If you managed to catch yesterday’s 2 o’clock MotoGP race then my god were you in for a special treat of a season opener! With Ducati’s new bike actually looking to be like a top contender this season, Honda’s 1/2 riders slotting in the 2/3 grid positions and Yamaha lower down the order it seemed like the dog fight would be between the Ducs and the Honda.
Right when the lights went out you can see the mayhem going into turn 1 as every one is trying to cram into it without incident. Without incident it was not as right away as you can see the number 93 bike having to be sat up, runn wide and off track to avoid collision with one of the Tech3 bikes. What else happened while this was going on? Well you can clearly see Dovi getting the whole shot into that corner with Lorenzo and Iannone trailing right behind. Where was Rossi? All the way back in 10th position while Marquez, rejoining back on track, was pretty much dead last!
The top 3 front runners kept a blistering pace and all the while swapping the lead multiple times over the course length. Try and try as he, Lorenzo, might in the twisty bits, where the Yamaha does absolutely well, he would eventually lose out on the front straight to the grunts of both Ducatis. Let us not take away from the fixed under steer problem that the Ducs have had in the past, which now makes it turn much better and consumes the tires less.
All the while at the front was going on both Rossi and Marquez made their way forward through the pack often times picking off the slower riders. Did I think Rossi can catch up the the lead pack? I was hesitant at first if I was honest, the Ducatis did look REALLY good out there, but as a fan I had faith in his craft. Did I think Marquez can make his way back to the front runners? Absolutely, this IS Marquez we’re talking about here.
Marquez eventually made quick work of everyone in his path and closed down the gap to within 3 seconds of the lead pack, but this was all she wrote for him in this race. Finishing off in 5th position this has been the first time since Germany ’13 that he has not led in the championship points race.
But the story here is of course Rossi who, without doubt I might add, caught the lead pack and started to meticulously plan out his moves of attack. Iannone who was behind Lorenzo was his first encounter. It seemed hard to pass him in the straights as the pure grunt of the Duc would tow away from Yamaha indefinitely so Rossi had to make swift work of his compatriot in the corners eventually disposing of him and set sights on the top two.
At this point Lorenzo had done much of the donkey work in holding off Dovi for as long as he could, the two swapping positions over and over. You can see with a handful of laps to go that now it was a Duc leading with two Yamahas in the middle and a Duc at the end, a sandwich. Being teammates and of course on better terms this time around didn’t mean that the Doctor was going to take it easy on the CEO (as the internet have now dubbed Lorenzo.) Again he planned and plotted the opportune time to dispel of his teammate by being a demon on the brakes and simply out braking him to move into position for attack on the leader.
Now it got interesting as mentioned before the Duc is a super performer, Dovi didn’t get pole position for being a slouch. Multiple corners passed by while Rossi held off attacking, multiple corners of anxiety for the viewers at home me included. Any time you think he got it, passing on the inside holding off while clinching the apex, the Duc would simply slipstream and pull LENGTHS away at the front. This went on and on for the remainder laps with Dovi still leading. I, at this point, was having heart palpitations. How to win then became a question of concern and the answer obviously was concocted in Valentino’s mind. He must lead the last corner in front with at least a few bike lengths so that the Duc cant power him to the line.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HE DID! What a sweet, sweet first victory of the season. It shows this old dog at 36 years of age was not letting up anytime soon. It was a great battle, one I haven’t seen in a long time. Last lap last corner ditch efforts produces men amongst the boys when you race motorcycles. It’s been five years since he last won at Qatar and the same length of time since he’s won a season opener so will this mean that a 10th title can be plausible? I think so!