Spain’s 2015 MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo began his title defense in great style with an emphatic victory in the season opener at Qatar. Losail International Circuit located 30 kilometers north of Doha hosted the flood-lit event last Sunday because daytime racing in the desert is not preferred by riders because of extreme heat. Lorenzo left other riders struggling in his wake as he made a flying start after taking the top pole position in qualifying on previous day. Though Lorenzo was briefly challenged by Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, he broke away after Lap 14 to finish on top. Like a true professional, Jorge Lorenzo produced his fastest lap, when just 2 more laps remained. There was nothing that Lorenzo did wrong in a flawless performance. The Movistar Yamaha rider couldn’t have made a better start as he had already taken the top pole position in the qualifying. Lorenzo was hardly challenged and all fights at Losail were reduced to second place downwards. Dovizioso finished second to leave the third podium spot for Spain’s 2014 champion Marc Marquez. Lorenzo’s Yamaha Movistar teammate Valentino Rossi had to rest content with the fourth-place finish.
In Saturday’s qualifying, Lorenzo was seriously challenged for pole by past champion Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez. But the two-time Premier Class champion had to settle for second place, 0.091 seconds adrift of Lorenzo. There was another Spaniard Maverick Vinales on his GSX-RR, who finished third. Team Ducati’s Andrea Iannone was fourth while Lorenzo’s Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi was fifth. Another Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso was sixth, followed by Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa (7th), Avinita Racing’s Hector Barbera (8th), Monster Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro (9th) and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (10th).
On race day, Jorge Lorenzo flew out like a rocket from his front position but he was chased hard by Ducati twins Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso. As the first lap ended, Lorenzo was pushed to third spot by the two Ducati riders. This kept on going until turn 13 of Lap-6, when Iannone suffered a dramatic crash. Lorenzo waited until Lap-14 before powering past Dovizioso and regained the front position from then onwards. The bunch of riders behind him included Dovizioso, Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi but Lorenzo was unfazed. In Lap-19, Marquez took an advantage of an error by Dovizioso and fell in the second place. However, Dovizioso didn’t give up and just as the last Lap was about to begin, he passed Marquez at turn 1. Seeing Dovizioso stealing the second place from him, Marquez made one final attempt to overtake the Ducati man but ran wide in the process. That allowed Dovizioso to run ahead and finish just behind Lorenzo. Rossi had to settle for the fourth place and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was distant fifth. Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales was sixth after his start was doomed and he dropped too far behind. Britain’s LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow finished seventh, KTM’s Bradley Smith eighth, Pol Espargaro on Monster Yamaha Tech 3 ninth and Octo Pramac Ducati rider Scott Redding finished tenth.
After the flood-lit race at Losail, riders travel all the way to Argentina for the second engagement of the 2016 season at International Circuit Termas de Rio Hondo. Truckloads of equipment have begun arriving at the site after four cargo planes from Qatar landed at the San Miguel de Tucuman airport over the last three days. MotoGP fans would recall that last year, Valentino Rossi won the sensational race from 2014 champion Marc Marquez after the veteran Italian caught up with Marquez with 2 laps remaining. The two riders touched each other and in trying to keep ahead, Marquez clipped the back of Rossi’s bike and crashed out of the race. On Sunday April 3, while Rossi would attempt to defend his title, he will have fresh challenges. Marquez may like to make amends for his last year’s performance, 2016 champion Jorge Lorenzo will try to consolidate after his Qatar victory and Ducati duo of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso may like to use the power of their new machines to full advantage.