell just minutes before the planned MotoGP race time of 9 p.m., causing the GP start time and race distance to be changed twice. Finally, the lights went off at 9:45, following two warm-up laps that preceded a 20-lap race.
In the hectic moments preceding the race, Marc changed his front tyre on the grid, switching from a hard-front/medium-rear combination to a medium-medium spec. Dani kept his original choice of medium-medium, but both riders struggled with the front during the race.
After a good start, Marc fought hard for the second position for half of the race but finally had to settle for fourth, while Dani managed to hold off the attacks of Aleix Espargaro to finish in the top five.
“We were aware that we struggle a bit at this track, but as always we kept a positive attitude, as we also knew that if everything was in place, we could have fought for the podium or even the victory. I think we worked well over the weekend, and we had everything clear for today. Our plan was to use the harder front compound, but the chaotic situation with the rain and the continuous delays created many doubts. In the end we decided to go with the medium front, aiming to reduce the risk of crashing, but this turned out to be our biggest mistake of the weekend. I struggled with the front the entire time; I couldn’t brake hard and after few laps the tyre was already wearing off. We continued to have some small issues with acceleration, but even so I had a good feeling with my bike. But with that tyre choice, I wasn't able to gain on braking. That’s my strongest point, so I decided, okay let’s finish this race and Argentina will be another race.”
“It was a strange race from the beginning, due to these conditions with the rain and the delayed start. It was hard to remain focused during those moments. Then we did our best to manage the race, but we suffered a lot with the front tyre, which turned out to be too soft for us. We couldn’t push with the front and I think that all the Hondas had the same problems. Saving the tyre to make it last until the end was hard, and above all we weren’t able to push. Anyway, it’s just the first race; we must immediately concentrate on the next one, try to solve this issue and have a good race in Argentina.”
GREAT RACE DÉBUT FOR THE 2017 RS-GP
ALEIX ESPARGARÓ IS SIXTH IN QATAR
BEST RESULT FOR APRILIA SINCE RETURNING TO MOTOGP
ALBESIANO: “WE WILL NOT SETTLE, ALEIX IS LEADING THE CHARGE AND THE RS-GP WILL CONTINUE TO GROW”
Aleix Espargaró, in his race début with the Aprilia RS-GP, rode the Italian bike to a sixth place finish after a long battle with Pedrosa for fifth, a position that he had even taken three laps from the end. It was a stellar performance because the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Spaniard - penalized by a starting position on the fifth row, also due to the qualifying sessions being cancelled yesterday because of the wet track - demonstrated a race pace worthy of the podium, registering the third best time in the race. This is the best performance yet for the Aprilia RS-GP, also in terms of the gap behind the winner, contained to 7.6 seconds. Aleix, who did not have the best start, did some fast laps, moving up position by position with an impressive comeback that took him to fifth place, just behind Marquez, before yielding the spot to Pedrosa.
Sam Lowes, in his MotoGP début, was unable to resolve his doubts on the setup and therefore focused on finishing the race (18th in the end). For the English rider, gaining familiarity with the bike and the category, including during the race, is the first step toward being able to grow.
“I am really very happy for myself and for Aprilia. This result comes after a lot of hard work over the winter. I did not hold anything back and, beginning with my physical fitness, I tackled this project with great motivation from the start. In the second half of the race, my RS-GP was spectacular. I had much more traction than my rivals and I was able to overtake easily. We knew that we could have an advantage in poor grip conditions. The bike looks after the tyres well and even if I was unable to be as incisive as the others in the early laps, my overall pace was very good. It was a pity about the starting position. Having to make up so many positions kept us from earning an even more surprising result, but it's all good. We got off on the right foot and now we want to continue.”
“It was a hard race. In the early laps I went long a couple of times, losing touch with the group. The balance of the bike changed a lot during the race. Toward the end I was able to go faster than the riders ahead of me and we will need that information to understand how to work on the setup. I am obviously not happy, but first and foremost, I finished my first MotoGP race and, considering the conditions, that was not a given. Losing a day of practice certainly didn't help. I still need to work on myself and on the bike, so every session becomes essential. We need to take the good that we have learned and start thinking about Argentina.”
ROMANO ALBESIANO - APRILIA RACING MANAGER
“This was a brilliant race. We are happy. Analysing everything calmly, we must say that performance throughout the weekend was excellent. With the cancellation of the qualifiers, the warm up was the gauge for our potential. Aleix did not have the best start, but he did an extraordinary job maintaining that rhythm during the race. Obviously, we will not settle. Aleix is leading the charge for us all with a lot of enthusiasm and evidently the RS-GP works well in all areas, confirming that it is a very good bike in the race with the capacity to perform very consistently and with an excellent pace, especially in the second half of the race. We need to improve on the flying lap and we had things that we had wanted to test here in Q1, but the qualifiers being cancelled penalized us. If Aleix had started from farther forward, he could have really done something astonishing. But this evening we are celebrating. We are enthusiastic about this performance and it gives us confidence to grow.”
FAUSTO GRESINI - TEAM MANAGER
“Because of the enthusiasm this result gives us, it is a sort of victory. Aprilia has truly put their heart into this project and today Aleix showed how much this bike can grow. If he had started from a position farther forward, which was well within his potential and we saw that in the tests here in Qatar as well, we would have been able to stay with the leaders. A great job was done over the winter and now the Aprilia can truly battle with the best.”
RINS 9TH IN SUZUKI MotoGP DEBUT AS IANNONE SLIDES OFF
Team Suzuki Press Office – March 26.
Alex Rins – 9th
Andrea Iannone – NC
The first race of the season had some ups-and-downs for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR as rookie Alex Rins scored ninth in his first race in the MotoGP™ class, while team-mate Andrea Iannone fell as he was fighting for a podium position at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar tonight.
The start of the race was hectic, with rain falling just before the race, and the starting procedure was delayed by nearly 45 minutes. But after two warm-up laps, Race Management cleared the GP to begin.
Although 18th on the grid, Rins kept his nerves during the hectic situation at the start of the race and made a very positive jump as soon as the red lights went out, gaining some positions at the first corner and advancing into 12th. This allowed him to keep within distance of the more-experienced faster riders ahead of him and he continued his progress throughout. On the final corner of the last lap he made another overtake to slip into ninth position, a result that made him the first MotoGP™ class debutant rider at the chequered flag and he now leads the special classification of ‘Rookie of the Year.’
Iannone suffered bad luck: He was fastest out of the grid from his second-place position, taking the lead into the first corner. He managed to fight for a podium position for the first half of the race until he took a slide; which put him out of the race. However, the performance he showed until then was an encouraging sign for the future, and also signalling renewed bonding with his GSX-RR.
Ken Kawauchi – Technical Manager:
“The result for Andrea is really a shame, but this weekend we made substantial improvements. Especially with him, we struggled in testing, but here at the race weekend we got better. Finally, in the race, he demonstrated effective performance and put-up a good fight until the crash. I want to thank Andrea. We have to further-improve the bike to get better results in the future. On the other hand, Alex had his first race in MotoGP and he did a very good job! He managed to finish in the top-10, which is incredible. And even more importantly, he was able to learn many things, so I hope at the next race, he will be able to get more points.”
Davide Brivio – Team Manager:
“Andrea’s crash is a shame as he was having a fantastic race. He was consistently at the head of the race in a podium position, showing clear confidence with the pace. Unfortunately, he had this slide. It’s something that happens when you are fighting hard, but I think we are able to maintain the important awareness that we can be competitive and we can be there fighting. We have to work to make races like this more-and-more frequent. We are supremely happy for the absolutely great debut of Alex: He finished ninth only 14-seconds from the race winner. He kept a good pace and was very fast at the end of the race. He fought hard and I think he was able to learn a lot and proved to be a real racer. We are exceedingly proud of him and I believe this experience has been useful for him as well. He will take advantage of this in the future. I can’t wait to go to the next race to see how we can maintain our competitiveness with Andrea and further improve with Alex. At this first race we seen good signs and have reasons to be positive.”
“My feeling is that it’s been an incredible race. I’ve learnt a lot more than in practice. At the beginning, I made a really good start. Then, in the race, it was a little hard for me to overtake faster racers. I think we have a very competitive bike for getting into the top-10 consistently. And for the next races, we will need to work more in the free practices to start in a better condition for the race.”
“I’m very sorry for the crash because I wasted a positive race. After the test, we continued improving, even here at the weekend. My feeling is not yet at 100% but we have room for improvement, which is a positive thing. The truth is that I made a mistake. I hit another rider which caused my crash. It’s a shame because I could be even faster and I had a good chance. I have to blame myself for the mistake. May this be a lesson to myself for the future. Although I didn’t feel totally comfortable, I have to wait for a better situation to pass a slower rider and not to be so impulsive. I made a mistake and I really hope it is my first and last time. Suzuki had worked really hard during winter for me. They are giving me a performing machine, they have trust in me, and I really want to pay them back in the best way with better results.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team makes successful MotoGP debut in Qatar
1st Rd. MotoGP 2017 – Losail International Circuit (QAT)
The Red Bull KTM MotoGP Factory Racing Team on Sunday night completed a successful debut ride in the premiere MotoGP class of the World Championship in a night race at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit with both Pol Espargro and Bradley Smith finishing their first race on the KTM RC16.
KTM’s two factory riders, Pol Espargaro (ESP) and Bradley Smith (GBR) brought the brand new KTM RC16 machine home in 16-17th place in a race that represented another important step in the Austrian brand’s impressive, and still relatively short development program. Smith also improved his lap time (1:57:365) in the race compared to his 1:57.654 in the third free practice session.
Espargaro: “We always want more and more but it’s the first race and we need to know what is our position, and where we are right now. We need to understand that the 33 seconds (off the lead time) we were today is good. Honestly, we need to be happy because we did a good job and for sure this track was tough for us. During the pre-season, we were at other circuits and this was the hardest of them all for us.”
Smith: “The lap times and the gap to the front guys were better than we expected, and in those conditions, we saw a lot of guys making mistakes so we’re very pleased with what we were able to do today. In general, we did the best we could, and a big thanks to the KTM and we’ll see what happens in Argentina.” Smith also underlined that the weekend had produced a lot of important data for the team and this would be studied intensively and used to make improvements before the next race.
Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsport Director), speaking to the team after the race said it had been a historic moment for the company: “Today we are here in three classes. We participated in MotoGP with two riders and it was such a unique moment for our company. This team is so amazing. We have been together for such a short time. We started from zero, with a blank piece of paper, and everyone has done an amazing job.”
Mike Leitner (KTM MotoGP Team Manager): “We are super happy. It was very important that both riders finished this race. We showed what a big step this is for our company. Everyone has been working very hard and this is the result. We had no technical problems or issues in any of the sessions, or in the race and this is super good. The lap times in the race were really impressive and we didn’t expect that.” Leitner said the team would now work hard ahead of the next two races in Argentina and Austin, Texas, which were two new circuits for them. “We can only do our best and as long as everyone sticks to the plan, sooner or later we will be getting the points,” he added.
The MotoGP race went to Maverick Vinales with Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi picking up the minor podium places.
Zarco steals the show before unfortunate end - Folger recovers to 10th in season opener
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 team experienced a dramatic start to the season in Qatar with the all-new rookie line-up grabbing the headlines in their first premier class race despite the challenging weather conditions. Rain fell as the MotoGP bikes lined the grid, which caused the start to be delayed yet the sprint eventually began with a new and reduced distance of 20 laps. Johann Zarco produced a magnificent display to lead the field for the opening six laps before his race came to an unfortunate end when he fell at turn 2. Whilst, Jonas Folger mounted a notable recovery charge, after slipping back to 18th on the opening lap, to power around the track and meet the chequered flag in 10th. Both riders will return to the saddles of their Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bikes in a fortnight for round 2 in Argentina.
Position: DNF - Championship: Not classified
"Despite the end result, I am happy and it was so good to lead the field in my first race. This morning, we had a longer warm up because there wasn’t any action on Saturday. The track was not perfect, but my feeling was very strong and my grid position, which was 4th, was close to the top. Just before the start, the procedure was disrupted because it rained twice and there was a delay. When the GP finally commenced, I was focused and I could see that I was not far from first so I wanted to take the opportunity to do well. I know that my starts are strong and I overtook some good riders at the first corner and I then got into a consistent rhythm. I kept pushing but on the sixth lap, I decided to relax, and maybe I went off the racing line a little bit and then I fell at the second corner. This is a shame but we are always on the limit and I still need to learn the category so this kind of mistake is part of my lesson as a rookie in MotoGP. I am happy in the end, it’s a pity about the result but it’s important for my confidence and I am excited for the Argentina round."
Position: 10th - Championship: 10th - Points: 6
"I am happy to finish my first MotoGP race inside the top ten but I still have a lot to learn for the future. The last part of the GP was good and I was able to recover well. However, the conditions were not great at the beginning, because of the rain as well as the waiting and this made me a bit nervous. Anyway, I have to take all the positives from this round and focus on the next event. I know that I need to work on myself more and also with the team so that we can go quicker at the beginning of the next GP and I can hold my qualifying position. I think that we have a solid pace, and now we know where I have to improve so I am confident for Argentina and I’m looking forward to the challenge."
"Everybody was excited for the start of the season, and we were really confident that we could achieve two strong results here. Johann began the race in an unbelievable manner, and he overtook riders like Marquez and Dovizioso on his first lap, which was amazing. He then rode the fastest lap of the GP and was the only rider to run below the 1’56 lap times. On every lap he kept opening a gap of more than half a second to the next rider and I thought that we could witness something unreal which was him winning the first race as a rookie. The dream came to an end on the sixth lap, but when he fell, he was not pushing over the limit and he just went slightly off the line and lost the front, and this makes the pill harder to swallow. We will never know if he would have been able to hold the position, but he was fantastic and it has given him a big confidence boost. Now we realise that there will be a lot of surprises in 2017 and he will be strong. As for Jonas, I am a bit disappointed for him because he was fast throughout the winter tests. The fact that the riders had to sit on the grid for so long made a difference and when the race eventually got going, he didn’t have a good start and it took him some time to find a good rhythm. In the end, he made a lot of ground and finished inside the top ten. Jonas will have learnt a lot and no doubt he will be more relaxed in the future. We have to remember that both guys are rookies and what they showed throughout the winter and here is very exciting for 2017. We can’t wait for Argentina where hopefully Johann and Jonas can have two strong performances."
Miller opens MotoGP campaign with eighth place in Qatar
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller achieved his first target of the season with a stirring ride to finish eighth in tonight’s opening round of the MotoGP World Championship in Qatar.
Miller set a clear preseason goal of finishing top ten in the championship and he kick-started that with his performance in the shortened 20-lap race.
The race start was delayed by 45 minutes while officials waited for safe conditions and a rain shower to clear and they cut two laps from the race distance.
Miller made a brilliant start from 16th to be 10th on lap one before surging to seventh behind Honda factory rider Dani Pedrosa on lap eight.
However in tricky, cool and low grip conditions Miller settled for his top ten target of eighth when Aleix Espargaro and Scott Redding made late race charges to move ahead.
After a difficult and painful preseason overcoming injuries Miller’s Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS teammate Tito Rabat made a positive start to the championship, finishing 15th and opened his points account with a calculated ride.
From 19th on the grid Rabat set a solid race rhythm and moved ahead of Pol Espargaro to secure his points scoring finish with six laps remaining.
The championship moves to Argentina for the second round in two weeks.
Jack Miller: 8th
“After all that’s happened this weekend with the weather and the lost track time, it is a great way to start the season inside the top 10. The small crash in FP1 really set us back on Thursday and then the weather pretty much dominated the next two days. What I’m happy about is that I could carry the momentum gained in the preseason and I’ve felt better each time I’ve jumped on the bike. It’s very positive to be in the top 10 and the only disappointment is that I was a little bit tense on the bike in the first part of the race and I was squeezing the handlebars too much and it had a bit of an impact on the transition from brake to throttle. Apart from that it was a very positive finish. It’s a result both myself and the team can build on and I want to thank my guys because they gave me a really competitive package this weekend.”
Tito Rabat: 15th
“It is good feeling to score a point here in difficult conditions but also after a tough preseason with my injuries. This can be a tricky circuit in any conditions but I was happy with my start and had a good pace but then mid-race two Ducatis, Barbera and Abraham, came past and it was difficult to fight with them. I learnt a lot this weekend with my team, especially that I need to be more confident to open the gas.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“It was an entertaining weekend because of the tricky weather conditions but I’m happy with the performances of both Jack and Tito. I predicted ninth for Jack and he finished eighth, it was just a pity that in the final laps he could not keep the pace of Scott Redding. Tito did a good job to score a point in 15th so we leave here with both riders in the MotoGP points. All weekend the race officials were striving to make it safe for the riders to race and while the start was delayed I think the race certainly made up for that. It was an exciting battle to watch and a great way to get the season started. Thankfully when the forecast rain did arrive it did so after chequered flag."
FRUSTRATION FOR CRUTCHLOW IN QATAR
PRESS RELEASE: 26 March 2017 | Qatar Grand Prix
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow endured a disappointing start to the 2017 MotoGP World Championship as he crashed out of Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit. As on Saturday - when qualifying had to be cancelled - the venue was hit by rain prior to the start of the premier class event which forced a delay as race direction consulted with the riders about the safety of the track. Eventually, they were given the go-ahead for a reduced 20-lap race, but the greasy conditions made life difficult.
Setting off from ninth on the grid, Crutchlow switched from a hard to medium tyre just prior to the race. He made a solid start and was lapping in 11th when he suffered a fall on the fifth lap which saw him re-enter the fray in last place. Worse was to follow for the Briton, though, as he crashed again not long after rejoining, with the fall this time putting an end to his race. It was an unfortunate finale to what proved a largely frustrating weekend for the 31-year-old.
Cal Crutchlow – DNF
“I changed the front tyre on the grid, the same as Marc (Marquez), and we shouldn’t have. The medium tyre was way too soft on the front for us, but we were forced into changing because the race was later and they were concerned about the dew. It was completely the wrong decision for us, but it was sort of taken out of our hands.
“I started the race from a good position, but I had a contact with Valentino (Rossi) on the first lap. I didn’t think anything of it, but riding behind the other guys was almost impossible as the front tyre was way too hot. I went off line a tiny bit at the final corner and crashed, but I got back on. I shouldn’t have really, as the handlebar was bent and there was mud on the grip.
“But I have a never-say-die attitude and wanted to finish the race, but the second crash was because the bike was already damaged. I am sorry for my team, we had a similar start last season”.
Reale Avintia Racing riders start the season scoring points
Reale Avintia Racing riders Loris Baz and Hector Barbera finished the first Grand Prix of the season scoring championship points. Loris Baz did a great start from 14th place of the grid and he was eleventh with just three laps to go. But arm-pump problems on his right forearm prevented him from defending his position when Jorge Lorenzo arrived. This race was not easy for Baz, who just before the start received the news of the death of fellow French rider Adrien Protat. And after the loss of Anthony Delhalle earlier this month it was not easy for Baz.
It was not easy race for Hector Barbera either, because he came to Qatar only 20 days after his collarbone injury, and the lack of testing and kilometres at Losail forced him to start the race with an unknown set up. But the Reale Avintia Racing Spanish rider did a great comeback starting from the 20th to finish 13th and with two points tonight in Qatar.
Loris Baz | P12
“It was not an easy race, but at the end the result was good for us. I started the season in the points and, the most important for me is that I crossed the finish line 20 seconds behind the leader, and this is the best we have done since I’m racing with this team. I had an arm-pump problem in my right forearm from the beginning of the race. We have to find out what happened because maybe it was the brake that was too hard, or maybe that I was losing the front almost in every corner, but in the final laps I was not able to fight with Lorenzo as I could not even open full gas on the straight. But overall I’m happy, after all the delays and cancellations this weekend, we started the season with a good result, that I want to dedicate to Anthony and Adrien.”
Hector Barbera | P13
“It was a difficult weekend. I arrived here only twenty days after my collarbone injury and I had not enough strength in my left arm. I tried to set up the bike in the best way, but we had no time; the conditions have been changing during the weekend and yesterday we lost one track day because of the rain. Finally we had two practice sessions, warm-up and we started the race with a set up completely new for me because we didn’t test it before. The team did a great job during the weekend, they have been patient and they understood that I was not in my best form, but finally we were able to get some points. I want to thank all the people that made this possible. Now I have to work hard and think ahead to Argentina, where I hope to do better.”
Abraham picks up his first two points of the season
Sunday, 26 March 2017 22:02
Pull&Bear Aspar rider finishes 14th in his return to MotoGP as Álvaro Bautista hits ground when in the sixth position
Just when it seemed that the MotoGP race at the Grand Prix of Qatar was going to develop before the rain came, it made an appearance with five minutes to go and the start was delayed total almost 45 minutes, until conditions became practicable. Johann Zarco excelled in the first stages of the race, leading the first six laps until, on the seventh, he went to ground in the second corner. The options for the group behind opened up, leaving Andrea Dovizioso in the lead, but with Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi prowling close. The Ducati rider led the most laps in Losail, eight of the twenty, but the most important lap, the last, was headed by Maverick Viñales. The Spaniard is the first championship leader of the season, ahead of Dovizioso and team-mate Valentino Rossi. Marc Márquez, current champion, starts the year in the fourth place.
The Pull&Bear Aspar Team enjoyed a bittersweet race in Qatar. The positive side has come from the hand of Karel Abraham, who picked up his first two points of the season. However, the Czech did not finish the race happy as he believed that he could have gone faster had he not suffered problems with his helmet visor. Without these problems, Abraham explains that he could have run with Jorge Lorenzo, who finished just eight seconds faster. The other side of the coin was offered by Alvaro Bautista. The Spaniard was running sixth, less than three seconds behind the leader of the race at the time. However, on the seventh lap, when he reached the last corner, he hit the ground when he lost the front end. Bautista, who won with the Aspar Team in Qatar in 2006, does not hold great memories of night races and is already thinking ahead to the next round of the World Championship, which will take place in two weeks in Argentina.
14º Karel Abraham: "Those two points are really good for me and I am very happy with them because the last time I scored points in MotoGP was 2014. That was a long time ago and I think this is a really great start to the season for us. As far as the race is concerned, it was not as good as I hoped it could be, unfortunately I had some visor problems that made it hard to brake, turn, everything. It's the first time it has happened to me but it's frustrating. Anyway, these are two important points to start our season, even though I really believe we could have been running with Lorenzo in this race.”
Álvaro Bautista (DNF): "It has been a very strange weekend. I think it would have been better to have canceled the race and to have it done the next day, because we started just when it should have finished. The humidity was very high and we knew that around ten o'clock was more dangerous. In the end it was decided to run. My idea was to finish the race, take my pace and score. I made a good start, I was in the first group, I was comfortable, but in the middle of the race, without knowing why, I lost the front wheel in the last corner and I fell without doing anything special. It is annoying because I have not done anything different, everything was normal. I was setting my pace, I have not tried to push to catch the rest, I wanted to finish. We were sixth, two seconds off the lead. The night has not been very good, I've had some bad luck in the night races, but the positive thing is that there is only one night race a year.”
Scott puts in a great race to take the 7th place
Petrux forced to retire 5 laps from the end
The first Grand Prix of the 2017 MotoGP season was full of twists and gave emotions to Octo Pramac Racing. Scott Redding conquered a precious seventh while Danilo Petrucci had to surrender to a technical problem with five laps to go following a great comeback
The evening of Losail has been characterized by the rain that forced the Race Direction to delay the start twice. The race then started and fortunately was run regularly in dry conditions. Scott Redding powered away a great start but had to immediately slow down to avoid the impact with Zarco who has passed him with a very aggressive move. Scott remained focused and on lap nine he managed to overcome Miller earning seventh place.
Danilo Petrucci’s race ended five laps to go due to a technical problem. Following a not particular brillant start, Petrux had been the protagonist of a great comeback from the sixteenth position. After overtaking Lorenzo to move into ninth, his bike has stopped forcing him to retire.
7th - SCOTT REDDING
“I’m really happy. I had a good race especially after the difficulties of the warm up. I got off a good start but I had to close the throttle due to Zarco’s dangerous move which cost me a lot. In the second part of the race I was lapping well even though I was not able to take the First Independent award. I would have been happy to make the Top 10 so this is a good result and I want thank the team for the work done and for always believing in me. See you in Argentina!”.
DNF - DANILO PETRUCCI
“I am very sorry for how things went. To be honest in the second warm up lap I felt something strange with the bike. During the race I could not manage to take full advantage of the power of the bike, especially on the straight. Howewer I managed to improve my pace in the final part of the race. Then five laps from the end the bike stopped. It’s a shame but it’s only the first race and I’m looking forward to being in Argentina”.
Michelin and Viñales overcome the vagaries of the weather at the opening round
Michelin witnessed Maverick Viñales secure victory at today’s opening round of the 2017 MotoGP™ World Championship season as he rode a perfectly timed race during the Grand Prix of Qatar from Losail this evening.
Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was making his debut with his new team and despite the weather trying its best to spoil the event, the young Spaniard raced to victory after an enthralling and delayed race. Today’s grid lined up using the combined practice times from the first three sessions, after all of Saturday’s proceedings – including the qualifying – was cancelled following heavy rain on Friday night leaving the track in an unsafe condition.
The unusual climate that forced Saturday’s cancellation, almost ruined this evening’s race as rain began to fall just as the bikes lined up for the start, this caused a delay and the race length to be reduced to 20-laps. Once the lights changed, Andrea Iannone (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) got the holeshot from second on the grid, as he passed pole-setter Viñales going into turn one. As the first circulation drew to close last season’s Moto2™ Champion Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) had moved into the lead, a position he held until lap-seven when the rookie strayed slightly off the racing line and crashed as he lost traction on the dusty and dirty part of the track. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) then inherited the top-spot and pushed hard at the front to try to open a gap, he was chased down by Viñales, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) in contention close behind. There then ensued an exciting battle for the victory as the Viñales and Dovizioso changed places at the front as the race wore one. Viñales eventually made the decisive move toward the end of the race when he used his new profile medium compound front MICHELIN Power Slick to its full extent as he out-braked Dovizioso. The Italian followed him home for second, with Rossi filling the final place on the podium.
Michelin had the new profile front tyres at Losail this weekend which are designed for improved corner grip at full lean angle and these were combined with the latest construction of rear MICHELIN Power Slick developed to give greater drivability for improved acceleration. With the option of three compounds for both front and rear, this produced different pairing right through the field, with four of the six specifications being used in the race.
The battle further down the field saw 2016 World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) take fourth ahead of team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) in fifth. Sixth place went to Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) along with the First Independent Team Rider honours. Scott Redding (OCTO Pramac Racing) and Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) finished in seventh and eighth respectively, with Alex Rins (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) taking ninth on his MotoGP premier class debut. Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) – also making his debut – rounded out the top-ten.
Michelin will now make the trip across the equator as it heads to Argentina for round two of the championship at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit on Sunday 9th April.
Maverick Viñales – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP:
“All weekend the tyres have worked really good and for the race I choose the ones that Michelin proposed to me and this was really the right decision. For me the tyres have improved from last year and I feel great on this type of tyre. I hope we can continue like this for the season because for me, my riding style and the bike it feels really good. I always feel very happy with Michelin, I think we still have some work to do, but I am very pleased with what has been done already.”
Piero Taramasso – Manager of the Two-Wheel Motorsport Group:
“It has been a very eventful weekend here in Qatar, after losing a whole day and then the race being on and off like it was, it was very pleasing to finally get it started and have no interruptions. Our new tyres have worked very well here, despite the conditions. On the first day Maverick was 0.6 inside the lap-record and I’m sure if the weather hadn’t been as difficult as it was we would have seen some even faster times. We brought six specifications here and five were used throughout the practices and four today, so it again shows we are giving the riders a choice that is then free for them to decide what they use. The race was very consistent and it also produced some exciting racing through the whole pack. We were especially pleased to see the rookies; Zarco, Folger and Rins adapting to our tyres so quickly during the weekend and seeing the confidence that they had to push with them We will now head to Argentina, where we are certainly ready for the challenge!”