Marc Marquez won a thrilling, 13-lap battle with Valentino Rossi to take the first race of the 2014 MotoGP season at the Losail Circuit in Qatar. Rossi, who started 10th on the grid, took second after a charge through the field and several late-race lead swaps with the eventual winner.
Dani Pedrosa took third after a multi-lap fight with Alvaro Bautista.
Bautista was one of several solo crashers including former world champion Jorge Lorenzo who low-sided at turn 15 while leading the first lap. Bradley Smith crashed out while in a comfortable in fifth late in the race. Stefan Bradl dumped his Honda on turn six while leading eight laps into the race with Marquez and Rossi on his tail.
Aleix Espargaro, the story of free practice and pre seasion testing on his open class Yamaha, made up for a lousy start to climb into fourth by race's end. Factory Ducati teammates Andrea Dovizioso (5th) and Cal Crutchlow (6th) both rode steady races to give the Italian company one of its best team finishes in two years. Scott Redding arrived in seventh in his MotoGP debut after a seesaw battle with Nicky Hayden (8th). Colin Edwards -- Espargaro's Forward Racing teammate -- rode his open class Yamaha into ninth, just ahead of satellite Ducati racer Andrea Iannone. The Italian known as "Crazy Joe" was among the leaders early but also crashed. However, Iannone remounted and fought his way back into 10th.
But the story of the night was the epic, lengthy fight between the 35-year-old, seven-time MotoGP champion and the 21-year-old reigning champion and wunderkind.
At the start of the race, neither of the two were out front. But Marquez quickly began cutting through the field, moving from fifth to second behind Bradl, who had clamed the top-spot after Lorenzo's crash. Rossi took a bit more time to get through the pack and found himself in fourth place with 17 laps to go. Rossi picked off Bautista and settled into third behind Marquez. After Bradl's crash, it was Marquez and Rossi out front with 13 laps remaining.
Soon after, Rossi passed Marquez at turn six. By this time Pedrosa also had passed Bautisa and moved into third. Nine laps from the end, Marquez pulled out of Rossi's slipstream on the front straight and passed him at turn one.
Wth two laps remaining, Rossi pushed past Marquez at turn four. Marquez returned the favor at turn six. At turn seven, Rossi attempted an inside pass but Marquez shut the door. At turn 10, Rossi again dove to the inside and briefly passed the younger rider only to run slightly wide and lose the position.
Marquez held on for the win by two tenths of a second.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Bike||Time / Diff.|
|4||41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Forward Yamaha||11.623|
|9||5||Colin EDWARDS||Forward Yamaha||39.547|
|17||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||Avintia||+1'36.085|
|19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||Honda||2 Laps|
|38||Bradley SMITH||Yamaha||4 Laps|
|44||Pol ESPARGARO||Yamaha||5 Laps|
|6||Stefan BRADL||Honda||14 Laps|
|8||Hector BARBERA||Avintia||18 Laps|
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Yamaha||0 Lap|