SIZ­ZLING START

Vi­nales wins thrilling sea­son-open­ing Qatar Mo­toGP

New Straits Times - - Sport - MAV­ER­ICK VI­NALES

SPAIN’S Mav­er­ick Vi­nales on a Yamaha won a dra­matic sea­son-open­ing Qatar Mo­toGP on Sun­day, fi­nally beat­ing off An­drea Dovizioso af­ter the pair swapped the lead sev­eral times over the fi­nal seven laps.

The 22-year-old Vi­nales, who took all the head­lines in pre-sea­son test­ing as well as prac­tice in Qatar, shrugged off a poor start from pole po­si­tion un­der the desert flood­lights to win and fur­ther en­hance his grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion.

“It feels great,” he said im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards.

“Hon­estly, the track was so dif­fi­cult. I was tak­ing so much care at the start.

“Any­way, the bike was great. I have to say thanks to the team. Even if the con­di­tions were dif­fi­cult we were there all the time.”

Vi­nales tri­umphed in a race re­duced to 20 laps af­ter rain and a wet track had de­layed the start by 45 min­utes and in a high-qual­ity field which in­cluded 10 world cham­pi­ons.

In fact or­gan­is­ers were ex­tremely lucky as the heav­ens again opened up im­me­di­ately af­ter the race ended in a week­end dom­i­nated by wet weather in Qatar, and which saw qual­i­fy­ing can­celled on Satur­day be­cause of thun­der­storms.

Dovizioso on a Du­cati fin­ished a de­ter­mined run­nerup, while nine-time world cham­pion Valentino Rossi took third on the sec­ond fac­tory Yamaha de­spite hav­ing started in 10th place on the grid.

“It was very dif­fi­cult,” said Dovizioso. “We knew the race couldn’t be so fast.

“At some points I tried to stay with Mav­er­ick un­til the end. I tried to over­take him on the last lap but he was too far.”

Rossi said: “I don’t know what hap­pened but I was good.

“I was good in brak­ing. I hope we un­der­stand enough in this race to con­tinue in this way.”

De­fend­ing world cham­pion Marc Mar­quez, who had made it clear be­fore the race he would be happy with a podium fin­ish, was just edged out into fourth place on a Honda.

Vi­nales looked to have blown his chances early on af­ter his poor start.

The early leader was France’s Jo­hann Zarco, who on his Mo­toGP de­but rid­ing a Yamaha Tech3, dom­i­nated the early laps tak­ing a lead of more than a sec­ond into the sixth lap, be­fore dra­mat­i­cally crash­ing out un­chal­lenged at the head of the race.

But Vi­nales al­ways stayed in con­tention and with seven laps to go was on the wheel of leader Ital­ian Dovizioso.

His nim­ble Yamaha was enough to en­sure he took the lead with a third of the race left but Dovizioso was far from fin­ished.

There then fol­lowed a fas­ci­nat­ing race of cat and mouse as Dovizioso re­gained his lead sev­eral times on his faster Du­cati.

Adding more drama, 38-yearold vet­eran Rossi was al­ways in touch and threat­ened to pull off a mem­o­rable vic­tory.

But with two laps to go, Vi­nales fi­nally took a de­ci­sive lead of over half a sec­ond and held on for vic­tory.

Also crash­ing out were Ital­ian An­drea Ian­none, who left the race at the half­way mark while in third po­si­tion, and Bri­tain’s Cal Crutchlow, an early ca­su­alty.

It is the 14th time the race has been held in Qatar, the 10th time un­der flood­lights.

The rac­ers now head to Ar­gentina for the next race on April 9.

In the Moto2 race, Italy’s Franco Mor­bidelli, rid­ing a Kalex, clinched a lights to flag vic­tory.

The 22-year-old from Rome had started on pole po­si­tion and took his first ca­reer win ahead of fel­low Kalex rid­ers, Thomas Luthi of Switzer­land and Ja­pan’s Takaaki Nak­agami.

Spain’s Joan Mir, on a Honda, won the Moto3 event for his sec­ond ca­reer suc­cess.

The 19-year-old fin­ished ahead of Bri­tain’s John McPhee and Span­ish com­pa­triot Jorge Martin as Honda swept the podium.

Hon­estly, the track was so dif­fi­cult. I was tak­ing so much care at the start. Any­way, the bike was great. I have to say thanks to the team. Even if the con­di­tions were dif­fi­cult we were there all the time.

AFP PIC

Mav­er­ick Vi­nales (right) and Valentino Rossi bat­tling it out dur­ing the Qatar Mo­toGP in Doha on Sun­day.

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