Reigning MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo got his title defence off to a victorious start at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.
Movistar Yamaha rider Lorenzo, who secured the 2015 title at the last race of the season, took pole position in qualifying and completed a brilliant weekend with a classy ride under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit.
The Spaniard did not get off to the greatest of starts on race day as fell back to third at the end of the first lap, Ducati pair Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso surging ahead.
But Iannone lost control of his Ducati at turn 13 on lap six and fell out of the race, with Lorenzo gradually closing the gap on Dovizioso as he looked to recover his position at the front of the field.
The defending champion made his move down the outside with 14 laps to go and with clear track in front of him set a fast lap of one minute and 55.375 seconds.
Pre-occupied by a battle with Marc Marquez, Dovizioso was unable to trouble Lorenzo out front as he passed the chequered flag first.
TYRE CHOICE KEY FOR LORENZO
Lorenzo reacts to kicking off the season with a pole: “To choose the right rear tyre was important. I tried the hard one in warm-up but I didn’t get the right feeling. It was a risk to try the soft and finally it was good – I could make the fast lap. It’s always important to start in the podium, even better for the race win. Let’s enjoy tonight with a great party.”
DUCATI BATTLE PROVES COSTLY
After showing impressive speed to overtake Lorenzo at the end of the first lap, Ducati pair Iannone and Dovizioso’s fight for first position proved costly for the former – and the team. Having been overtaken by Dovizioso on the sixth lap, Iannone pushed too hard to try and regain the lead and lost control, bringing his race to a premature end.
ROSSI MISSES OUT
Valentino Rossi would have wanted to start the season positively after his controversial end to last season, but he was beaten to a place on the podium by Marc Marquez. Having signed a two-year contract extension at the weekend, Rossi will be disappointed to have begun his campaign with a fourth-placed finish despite a one-position improvement from qualifying.
CRUTCHLOW FRUSTRATION GROWS
Having admitted to being disappointed with the straight-line speed of the LCR Honda, Cal Crutchlow’s disappointing time in Qatar was compounded as he crashed out at turn four during the early stages
IN THE POINTS
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha)
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) +2.019secs
3. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +2.287s
4. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) +2.387s
5. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) +14.083s
6. Maverick Vinales (Suzuki Ecstar) +15.423s
7. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha Tech 3) +18.629s
8. Bradley Smith (Yamaha Tech 3) +18.652s
9. Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) +21.160s
10. Scott Redding (Pramac Yakhnich) +24.435s
11. Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki Ecstar) +35.847s
12. Eugene Laverty (Aspar) +41.756s
13. Alvaro Bautista (Aprilla) +41.932s
14. Jack Miller (Marc VDS) +41.982s
15. Tito Rabat (Marc VDS) +54.953s
Jorge Lorenzo 25
Andrea Dovizioso 20 (+5)
Marc Marquez 16 (+9)
Valentino Rossi 13 (+12)
Dani Pedrosa 11 (+14)
Movistar Yamaha 38
Repsol Honda 27 (+11)
Ducati 20 (+18)
Yamaha Tech 3 17 (+21)
Suzuki Ecstar 15 (+23)
South America is the next destination for MotoGP, with the Argentine Grand Prix at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit scheduled for April 3.