Jorge Lorenzo got his MotoGP title defense off to the dominating start with a flag-to-flag victory at Qatar. The Factory Yamaha man led from pole position onward, without any true challenge. Yet it was his factory Yamaha teammate, Valentino Rossi
, and Repsol Honda rookie, Marc Marquez, that stole the show with a thrilling battle in the final two laps. Experience won out, with Rossi delivering Yamaha the 1-2 finish and Marquez marking his MotoGP
debut with a memorable podium finish. Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow rounded out the top five.
Lorenzo shot out to the early lead and was comfortable up front. The running order settled in with the Repsol Hondas two seconds adrift and Crutchlow threatening Marquez for the final rostrom position. Rossi had to work up through the ranks, however, having started on the third row.
Behind the podium fight there was a good scrap brewing as LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl held fifth, with Rossi in sixth and more than five seconds behind his Factory Yamaha teammate. Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso had his sights on his popular countryman, with Alvaro Bautista and Nicky Hayden also in the group.
The Doctor made his move around the German on Lap 6 and then had four seconds to make up in order to catch Crutchlow for fourth – which he did in the middle laps.
Lorenzo increased his advantage at the front, while Marquez stalked his HRC teammate, Pedrosa, for second. Crutchlow threatened in fourth, trailing the Hondas. Meanwhile Rossi began inching closer to the satellite M1 as the race approached the halfway marker.
The latter half saw Lorenzo’s advantage grow further. The real fight was over the final podium spots, with Pedrosa and Marquez holding position as Crutchlow lurked in fourth and Rossi accordioned up from fifth to challenge the Tech 3 rider.
Marquez was first to make his play up the inside of Pedrosa. As the rookie made a slight gap, Rossi got right up on Cruchlow and charged past on the long straight, with the Brit bailing on the corner. Crutchlow managed to keep his M1 upright and rejoined in fifth, but well out of the podium hunt.
With four to go Rossi lined up Pedrosa. Blitzing by the first Honda, he moved on to challenge Marquez. The next lap saw the nine-time champion get around the rookie, for a Factory Yamaha 1-2 running order.
But the maneuver would not go unchallenged. On the penultimate lap Marquez zipped past on Turn 1, with Rossi responding immediately with a pass of his own. The final lap saw Marquez try again, but without effect on Turn 1. He made another charge at the start-finish straight, but was 0.211 short at the line.
Pedrosa dropped off the pace at the end, three seconds down to his younger teammate. Meanwhile Crutchlow recovered from his off-road excursion to finish fifth, four seconds ahead of Alvaro Bautista. Dovizioso got the better of his new factory Ducati teammate, Nicky Hayden, with the satellite Pramac Ducatis running ninth and 10th with Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies.
Once again Aspar rider Aleix Espargaro proved himself the top of the CRT class. Of the remaining factory prototypes, both suffered DNFs. First down was Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith, his rough rookie debut ending on Lap 4. The second factory casualty was Bradl, who tucked the front of his LCR Honda on Lap 8.
2013 MotoGP Qatar Results:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
3. Marc Marquez (Honda)
4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)
6. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
9. Andrea Iannone (Ducati)
10. Ben Spies (Ducati)
11. Aleix Espargaro (Aspar)
12. Randy de Puniet (Aspar)
13. Hector Barbera (Avintia Blusens)
14. Yonny Hernandez (PBM)
15. Hiroshi Aoyama (Avintia Blusens)
16. Claudio Corti (Forward Racing)
17. Michael Laverty (PBM)
18. Lukas Pesek (Came IodaRacing)
DNF Colin Edwards (Forward Racing)
DNF Danilo Petrucci (Came IodaRacing)
DNF Stefan Bradl (Honda)
DNF Bradley Smith (Yamaha)
DNF Bryan Staring (Gresini Honda)
DNF Karel Abraham (Cardion AB)