ROUND 1: QATAR
After the cold – snowy winters comes spring and with it, bike racing! Once again it’s in the middle of the desert at Losail that lights went off for the first time of the 2018 season. An opening round which tasted the exact same as last season with Dovi and Marquez fighting out on the line.
1. New alien here to stay
In the whole new motogp clip realised prior to the Qatar race, you can hear a voice say « they say they’re not human, some calls them aliens ». Well, let me tell you that if the alien club is still a thing then Andrea Dovizioso bought himself a place in it last season and he’s definitely here to stay from now on.
At Losail the italian dominated almost every session leading to the race, the only shadow to his weekend being the miss opportunity of a pole position and front row on Saturday.
Dovizioso being fast and winning the opening round shouldn’t come as a surprise though as he ended up runner up many time already behind the likes of Rossi or Lorenzo. Losail suits the italian.
It also suits the red beast. In a past not so far away, some would remember Stoner’s incredible dominance at the Qatari track.
Even though Desmo Dovi fought up to the very last corner and onto the line to get that win, we can easily say it would have been a disappointment for the italian combo to finish anywhere else than on the 1st step this year.
2. (Brake)ing the limits
If the opening round felt like a dream to Dovizioso, it was the exact opposite to his teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
The spaniard being on his second year at Ducati, each one of his moves is being looked on with a magnifying glass. The hopes are high, and so is the disappointment.
Can we blame Jorge Lorenzo for this first DNF this season ? Clearly no.
It’s true the spaniard struggle the whole weekend, not being able to found a pace giving him a chance to challenge Dovizioso or Petrucci but his pace, pretty much identical to Vinales, in the second half of the race could have pushed him into a top 5 or 6. Lorenzo suffered a strange weekend marked by God’s only knows how many mechanical issues. The biggest one of them happening in the race.
Lorenzo’s crash wasn’t due to mistake on his part like we could have thought at first but to a brake pad which went missing leaving the 30 years old to be in the middle of the track without any working brakes. He later explained he was forced to run wide and let go of his bike once he was in the gravel trap.
The scary prospect of having a rider left with no brakes, forced to crash out not to hit a wall or someone else did not shut the mouth of Lorenzo’s haters thought. Oh the joy of being Motogp’s vilain….
3. When the old feels better than the new
Yamaha’s winter and early days of the 2018 season were highly spoken off, especially due to their silly season being cut short with both Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi signing new 2 years deals with the japanese brand before the red lights even went out.
Rossi received a whole lot of question regarding his new contract. It’s true the news is quite exciting as he will be well past 40 in 2020. The italian shut down every questions about it on Sunday night stating this new motogp podium and being able to fight for wins shows it was the right decision to carry on racing.
At this point, even though it feels like this should be his last deal, one can only expect him to stay in the paddock, and most probably on track, for as long as he will enjoy riding these bikes.
If Rossi renewal didn’t come as a surprise, Vinales’ did. The spaniard is struggling in his quest to tame the M1 since he last won a race in the spring of 2017. Being forced into Q1, a bad start and an early part of the race glued in 15th at some point didn’t help his confidence.
Vinales leaves Losail happy though. After month of looking for a working set up, his team decided to go back to what they knew worked. His pace and incredible journey back to a well deserved 6th place in the second half of the race proves that MotoGP’s very own TOP GUN is on the right path to being competitive again.
4. About scary prospects
There’s two names who both stand outs this weekend: Marquez and Zarco.
First, the frenchman. Talks about him are going on since last november and it went crazy since Poncharal’s announcement that tech 3 will be a KTM team next season splitting from Yamaha after more than 20 years together.
Rossi & Vinales’ new deals leave most of us wondering: why isn’t Zarco promoted to the factory team when it’s as clear as water that he could be a real title contender if one would give him an official package ?
After saturday lap record pole position and even though it did not resulted as a win or a podium, the question of his near future is still going on. Rumor has it he could be in talks with KTM and.. the HRC. Would the RCV be a good fit for the frenchman though ?
For now, Johann is only happy with his weekend, regretting only an issue with his front tyre past mid race.
Marquez on the other hand did not suffered any problems with his tyres. On a track which is known to be far from one of his favorites, the spaniard took 20 points and a 2nd place with joy.
Even if it’s a now 3-0 for Dovi in terms of last corner battle wins, the simple fact that Marquez was able to fight and came THIS close to get the win at Losail against the power of the Ducatis in the straight should give nightmares to each and everyone of his opponents on the grid.
It’s no surprise the spaniard celebrated his 2nd place like he would have won the race and couldn’t stop telling anybody listening just how happy he was to be so close to Dovizioso. If Marquez is able to do this at Losail, i cannot even begin to imagine what he’ll be do in Austin soon…. Like i said, scary prospect, indeed!
5. Honorable mentions
Alex Rins might leave Losail with a DNF but he surely made an impression all weekend long.
Cal Crutchlow winning the 1st independant place proves just how strong the RCV is getting and that the progress made over the winter are to be taken seriously.
Last minute’s new comer Hafizh Syahrin takes his very first point in MotoGP.
Dani Pedrosa struggled all the way to the race by a very positive bunch of early laps left him feeling great about his weekend overall.