At the VisitQatar Grand Prix, the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel received various protests concerning aerodynamic devices on the rear swing arm of Ducati machinery ridden by Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati Team), Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati Team) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing).
The protests were made by Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Repsol Honda Team and Team Suzuki Ecstar, who presented their concerns to the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel. Based on guidelines and regulations currently in force, the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel rejected their protests.
The result of the VisitQatar Grand Prix remains in standing. An appeals process is ongoing.
High expectations and a million questions: that’s what lay before the grid as the lights went out for the VisitQatar Grand Prix and it didn’t disappointment. The closest top fifteen of all time and another duel to the finish – with another trio right behind – made it a stunner of a season opener…with a familiar name on top: Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati Team). It was a familiar name diving down the inside at the final corner too, as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) rolled the dice once again – just 0.023 off ‘DesmoDovi’ over the line. Behind that classic duel that defines a rivalry came another battle but this time of three, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) pulling out all the stops to complete the podium and fend off Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and a late-charging Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP).
It was Dovizioso who got the holeshot from pole, he and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) grabbing P1 and P2 into Turn 1 as Marquez held position just behind. Polesitter Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) didn’t get the start he would have been aiming for as he dropped to sixth on Lap 1, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and teammate Crutchlow catapulting through to the top five.
The race then began to settle into a rhythm, with a train of riders at the front led by Dovizioso keeping a steady pace at the front. Rins was the man on the move on Lap 4 as the Spaniard made more progress after a sharp start from P10 on the grid, the Suzuki man coming through to take the lead by Lap 5 before the Spaniard duelled Dovizioso for the pleasure. It remained a lead group of nine following each other line astern, however, with no one breaking rank just yet.
On Lap 12 the number 04 was back at the front, and the pace then turned up a notch as he and Marquez started to create a gap back to third place Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati), who’d made his way through the group. The pace then slowed again, however, as Dovizioso went from a 1:55.3 to a 1:56.1 to bring the top eight back to within just over a second…
With seven to go, the top eight were covered 1.2 seconds and that’s when Rossi really started to make up ground, picking off his teammate first and then Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) to go up to P6. With three laps to go the fight for the win became a five-way scrap, with Petrucci, Viñales and Mir fading off the pacesetters.
Reigning World Champion Marquez had got the better of Dovizioso on the penultimate lap, but the Ducati struck back down the straight. Crutchlow held P3, Rins P4 and Rossi P5, menacing behind and waiting for the fireworks to begin in the lead. Pushing hard, Marquez had a slight moment with the front at Turn 3, before making a lunge up the inside of Dovi at Turn 10. He couldn’t keep it though as the Desmosedici was able to cut back up the inside on the exit, setting up another classic grandstand finish.
It looked like a carbon copy of 12 months ago at the final corner, but it was the same edge-of-the-seat heart-in-your-mouth moment as Marquez dove through on the inside, sitting up Dovi but running wide as he couldn’t quite get it stopped in time. From there it was another classic point and shoot contest to the line as both gunned it on the exit, but Dovizioso couldn’t be caught and made it out ahead. It was closer than before though, with an infinitesimal 0.023 separating the two as the flag waved. Behind, Crutchlow kept his cool to take a remarkable podium on his first race back since his huge Australian GP crash, with Rins a valiant P4 and Rossi again proving you should never count ‘The Doctor’ out. P5 from P14 on the grid was another impressive race day showing from the nine-time World Champion.
Petrucci would have to settle for P6 on his maiden factory Ducati ride, 2.320 behind his teammate in the end, with polesitter Viñales crossing the line 0.161 back from ‘Petrux’, in P7. Mir produced a fantastic rookie ride to finish just over five seconds off the race win in P8, with the Spaniard beating ninth place Nakagami and tenth place Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) – and just 9.636 covering the top 10 in Qatar.
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was just 0.011 behind Espargaro in P11 on his debut ride for Yamaha, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team), Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the point scoring positions.
So who was the ride of the day? Far from the podium in the end and not scoring any points on his debut, an argument could be made for Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) regardless. The rookie was forced into a pitlane start after issues on the grid ahead of the Warm Up lap, and set about unleashing some almighty pace and nerves of steel for a first ever premier class appearance. Fastest laps flowed from the Frenchman and he was soon into point-scoring contention…although sadly, it wouldn’t last. Too much too early in a bid to catch the group ahead saw Quartararo fade back to P16 by the flag – but only eight tenths off Zarco. Fellow debutant Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) also impressed and, for some time, was top KTM, before fading slightly, a fate that also befell Mir further forward as they all aim to gain more full-length race experience. Final rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Alma Pramac Racing) suffered a DNF, with more to come from him in Argentina for sure, and his more veteran teammate Jack Miller also suffered some bad luck. The Australian fell victim to some problem with his machine that saw him drop from podium contention to suddenly outside the top ten, then retiring before the end of the race.
That’s all she wrote from Qatar but what a story it was. Records broken and history made, five riders in six tenths makes for an awesome opener…even before looking at the winning margin of 0.023. But then, past the stats, it’s much more than a numbers game and always has been. Dedication, precision, passion, talent, confidence, pressure, potential, evolution, rivalry…and respect. This is MotoGP™ and we’re back in business. Tune in for the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina on March 31st for more, because we’ve only just begun.
QATAR’S EXCITING OPENER SEES RINS 4TH AND MIR 8TH
Team Suzuki Press Office – March 10.
Alex Rins: 4th (+ 0.457)
Joan Mir: 8th (+ 5.088)
• Alex Rins runs at front throughout race and finishes 4th.
• Joan Mir makes stunning MotoGP debut with 8th place.
• Team SUZUKI ECSTAR content with Round 1 results.
The highly anticipated Qatar GP took place under Losail’s lights with good conditions. After executing excellent starts, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s two riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir were able to secure respectively 4th and 8th in a hard-fought race which saw the closest Top 15 in MotoGP history, and the Top 5 covered by just over half a second.
Rins slotted into 9th on the first lap but quickly made progress, working his way impressively through the field. By the fourth lap the young Spaniard was leading the race, and he began a battle for the podium positions with several other riders which lasted until the final lap. With a leading group of nine for the majority of the race, it was a tough job to be at the front, but Alex rose to the challenge. As the race went on, tyre management became crucial but Rins was able to finish 4th, a tenth of a second off the podium.
Making his MotoGP debut, Mir pulled off an excellent start and was 7th on the opening lap. The rookie continued a push through the field which saw him rise as high as 4th place. Defending well against some much more experience riders, Mir impressed throughout the 22 lap race. As the chequered flag came out he had dropped to 8th place, but he has already proven how quickly he is learning the premier class.
Ken Kawauchi – Technical Manager:
“It was a good race, and I’m happy to see Alex continuing to do so well and improving all the time. We still have room to improve the bike, but we’ve finished this first race with strong results. Joan made his MotoGP debut in the top group and this was very good, so we hope to continue with both riders at the front in the next races.”
Davide Brivio – Team Manager:
“It has been a great race and we were very close to the front – fighting for the win for the whole race. Alex did a great job and achieved a lot, despite the fact that our bike suffers a bit on the straight. We feel very positive because this isn’t our best track but we still had a very good result. Joan put together an incredible debut, we hoped he would be in with a group so he could learn, and it turned out he was in the best possible group to get important lessons! He made some great moves and fought with the fastest guys.”
“It was an incredible start to the season, it shows all the hard work we’ve done in the winter. The race pace was quite slow and I was constantly trying to get to the front to pull a gap, but Dovi and Marquez overtook me down the straight and it was difficult. We know this isn’t our best track but I felt good and we’re all pleased with this result.”
“I’m so happy about the race. We showed good pace in FP4 and I was able to bring this speed to the race. I learned a lot from the top guys and this was one of the most important and interesting things about this race for me. It was a shame that my tyre went off a bit at the end so I was unable to push more, but anyway, I hope to continue this way – improving race by race, and trying to stay with the front guys.”
Marquez fights for second in 22-lap Qatar thriller, Lorenzo scores on debut
Marquez lit up the Qatar night with second place after race-long brawl as Lorenzo worked his way up to 13th place.
With Warm Up held in the late afternoon and still under the daylight, it only offered the Repsol Honda Team a brief chance to confirm their settings ahead of 2019’s opening Grand Prix. As the sun set and the floodlights flickered to life the ambient temperature settled at 18ºC with the track at 19ºC.
Marc Marquez held his own in the opening laps, keeping out of trouble and moving ahead of the chasing pack with Andrea Dovizioso. The reigning World Champion was soon joined in his hunt for victory, a frantic melee between the leading seven riders playing out over the next 20 laps. Just 0.023s split Marquez from Andrea Dovizioso as they crossed the line, Marquez opening his 2019 account with 20 points.
After yesterdays pair of heavy falls, Jorge Lorenzo’s Repsol Honda Team debut was heavily restricted by lingering pain in his back and shoulder. Focusing on his own rhythm and understanding the Honda over race distance, Lorenzo battled to 13th to earn three points on his debut.
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow completed the podium in third.
The MotoGP™ World Championship now prepares for Round Two at the Argentina Grand Prix, March 29 – 31 hosted at the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit.
“It was exactly the same as last year! I tried to push hard but here when you overtake you just run wide and you can’t keep the line. I tried to be there, to push a little and just be there until the end. I’m very happy with these 20 points because normally we struggle here and this weekend especially we worked a lot. We changed some things that meant I couldn’t push like I normally do in braking. But we finished the race and take good points.”
“There are many positive things today even if where we finished is not what we thought we could achieve. I was very limited by the crash yesterday, it was a very big impact everywhere and especially on my shoulder. It limited everything. From then, I was always slower than at the start of the weekend. I had some problems in the opening laps and lost about three or four seconds there. Without doubt we have much more potential and if we’re not unlucky we can be stronger.”
Strong speed shown at thrilling Qatar Grand Prix
MotoGP 2019 Round 1 of 19, Losail International Circuit (QAT) – RACE
Red Bull KTM launched the 2019 MotoGP year with Pol Espargaro and Johann Zarco scoring 12th and 15th positions at the Losail International Circuit but with a vastly reduced margin to the race winner.
Temperatures improved and the windy conditions that blighted Practice and Qualification on Saturday were not so prevalent for the first round of nineteen. The fans and viewers that turned their attention to the rapid, floodlit corners of the Qatari racetrack – fifteen years as part of the MotoGP calendar – were rewarded with three entertaining races split by fractions of a second.
KTM fielded a bold line-up of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team and Red Bull KTM Tech3: the first time that four KTM RC16s were present on the premier class Grand Prix grid. Pol Espargaro, Miguel Oliveira and Johann Zarco ran close together for most of the race in the second half of a field that was closely packed, and often with only ten seconds dividing the majority of runners. Hafizh Syahrin struggled to find an effective rhythm and classified outside the points.
Espargaro was finally able to overtake his Portuguese brandmate and finished in 12th position: just 12.7 seconds away from winner Andrea Dovizioso. The gap was more than half the distance achieved in 2017 and 2018. Zarco recovered from a tough Saturday period and a grid slot of 21st to notch his first point on the RC16 with 15th. Oliveira forged an impressive early pace but in the second half of the race had to slow due to tyre wear and passed the chequered flag in 17th.
Pol Espargaro: “A mix of feelings but we must be happy because the gap to first place is not so far. We were close…but we also finished twelfth. It feels like it’s good, but also that it’s not enough. When you are close to the top guys you start to look what is going on and thinking about where we lose such a small gap per lap. I think we are talking 0.3 per lap: it is not much. I think it is in some acceleration. We are so close but twelve seconds away.”
Johann Zarco: “The beginning of the race was pretty good. I was controlling the bike well and the others were not much stronger than me. It was a good way to analyse the performance of the others. I’m happy because I expected to have some struggles but I saw other riders were also having problems: I know at the moment we don’t have the package for winning, not even for the top five but with good work and good control I really trust that a top ten is possible and that is the target throughout the year. Let’s see in Argentina if I can catch it. I wanted it here but because of the up-and-down of Friday and Saturday finally I was not ready. That is part of experience, and doing 22 laps in a row was really important and the first time we do it. I have a factory team and I know they have the quality to make a strong analysis of this race.”
Miguel Oliveira: “The race was quite interesting. I was trying to keep up with this little group of Aleix Esparagaro and Taka Nakagami and after seven, eight laps to go I felt a big drop of tyre, I had a lot of sliding with vibration on the rear, so I honestly thought the tyre was going to explode. Obviously, I couldn’t do much. I’m disappointed, because I knew I could have finished in the points. It was quite hard to manage it, but anyway, I’m glad we finished the race, I had good fun and gathered some good information.”
Hafizh Syahrin: “It has been a difficult race for me. We have a big gap to the front and I don’t know how to explain it well. I couldn’t keep the pace and while I played with the electronics the gap got bigger and bigger. To be honest, I’m slow at the moment and I don’t have the confidence to push more. I try to learn from today’s race and improve further. I’m disappointed with myself, but we keep on working hard, we are patient and I hope it’s coming soon.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “Round one and generally we are really happy to have four bikes on the grid and have all four finish: this sounds like something quite easy but it is not always like that. Both Pol and Johann were quite happy with the performance of the bike and we know we have to improve our package and continue to grow. When we first came here we were thirty seconds from the race winner and we have to be realistic. This was never an easy track for us but in the middle of the race we were only 5-6 seconds away and this is very motivating for everybody in the team to keep pushing. We have eighteen more races now and we will try often as possible to get into these top ten positions.”
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “The first Grand Prix is done and I’m happy. All four guys were back in the garage healthy and being just 12 seconds from the winner means just half a second a lap. We had doubts and struggles all weekend at this track and some critical questions but 0.5 is still not too far and I know we can still improve and it will bring us right into the middle of a serious game. Johann was perhaps struggling the most of the group but managed to have a good race. We’ll build on this.”
Moto2 & Moto3
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder finished in 12th position for the first Moto2 Grand Prix with a new single spec engine – only the second time in the history of the category inaugurated at the beginning of the decade. Moto3 World Champion Jorge Martin opened his account both with his new team and in the Moto2 category in 15th.
The 18-lap Moto3 race was the first of the day and was won by Kaito Toba with Aron Canet taking his KTM RC250 GP on the podium in 3rd place (the first of five KTMs in the top ten). Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Can Öncü completed his maiden Grand Prix in what is his debut FIM world championship season in 18th position.
The Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina will represent round two of nineteen and will take place in three weeks time.
Qatar GP: superb win by Andrea Dovizioso at Losail with the Mission Winnow Ducati team, 6th place for Danilo Petrucci
Andrea Dovizioso seized a spectacular win in the Qatar GP, the opening round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship, on the Mission Winnow Ducati team’s Desmosedici. The Italian thus repeated the result achieved last year, once again beating Marc Marquez to the finish line for just 23 thousandths of a second. For Dovizioso, who scored five consecutive podiums at the Losail track, it’s the 12th win with Ducati.
Starting from first row, Dovizioso led the race from the very beginning, battling with Marquez and Rins, then tried to pull away from the pack in the last few laps. Marquez tried a move at the very last corner but the Italian once again managed to answer back to cross the finish line in first position. Danilo Petrucci also rode a solid race, recovering several positions after suffering a non-optimal start from third row. After climbing back to third, Petrucci faced a small drop and finished the race in sixth, only two seconds behind his teammate.
Andrea Dovizioso (#04 Mission Winnow Ducati) – 1st
“I’m super happy about this win, especially because after the tests I wouldn’t have expected to be so fast. We stayed focused and we made progress in each session. Our strategy in the race was simply to preserve the tyre, and this made the difference, but it wasn’t easy because I led for most of the race and I couldn’t really study my opponents. Marquez gave it everything he could, as usual, and pushed me to the limit. We made the most of our strenghths, that is, acceleration and top speed, but we still need to improve our corner speed. This year there are plenty of quick riders and it’ll be crucial not to lose too many points on less favorable tracks. We need to keep our feet on the ground and continue working in this direction.”
Danilo Petrucci (#9 Mission Winnow Ducati) – 6th
“My sixth place is still positive because we scored important points for the championship. Unfortunately, I was hindered by a less than optimal start, but the race pace wasn’t very fast and I was able to recover positions quite quickly. Still, I struggled to pass other riders and push hard in braking. In retrospect, choosing the soft tyre for both the front and rear was a gamble, but we expected the temperatures to drop further and we also weren’t as fast as usual on the straight. That said, the championship has just begun and I’m confident we’ll bounce back soon.”
Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.
“It’s been a very exciting race. Dovizioso was simply brilliant, doubling up on the win scored here last year and keeping the streak open after taking the last round of 2018 in Valencia. This shows how hard the whole team worked during the winter break. The Desmosedici is even more competitive now but we’ve seen plenty of fast rivals and this was just the first race. We need to stay focused and keep working hard, but for sure we can say Ducati is competitive.”
Luigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager
“We couldn’t have started the season off in a better way. Hats off to Dovizioso, who rode a clever race, without making mistakes, preserving the tyres and managing the situation until the very last corner, where he played his cards wisely. Thanks also to the team, who worked hard all winter to make sure we were ready for Qatar. We’ll keep putting in the same effort to allow both our riders to be protagonists in the next races.”
The Mission Winnow Ducati team will resume action at the Termas de Rio Hondo track for the Grand Prix of Argentina, scheduled for March 31st.
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi pushed to the limit in the 22-lap race at the Losail International Circuit today, making up nine places to finish in fifth position. Maverick Viñales wasn’t able to challenge until the final stages of the VisitQatar Grand Prix and crossed the line in seventh place.
Rossi had his work cut out for him, lining up in P14. However, with Fabio Quartararo starting from pit lane, the Italian found himself in 13th place entering the first corner. He gained another position in the opening lap and soon moved past Francesco Bagnaia and Aleix Esparagró to enter the top-10.
His rise in the rankings spurred him on. The Yamaha rider scrapped with Takaaki Nakagami in order to follow team-mate Viñales towards the front group. Knowing that saving tyres for the latter stages of the race would be crucial, Rossi kept his cool, but he had to put his head down when Franco Morbidelli passed him with 12 laps to go. Two laps later the number-46 rider returned the favour, using the slipstream to overtake his compatriot going into turn 1.
It was time to charge. Rossi overtook Viñales after lap 15. He then fought his way past Joan Mir and, with three laps to go, Danilo Petrucci was next. Once inside the top-5, the Doctor put his head down and dropped mid-1’55s laps but fell just short of being able to put in a move. He took the chequered flag in fifth place, just 0.600s from first.
Viñales started from pole but dropped to sixth place in the first corners. As he tried to get into a good rhythm, he fell back to eighth, but he soon started to fight his way back towards the front group. With 18 laps to go, he picked off Nakagami whilst being followed by team-mate Rossi.
The number-12 rider had a first look up the inside of Cal Crutchlow four laps later but decided the better of it. He maintained his tyres to get a second wind with eight laps to go, flashing two red sectors. He connected with the front group but didn’t get to enjoy it for long, as Rossi soon passed him. With four laps remaining he found his way through on Mir to follow his team-mate.
The Spaniard posted two personal bests three and two laps before the end, trying to close an over-1.3s gap. However, he wasn’t able to challenge the front-runners in the final laps. He crossed the line in seventh place, 2.481s behind the winner.
The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action in three weeks’ time at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit for the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, held from March 29th – 31st.
“After yesterday’s qualifying, the team worked really hard to prepare something for Vale to give him a better feeling for the race. He did a great job riding to fifth place, especially considering that he had to come through mid-pack, which is always a bit chaotic. He was only 0.600s off the race win. Coming from 14th on the grid, that is a solid achievement. It’s a shame Maverick couldn’t exploit his pole position today. His rhythm in the middle and towards the end of the race was pretty good, but unfortunately the rear tyre he used in the race was performing less when he was riding behind another rider. We will try to find out what the reason is for this change. These are not the results we were hoping for at the opening round, but it’s an indication of where we can improve. We will regroup and learn from this GP weekend and this race day, to prepare for the next round in three weeks’ time.”
“We worked hard from yesterday to today, we modified the setting of the bike, also for the race we made some other adjustments. We worked well and I’m happy, it was a good race. I felt good with the bike today and I also enjoyed coming from the back, so it’s not so bad. I arrived in fifth, that’s good, especially because I’m 0.6s from the victory, but at this track we are always good. We have to keep working because in some other places maybe we’ll have more problems, but we’ll take this result. I tried to get on the podium, but I was not strong enough.”
“At the start I got a lot of wheelie, I couldn’t keep the gas fully open and I missed the inside a little bit, so I couldn’t keep a good line. Obviously, we have to improve the bike. When I’m alone I can do really good lap times, even in the middle of the race I could ride 1’55s-lows on my own, but as soon as I’m behind another rider I suffer this lack of grip on the rear, and I couldn’t attack and overtake. We have to improve, and so do I. We need to keep working. The positive point is that we now know where we have to improve, and this is very important.”
LCR Honda CASTROL’s Cal Crutchlow opened his 2019 MotoGP account with a stunning third place in the curtain-raising Grand Prix of Qatar on Sunday, which was made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was his first race back after suffering a career-threatening injury in Australia last October.
Crutchlow had a horrific ankle-break just four months ago, and only started walking again in January, however the British hero was in remarkable form under the floodlights of the Losail circuit in the Gulf state. He battled hard for victory throughout the epic 22-lap race, and having retaken third place from rival Alex Rins on the final lap, held out to finish just three-tenths behind the eventual winner Andrea Dovizioso, marking an unbelievable comeback ride.
It means back-to-back podium finishes for the 33 year-old, who next up heads to the scene of his last grand prix victory, the Termas de Rio Honda circuit in Argentina.
Cal Crutchlow – 3rd
“It’s great to even be back racing in MotoGP, let alone come away with a podium finish, but my LCR Honda Castrol Team did a great job. We worked hard this weekend because the tests were a bit of a waste of time for me. This weekend has been difficult, and if you had asked me after warm-up if I’d finish on the podium I would have laughed!”
“I played my cards in the race, I felt good and once we started the race myself and Marc Marquez had similar tactics – saving the rear tyre and managing things a little bit more.”
“What a great start to the season for everybody, for my team, for the riders and the fans here in Qatar and for the people watching at home. It seems every race in MotoGP is always a battle and it was nice to be in it and race and get a podium. It’s a dream to be honest. At one point we didn’t know if I was going to be coming back at all.”
Tech KTM Red Bull
Oliveira delivers impressive MotoGP debut, Syahrin arrives in top 20
Eluminated by the impressive floodlights of the Losail International Circuit, the Red Bull KTM Tech3 duo fought hard in the first race of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship. Premier class rookie Miguel Oliveira was in P18 by the end of the first sector, but made his way up to 15th in the course of the first lap. During the race, he battled against his experienced KTM collogues Johann Zarco and Pol Esparagro and eventually ended up just 1.284 seconds behind Zarco.
On the other side of the Red Bull KTM Tech3 garage, Hafizh Syahrin, who had a tough time to adapt to his new bike during the preseason tests, was fighting further in the course of the long 22 laps of the Qatar Grand Prix and brought it home in 20th position. Now the Malaysian and his teammate look forward to transfer their experiences from Asia to South America, where the second GP of the season will take place in less than three weeks’ time in Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina.
“The race was quite interesting, the engine stalled on the grid, so I had to come back to pitlane, restart the bike and start from the last position, but in any case, this didn’t affect our race at all. I had a good start, had a first good lap, so after I was trying to keep up with this little group of Aleix Esparagaro and Taka Nakagami and after seven, eight laps to go I felt a big drop of tyre, I had a lot of sliding with vibration on the rear, so I honestly thought the tyre was going to explode. Obviously, I couldn’t do much. I’m disappointed, because I knew I could have finished in the points, if this didn’t happen. It was quite hard to manage it, but anyway, I’m glad we finished the race, I had good fun and gathered some good information. So, we move on to the next round.”
“It has been a difficult race for me. We have a big gap to the front and I don’t know how to explain it well. I tried to understand the bike in each lap, which was quite tough and it was not easy. I couldn’t keep the pace and while I played with the electronics the gap got bigger and bigger. To be honest, I’m slow at the moment and I don’t have the confidence to push more. I try to learn from today’s race and improve further. I’m sorry for the team and all my friends, who came here to support me. I’m disappointed with myself, but we keep on working hard, we are patient and I hope it’s coming soon.”
“Incredible race from Miguel here in his first race in the MotoGP class with the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team! He stalled the bike on the grid like Fabio Quatararo, but fortunately managed to restart and started dead last. Through this handicap, he was 15th after the first lap and then we saw him climbing until P13 with guys like Jorge Lorenzo and the two factory KTM’s behind, so we were starting to dream as the target was one point and until three or four laps to go, we were matching this target. The last seven, eight laps were very difficult, because the rear tyre was completely finished and he lost quite a few positions to end up outside of the points, but I think we need to take the positives of the whole weekend and he did a great job the whole winter testing, he has been constantly together with the KTM factory riders, who have a lot of experience in the MotoGP class, quite a few times ahead. So, we are very proud of what Miguel has been doing and we are happy to give this kind of feedback to KTM to grow and to improve. Everything is very, very positive, except the fact that we missed one point, but even more important the gap to the top is very small, which is what matters the most. For sure we need some rest, but we just can’t wait to be in Argentina to see how we are going to be there. To start a year like that with the project we have, is very encouraging. On the other side of the garage, I can not hide my disappointment, because Hafizh has never been in a good rhythm. We ended up last, the guys behind us have either crashed or retired from the race, so this is not enough. We are here to help and not to shoot on anybody, but I think Hafizh needs to change something, because we can’t have such a gap in between our two riders. Let’s hope he’s going to find some interesting things for Argentina. Thanks to Red Bull, thanks to KTM, but most of all, thanks to the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team, which was been working really hard.”
APRILIA BEGINS WELL
ALEIX IN THE TOP TEN STRAIGHT AWAY AND WITH A NARROW GAP BEHIND THE LEADERS
ANDREA MAINTAINS A GOOD PACE AND EARNS HIS FIRST POINTS WITH APRILIA
BRADLEY, STOPPED BY A CRASH, CONCLUDES A WEEKEND OF HARD WORK ON THE RS-GP
The first round of the season in Qatar ended up being a good weekend for Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, rounding out three days of constant growth with a positive race.
Aleix Espargaró, who had an excellent start in the race, tried to stay with the leading group, but struggled to find grip with the new tyre. Settling in behind the leading group, he gradually improved his performance, maintaining a narrow gap behind the leaders and moving up through the positions, winning the battle for tenth with Morbidelli just on the last lap, containing the gap behind the winning time to just over nine seconds. This is an outstanding result that rewards him for the good race he rode.
For Andrea Iannone, the Qatar race was actually his first “long run” astride the new RS-GP. Andrea, penalised by his seventh-row spot on the starting grid, was unable to stay close to the leaders but, once the group spread out, he settled into a pace worthy of the best placements, moving all the way up to thirteenth. The duel he lost to Lorenzo on the final straight gave him fourteenth place which, in any case, earns him is first championship points and, more importantly, confirms his trend of consistent improvement, precisely the top priority for him and his team at this stage of the season.
Bradley Smith’s race ended early due a to a harmless crash two laps ahead of the chequered flag. This was the first race for the English rider and the test team, and the weekend produced a large amount of data and results from the many tests completed. This data will be valuable material for the next steps in the growth of the 2019 RS-GP, a bike that demonstrated outstanding potential in the Qatar night.
“Not bad at all! Finishing in the top ten for the first race is definitely positive. Since I started well, I tried to stay up with the leaders. Our engine is now competitive, especially in the top gears, and I have good speed on the straight, but with the new tyre, I never had good traction. Then, grip started to drop for everyone, I felt very competitive. It’s a shame that we lost a lot of time overtaking Miller, but when I did, I was also able to get past Morbidelli and finish in the top ten. We can build our growth on this good result.”
“Overall, it was a positive race. On my début with Aprilia, we finished 14 seconds behind the leader and that means that we worked well. There was no lack of difficulties: on the first turn I lost the left winglet due to contact and that certainly didn’t help. I am pleased, we improve every time we go out onto the track and a team of skilled people who believe in me has my back. These are fundamental ingredients that allow me to be positive. We are on the right path.”
“It was not the weekend finale that we expected. As we had already figured during the tests, after the first 5 laps in which I felt very good, we inevitably began to lose ground. During the final laps, I tried to pick up the pace a bit, but I crashed on turn 1. We’ll need to analyse this behaviour well. We have some ideas about it already and we’ll start working on it as early as the next tests in Jerez.”