Jobu apologizes for the one day delay, but racing Tuesday is almost as exciting as racing monday! Papa Wheelie reviews the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, the kickoff race of the MotoGP season!
Much like the results from the first F1 race in Australia, the season opening round in Qatar delivered very similar results to some of the races last year, with the expected players at the sharp end of the stick. Similarly to the race in Melbourne, the outcome of this race was far from ordinary. Throughout the first free practices, you could immediately tell that both the factory and satellite Yamahas were right on the pace, and all four riders had been swapping top positions up until qualifying.
The factory Hondas, and Casey Stoner in particular, were very strong throughout the practices and in qualifying, pretty much translating all of their preseason form right to the first race of the season. Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow had to be the biggest surprises of the weekend, with both riders having a solid shot at a front row start. Crutchlow eventually took third and final front spot during qualifying. The Ducatis of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi struggled early in the weekend, especially Rossi. Although he had calm and reserved comments for the media, Rossi’s form on track was severely lacking and he knows that a lot needs to happen for Ducati to regain its form. Yamaha’s second rider, and top American rider, Ben Spies struggled all weekend as well, experiencing numerous offs and a few crashes.
The CRT teams made their debut and, not surprisingly, were markedly slower than the prototypes. Their top rider was Colin Edwards as expected, but he was challenged throughout the weekend by Randy de Puniet. The big surprises from those teams where how much they have come forward since the Jerez tests. There were times where the CRT teams where getting close to some of the prototypes, especially Rossi and an ill-performing Spies. They very well could be right on the pace by the end of the year if they can continue their development at this pace.
Early in the race, the factory Hondas, in particular Casey Stoner, were blistering fast and made the best out of the early conditions. The 2012 Bridgestones have proved themselves to be much better during the warm up of the tires, but have a steep fall-off after they have run past their sweet spot. 2010 world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who’s very good at tire management, ran just close enough to the factory Hondas to keep a good rhythm. But, when the time came, Lorenzo really showed why he’s easily the most responsive rider in the field, and passed both Stoner and Pedrosa on his way to the top of the podium. Tech 3 riders battled nearly the entire race, but eventually it was Crutchlow who held off Dovizioso for 4th and 5th places. Despite the limitations of the Ducati, Nicky Hayden rode a brilliant race to a solid 6th place finish. Alvaro Bautista beat rookie Stefan Bradl to be the best satellite Honda rider. Hector Barbera bested Valentino Rossi to finish out the top ten, underscoring the situation in the Ducati garage.
Overall it was a pretty solid race thanks to the new design of the Bridgestone tires. The riders that were good a managing their tires had a chance to fight with the bikes that were overall faster. The new 1000 cc bikes seem a little more forgiving in the corners, and have also given some teams the chance to close the gaps to their rivals. The CRTs were surprisingly competitive, and a real “speed bump” to the prototypes. The next race in Jerez is just under three weeks away, and the season is looking to be one of the best in years. This was definitely a good start to the new regulations and a good sign of things to come.
Featured image courtesy of: LaPresse
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