Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi landed his first podium finish of the 2018 MotoGP season with a strong third place at the Losail International Circuit. Maverick Viñales also battled for all he was worth and rode a superb catch-up race from 15th to 6th place, earning himself some crucial championship points.
Rossi had a lightning fast start from eighth place and stormed to fourth on a perfect opening lap. With a podium place in his grasp, he closed in on Dani Pedrosa and cruised past him at the end of the second lap on the start-finish straight, before making a text-book move, breaking hard into the first corner.
The leading pair, Johann Zarco and Marc Marquez, ran a hot rhythm, but not strong enough to shake off the Doctor. He was a man on a mission, determined not to let them escape and dropping consistent 1’55s laps. With 17 laps to go, the Italian made his move on Marquez, so he could challenge Zarco for the lead, but soon things got tense. At the start of the 11th lap the 39-year-old went wide into turn 1, allowing Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso through, but he didn’t let it get to him.
The final five laps were exactly what the fans had hoped for. Rossi fought his way past Zarco for third. The 46-rider threw everything he had at breaking away from chasing riders, which he managed perfectly. However, he was unable to get close enough to battle with Dovizioso and Marquez in the final laps and finished the first race of the season with a well-deserved third place, 0.797s from first.
Viñales made a cautious start, dropping back from 12th on the grid to 15th place in the opening laps, but that certainly didn’t mean he was out for the count. After three laps, he got into the rhythm and started his charge. He was running the same pace as the leading group and as a result he barged through the rider field.
With Alex Rins and Jorge Lorenzo crashing out with 10 laps to go, the number-25 rider breached into the top-10. He then picked off Jack Miller on the next lap and also overtook Andrea Iannone for eighth place one lap later.
Viñales had his sights set on the front group. They were fighting some 2.5s ahead of him, but his pace was still red hot, as he kept posting times in the 1’55s. With three laps to go the Spaniard tapped onto the back of Pedrosa. A lap later he overtook his compatriot and also breezed past Zarco. He gave Danilo Petrucci a run for his money for fifth place, but he ultimately had to settle for sixth position, 3.888s from the front.
Today’s race results see Rossi take third place in the championship with a nine-point gap to the leader, while Viñales secures sixth place in the standings, 15 points from the front. Yamaha is in third place in the Constructor classification, nine points from first, and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP are in second place in the Team title challenge, with three points to the top of the rankings.
The Movistar 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 April 6th – 8th.
Position: 3rd – Championship: 3rd – Points: 16
“It was a great fight and a great race. Sincerely, last year it was a bigger surprise to me – it was less expected then to arrive on the podium. With the bike from this year I feel good. This time I was more competitive and I knew I could do a good race, but you never know if it’s enough for the podium because we were with ten strong riders. I tried to push from the beginning, because I started from the third row and on the first lap I was able to overtake some guys. The other key point were the final laps, when like last year the strongest on the track were Dovizioso and Marquez. I knew they had enough to change the rhythm, but I’m very happy that I could go with them today and arrive at the finish line close to them, at the end. Unfortunately, it was not enough for the victory, but the podium is a great way to start.”
Position: 6th – Championship: 6th – Points: 10
“In today’s race I felt really good with the bike, better than I did before. We followed the direction of how I wanted the bike and we improved so much, especially our rhythm. Now that we have done that, we know we have a good bike and we can focus on improving other things. Honestly, during the tests I didn’t try many starts, I was focused on the bike, so today’s start was bad. However, now we’ve recovered the feeling with the bike – especially for the race – we can work on other areas. We found a good set-up, but we can still improve and match the electronics more to my riding style, and we can also work on the starts. When you finish a race like today’s, you wish that the next GP would be held the next weekend. We’re quite motivated. I felt that, if I had been more towards the front today, I could have had a chance to win the race. I’m happy the team did such a great job, especially on Saturday in the afternoon. We found something good for our riding style and that’s perfect.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“What a fantastic race to open the season with! We were pretty confident after yesterday’s FP4 and today’s Warm Up that our riders would be able to run a competitive pace and our predictions came true. Valentino had a fantastic start, which was key to securing today’s third place. He did a brilliant job staying at the front of the field, while the pace was as high as it was, and he was only 0.797s away from first place. Maverick had a difficult task ahead of him starting from the fourth row, but as soon as he got a clear track in front of him he was able to keep up a really good pace. He posted consistent 1’55-low laps, that allowed him to catch up with the leading group. The form that both our riders showed today is very motivating for the team, especially after a challenging start to the Qatar GP. I want to thank the riders, team members and engineers for their hard work. We aim to continue working in this way in Argentina in three weeks’ time.”
Zarco Shows Winning Potential in Qatar – Syahrin Makes History with First Two MotoGP Points
Johann Zarco commenced the season with a breathtaking performance at the Losail International Circuit. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider was shining brighter than the floodlights in the first 17 of 22 laps with a superior lead during the first MotoGP round of the year. Struggling with his tyres, the French star had to give the top away towards the end to eventually finish in 8th position.
On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 garage, Hafizh Syahrin was 17th after the first lap of his first ever premier class race and bravely fought with partly much more experienced riders to cross the line in 14th. Therewith, the talented rookie brought home the first ever MotoGP points for his native country Malaysia.
Position: 8th – Championship: 8th – Points: 8
“I had a nice weekend! The race has been good. To start from pole position was a great feeling and a good opportunity to take to fight with the top guys. I had a good start and I took over the top, because I wanted to lead the race and then I was quite comfortable there, not able to be faster than the others, but nobody overtook me. I tried to control the rear grip well, to have always some possibilities to go out from the corner, which was working well. Then, seven laps to the end, I tried to push a bit more to maybe make a gap, but already during the race I had some limit feeling from the front, that I didn’t experience during the practice. When the other guys overtook me five laps to the end, I really understood, that I wasn’t able to use the front tyre on the right side anymore in the correct way, which is why I couldn’t fight. It was really difficult, a few times, I almost crashed and to finish eighth in the end, was better than nothing, because in this condition, it’s good to finish the race at all.”
Position: 14th – Championship: 14th – Points: 2
“I felt really good in the race. I want to say a huge thank you to my team, because they did a great job. I finished my first MotoGP race inside the points, which is even beyond my target, but when you put your focus and your motivation there, it is possible. Around seven laps to go, I changed the power of the bike and four laps later, I switched back again. It’s also a huge part of my learning curve to understand the electronics. I was a bit nervous in the race, I didn’t want to make any mistake and end up in the gravel. I finished the race and brought two points for the team, which makes me truly happy. I hope, I can improve more in the next race and I continue training hard in order to be more ready and give the challenge to the rest of the riders.”
Monster Yamaha Tech3 – Team Manager
“An amazing round one in Qatar for the MotoGP and the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team! With the pole position, we were very pleased last night, but we knew, that the most difficult part was coming on race day. Honestly, I expected a tough fight, but I didn’t expect Johann to lead the race for the main time. He was looking quite comfortable. I can’t deny the fact, that I was starting to think that there is a possibility to finally win a race, but we could see, that he was struggling. We thought, that the tyres were the reason and he confirmed that. There was nothing he could do, just stick on the bike and hold on to the flag. Eight people were in the front group, which was quite close. Finally, it’s quite sad to end up last of that group, but on the other end, we have to be optimistic and see the glass half full and not half empty. There is a lot of positives. He’s here, he’s going to fight and I’m quite sure, that he’ll be again pushing for this victory, that is his and the whole team’s dream. On the other side of the garage, I think, we have to be more than happy, because Hafizh produced an unbelievable performance all through the weekend. His qualifying was great, although the start was not ideal. But it was his very first GP start and we told him, not to do any mistakes. So, he lost a few positions, but recovered. He was fighting hard with a lot of top guys and ended up with two points, which is an amazing performance. For sure, the improvement margin is huge, but anyway, big congratulations to him, big congratulations to Johann and the entire team, because everybody works really, really hard. This is not the end of the weekend, we would have hoped for, but we have to accept that this is part of the game and we have to focus now on having a rest and being ready for Argentina.”