2011 MotoGP Qatar Insider: Yamaha

March 21, 2011
Scott Mathews
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There are few people worthy of getting an audience with Mathews but he makes himself available on occasion to the racers of the Grand Prix paddock. If they’re lucky, he might even mention their name. He’s Scott Mathews, and he’s bringing you the inside scoop on MotoGP.

Considering the dominance of the HRC Hondas in qualifying and practice  Lorenzo was happy with a second-place result at the 2011 opener - Qatar 2011
Lorenzo up front before Stoner drops the hammer - Qatar 2011
Considering the dominance of the HRC Hondas in qualifying and practice, Lorenzo was happy with a second-place result at the 2011 opener.

You could have been mistaken for thinking Jorge Lorenzo had won the Qatar MotoGP race last night after he claimed a thrilling second place in the floodlit season opener. The factory Yamaha rider feared he’d have no chance of fighting with title rivals Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa after the Repsol Honda duo dominated practice and qualifying at the Losail International Circuit.

Lorenzo took the fight to Stoner in the early stages and defeated Pedrosa’s super-fast Honda RC212V machine with some brilliantly executed overtakes on his compatriot. Knowing how hard he had to ride to split the Repsol Honda duo, Lorenzo was jubilant after extending his amazing podium record at the Losail International Circuit.

The Mallorcan’s not yet finished outside of the top three in any class since the first Qatar Grand Prix in 2004 and he said: “I never stopped believing in myself. Even when things are not so good I put everything I had into the race to try and not be too far away from the Hondas. But to be honest I didn’t expect to finish in second place. But my pace was constant and also they couldn’t make 55.0 like in practice, so all this together makes the race more close. This second place feels more important than half of my victories last season.”

Lorenzo believes he could have pushed Stoner harder for an unlikely win had he not made a mistake on Lap 17 that cost him almost a second, adding: “I thought you don’t need to crash. And when I was closing my eyes and expecting to crash, I open again my eyes and I stay on the bike. Maybe without this mistake I could try to catch Casey, but after this mistake the only thing that I could do is open maximum throttle to finish second.” 

Ben Spies said he was satisfied with his factory Yamaha debut in Qatar, despite failing to mount a podium challenge in the 22-lap race. The 2009 World Superbike Champion had high hopes of a top-three challenge, but his bid for a third MotoGP podium was effectively over on the first lap.

Ben Spies rode to sixth  disappointed with his start but beating Rossi for the position - Qatar 2011
Ben Spies rode to sixth, disappointed with his start but  with the Texan beating Rossi for the position.

The Texan finished sixth having battled with Valentino Rossi for the opening 15-laps and he said: “It was one of those tough races where I was on the short end of the stick in the first two turns. I got a good start and I can’t remember who I was behind, but I had somebody on the right and I was trapped where I was braking. I was still in a good position and I braked with everybody and Valentino and (Hector) Barbera came on the inside and one of them bumped me a little bit and it put me off line and a couple of people came by. I was trapped behind them and those two guys were battling for the first four laps and making mistakes and running wide. I couldn’t get around and I just didn’t get a break at the start. Other than that it was a good race, It wasn’t the podium or the top five but other people didn’t have as good a race as us.”

Aussie Anthony West was refused permission to ride injured Alvaro Bautista’s factory Suzuki in the opening round of the 2011 MotoGP world championship tomorrow night. With nominated replacement rider John Hopkins unable to make the long trip from San Diego to Doha in time for tonight’s qualifying session, Suzuki approached MZ Moto2 rider West about the vacant GSV-R ride. But after whirlwind talks with Suzuki boss Paul Denning at the Losail International

Alvaro Bautista crashed in FP3  breaking his left femur and requiring surgery at the Doha hospital - Qatar 2011
When Alvaro Bautista went down in Friday practice with a broken femur, Suzuki was unable to work out a deal for a backup at Qatar. Moto2 rider and former Kawasaki GP rider Anthony West was the leading candidate, with Californian John Hopkins unable to reach the Losail circuit in time.

Circuit, a deal couldn’t be finalized for West to make his MotoGP appearance since he rode for Kawasaki in 2008.

Suzuki was looking for a stand-in after Bautista suffered a broken femur in a huge practice crash on Friday night. He lost control at Turn 15 and underwent successful surgery earlier today to re-align and pin the femur bone at hospital in Doha. He is expected to fly home to Spain on Monday or Tuesday to begin his recovery, with early reports suggesting he may be fit to return to action for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans in mid-May.

Hopkins will deputize for the former 125GP world champion at the next race in Jerez, Spain on April 3.

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