2018 Qatar MotoGP Race Result: Are You Not Entertained?

New season, more challengers, shrinking gaps throughout the field and the result is exactly what we were served with in 2017, with the gentlemanly rivalry between Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez picking up at its highest point. In a déjà vu from Motegi and Austria, the race was decided in the final turn, with a wild trademark lunge from the reigning world champion and a typically measured response from the Ducati man. Third time unlucky for Marquez and Dovizioso went on to finally win the first race of the season after testing the waters for the past couple of years.

Losing is not a feeling Marquez accepts often but a podium was the best Honda would’ve hoped for and, in his words, the Spaniard will go to bed happy knowing he at least tried. Valentino Rossi fought his best to keep Losail a Yamaha track but the final podium position was as good as he could muster at the flag, proving once again that eighth place on the grid is his lucky charm.

Marquez and poleman Johann Zarco disputed the lead at the start, with Dani Pedrosa joining them right away despite both Hondas entering the playground on the harder front tyre. Front row man Danilo Petrucci had a less than ideal start, the Italian dropping behind Rossi and ahead of Cal Crutchlow. Rossi had progressed from eighth to fourth halfway through lap one while Dovizioso got swallowed by the pack to drop into eighth position. Alex Rins also lost some places to trail the Italian, while Jorge Lorenzo and Maverick Viñales each lost three places at the start and were fighting to return to the top ten.

Marquez continued to harass Zarco at the front but the Frenchman was not intimidated in the slightest. Rossi slipstreamed Pedrosa at the beginning of lap three, while Dovizioso fired in the fastest time amongst the leaders. With the top ten keeping in close proximity, Rossi was eager to get past Marquez, while Petrucci wanted past Pedrosa. The Pramac man copied Rossi’s move on the small Spaniard one lap later and found himself knocking on the doors of the podium, with Rossi three tenths ahead. Meanwhile, Pedrosa looked to be struggling and was soon overtaken by Crutchlow and Dovizioso, the Italian continuing to run the hottest pace on show. Pedrosa was losing touch with the lead group slightly and got embroiled in a battle with the Suzukis and Jack Miller.

Back at the front, Zarco was maintaining a three-tenth gap to the two world champions behind him and Marquez unwillingly handed over the task of chasing him down to Rossi on lap six.  The Honda man had no choice but to call a truce on the Yamahas for now and fend off Petrucci instead. Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Rins completed the lead group, half a second ahead of Pedrosa, Miller and Andrea Iannone. Another second down the road, Lorenzo and Viñales were each running in clear air.

Proving his status as race favourite, Dovizioso started his charge on lap eight, picking up Crutchlow and Petrucci and hunting down Marquez, who was giving the two leading Yamahas a bit of a breather. Rossi thought about an attack on a few occasions but the Tech 3 man held strong and the status quo was maintained in a proverbial calm before the storm to the midpoint of the race.

Marquez got bored of the peace and quiet and got back through on Rossi when the top two went a bit wide, Dovizioso taking his chance and pushing the Yamaha another place down, not leaving Marquez out of his sights. So eager was the Italian that he made it past the world champion barely half a lap later, in a double slipstream at the end of the straight.

At the halfway point, the still massive front group was “slowing down” into the 1:56s, and Rins was the first to blink in turn two, crashing out of a top six position, setting an example for Lorenzo to do the same soon after.

Despite the hot pace of Dovizioso, Zarco wanted to bolt at the front, with the gap increasing to half a second for the first time, making Marquez pick up the task of reeling him in after a move on Dovizioso in turn six. The Spaniard got within a tenth of a second from the lead but fell victim to the dreaded slipstream with eight laps to go, the factory Ducati blasting past him once again. Rossi, Crutchlow, Pedrosa and Petrucci were the other men hanging in the lead group, with Viñales kicking himself for the poor first lap back in eighth, two and a half seconds down. The Yamaha man still had reason to hope, showing impressive pace and being one of the few dipping into the 1:55s at this point of the race.

With the overwhelming sensation that everyone was just biding their time, Zarco continued to lead, despite having shown none of this rapid pace in practice. The Frenchman finally fell victim to Dovizioso with five laps to go, the opportunist reigning world champion following him in the slipstream and almost ending up in the gravel trap at turn one. As the Spaniard was casually pulling it back together, Rossi made it past the satellite Yamaha as well. As Petrucci and Pedrosa were starting to fade from the lead group, Viñales was swallowing down the tenths of a second keeping him away from the podium fight and was right on their tails with three laps remaining.

Zarco looked to have eventually run out of grip in the final two laps, falling behind Crutchlow, Petrucci, Viñales and eventually Pedrosa, but no such problems for Dovizioso, Marquez and Rossi who started setting red hot sectors. The Yamaha veteran was working wonders to keep with the two leaders and the Jaws music started playing on the last lap, in a déjà vu of all the memorable fights between last year’s main title rivals.

The Honda man was struggling to keep up with the Ducati’s speed and although he was close enough to smell burning rubber from the Italian, the classic lunge at the final corner was desperate but ultimately unsuccessful and the Italian finally got his much awaited win in Qatar. Rossi crossed the line seven tenths behind the feisty duo, with Cal Crutchlow the best of the rest two seconds down the road.

Petrucci could not keep up with the leaders despite the front row start and ended up fifth, narrowly ahead of Viñales, in a tale of 'what could have been' for both riders. Pedrosa completed the top seven, with Zarco dropping over two seconds to the Spaniard for eighth place, little reward after leading so much of the race. Iannone was the only finishing Suzuki in ninth place, with Miller making his Ducati debut in the top ten. The honour of fastest rookie went to Franco Morbidelli in twelfth place.

Dovizioso leaves Losail with the lead in the championship, with his arch enemy and begrudging friend Marquez close behind and with Rossi starting the campaign for that evasive tenth title from third in the standings.

Results:

Pos. Num. Rider Bike Gap
1 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 42'34.654
2 93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda +0.027
3 46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha +0.797
4 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda +2.881
5 9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati +3.821
6 25 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha +3.888
7 26 Dani PEDROSA Honda +4.621
8 5 Johann ZARCO Yamaha +7.112
9 29 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki +12.957
10 43 Jack MILLER Ducati +14.594
11 53 Tito RABAT Ducati +15.181
12 21 Franco MORBIDELLI Honda +16.274
13 19 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati +19.788
14 55 Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha +20.299
15 17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati +23.287
16 12 Thomas LUTHI Honda +24.189
17 30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda +24.554
18 38 Bradley SMITH KTM +31.704
19 41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia +34.712
20 45 Scott REDDING Aprilia +37.641
21 10 Xavier SIMEON Ducati +46.706
    Not Classified    
  44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 7 Laps
  42 Alex RINS Suzuki 10 Laps
  99 Jorge LORENZO Ducati 10 Laps
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1
2018
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Total votes: 82

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Comments

Hats off to all, especially the top three for making it a real slice-and-dice up to the end. Dovi rode an incredible race, Márquez remained imperious, and Rossi seems to have shaken off the late-stage tire wear demons for now, putting in top flight laps in the last part of the race. What a contest. Well done!

Total votes: 51

If the rest of the season is like this, I fear for my health!

Total votes: 75

That was one of the best premier class races I have ever seen. That was a classic, up with the Stoner - Rossi battle at Laguna Seca. It was like the top 8 or 10 bike racers in the world, all turned to their enterages, and said "Here! Hold my beer!" I thank the Lord my Dog, the racing season is back!

Total votes: 56

I'll take another 18 more just like this one. Good to see Dovi finally win one in Qatar!

My prediction was that if Lorenzo wasn't a winner and constant podium threat through the 1st 4-5 race, he'll be leaving Ducati. I don't see him staying.

Total votes: 59

If Lorenzo does leave, where do you think he’ll go?  This isn’t a loaded question.  I have no real theories on the matter and am interested in what others think.

Total votes: 50

My completely uninformed (and likely wrong) guess would be for Lorenzo to end up at Suzuki so he can have a bike that actually turns and still has at least reasonably competitive power (sorry Aprilia).

Or maybe he’ll really screw with everybody and go to WSBK. 

Total votes: 76

I think Suzuki or KTM. KTM likely have deeper pockets, and they definitely want a top rider. But I think (so far) the Suzuki is more sorted, and it would be easier for him to adapt to.

Total votes: 50

Appetite whetted, got my fix, we’ve got the monkey off our backs for another three (DAMMIT!) weeks and it looks like this season is going to live up to the hype!

HOORAY!

Total votes: 52

... for Marc's last lap lunges at Dovi, not that he'll stop trying.

So, the factory M1 late-lap tire issues are solved for now, or...? Either way, great job by Rossi and even Vinales considering the problems they've had. On the one hand I was surprised to see Zarco fade so badly, as good as he is on worn tires, but then again it was just as surprising to see him out front after struggling for pace in FP.

I was kind of shocked to see Rins go down, he really seemed like he was in a good rhythm. Hopefully he sees the positive in this, he was in a very competitive position and to be honest he's still pretty much a rookie. And the front 8-9 in this race were all so strong, it was fantastic to watch.

Total votes: 58

on a bike with an inherently inferior pace in these three races, would even be able to take a shot as passing Dovi for the win?  The last time something such as that worked was what, 1996 in Brno?

Total votes: 49

.....to see Mr Emmett pointed out in pit lane by the BT Sport commentary team (apparently moonlighting for Dutch TV)

Total votes: 68

Perfect heading.  Oh hell yes, I was entertained.  In about 5 different ways.

Rossi competitive, Vinales crazy comeback, the numerous position changes, then the battle royale out of the last corner, Dovi winning.  My only hope is at the end of the year, we look back and say, "Remember how boring Qatar was compared to all the other races".

A guy can dream?

 

Total votes: 41

I have a MotoGP subscription here in the US and I liked most of the commentary team last year but Nick Harris retired (my least favorite), I liked the color guy and the young interview guy who looks like Chaz Davies was top notch.  The booth guys aren't bad but the interview guy sounds drunk or slow or both.

Total votes: 43

There's some debate on the Sunday Roundup article comments about Simon Crafar. He seems a bit hesitant, unlike the seasoned broadcasters he's paired with, but give him some time and I believe his chops will improve.

He certainly is qualified, having raced a number of series, as well as winning the 500 British Grand Prix at Donington Park in 1988.

Total votes: 42

We all know the saying that "nice guys always finish last", but Dovi is certainly flipping that table on its head.  Dovi is nice AND popular. I would not be at all surprised if this doesn’t weigh into Marquez’s decision making when he goes for the last corner lunge.  I mean, would he really want to play all argey bargey with Dovi like he has with Rossi and Lorenzo?  And get the criticism from just about every MotoGP fan out there? I mean, who doesnt like Dovi? Marquez is ruthless, I have no doubt, but he also values his popularity, and Dovi certainly is not the villainess character with which to bump of the track and risk damaging some of his reputation. So Marquez has his lunge….. but for sure it is more measured than it normally would be.

Total votes: 59

Believe it's more of Dovi expecting the lunge, adjusting and giving MM the room for his pass attempt, and then cutting under him to take the victory, IMHO. Don't believe MM is any more or less ruthless because it's Dovi, or Rossi, or Lorenzo in his way. And I think he's popular because he does this sort of thing.

If you noticed Dovi used the apron on this particular corner to power out and take the victory. On a track with grass or gravel on the inside, instead of a large apron, MM might well have been successful in the pass.

Total votes: 38

Dovi also has the luxury of knowing that the Ducati can (just) win the drag to the line.

If Marques was doing the same move against a Yamaha or Suzuki there might be a different outcome

Total votes: 50

Interesting to look at the order further down the field. Some of these guys will no doubt be working on their excuses for not doing better and methinks a few team managers are already eyeing up the options for next year.

However, I think Hafizh Syahrin should be quietly pleased with his 14th place on a bike and class in which he has had no experience and on a track that was hardly perfect. He finished ahead of a number of riders who should have performed better.

He was possibly been using Zarco's settings but once he gets to grip with the bike, he looks like another top 10 rider.

Total votes: 48

Karel Abraham who is riding a two-year old bike on a "third string" team.  Of course, Abraham may be a better rider than he is commonly given credit for (i.e. he is legitimate 3rd tier MotoGP talent, and not just pay to ride).

Total votes: 55