Much of the pre-season MotoGP news focused on Valentino Rossi’s return to Yamaha and the debut of rookie sensation Marc Marquez, but in the opening round of the 2013 MotoGP World Championship defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, the overlooked man, showed he’s still the one to beat. But the others didn’t fail to thrill.
Lorenzo completely dominated the proceedings under the lights at Losail International Circuit. The Spaniard started from pole, nailed the start and pulled away to a resounding 5.990-second margin of victory on his factory Yamaha.
"I’m really happy, really pleased and really proud of myself and the team," the Yamaha Factory Racing rider told motogp.com. "This weekend has been quite perfect, especially in the race as we were very strong from the beginning.
"I made a good start and I knew that that and pushing over the first laps were key. I opened up two or three seconds of a gap which gave me the focus and allowed me to stay calm. "This is a perfect result for Yamaha and the team and I’m really happy for Valentino, who had had a very bad situation over the last two years. He has demonstrated again that he is a very quick and complete rider.
"Let’s see what happens in Texas!"
While Lorenzo put away the race early, the battle for second was one of the most intense in recent memory. And it turned out to be a storybook return to Yamaha for Rossi. He and Marquez had an intense duel over the final three laps, this after Rossi had to claw his way back to that position after an early race mistake put him behind.
Rossi and Marquez traded second several times in the closing laps, before the seven-time MotoGP World Champion gave the up-and-coming rookie a bit of a lesson as he turned in a brilliant final lap to hold off Marquez by .2 of a second.
It was both a thrilling comeback for Rossi and a promising result for the rookie Marquez with a podium in his MotoGP debut.
“In the end I had a great battle with Marc for second place," Rossi said. "I’m so happy: for me, all of my friends and my fans who have had to suffer two difficult season. Also for Yamaha, which starts the season with first and second places – so not bad!”
With Lorenzo and Rossi one-two, it was a the perfect season opener for the factory Yamaha squad.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was in second for much of the race, but the forceful battle of Marquez and Rossi shuffled him back to fourth in the closing laps. At the flag Pedrosa was 3.2 seconds behind his young teammate.
Interestingly, it was Marquez who earned the honor of the fastest lap of the day, clocking a 1:55.445 while he was charging on lap three.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow was also a factor in that battle for second for much of the race, but with four laps to go he made an error and ran wide in turn one while under pressure from Rossi. That put him out of the running for the podium and he crossed the line fifth.
Alvaro Bautista was a lonely sixth on the Gresini Honda.
Another frontrunner who went out was Stefan Bradl, the German crashing while battling Rossi for fifth.
It was not a bad day for at least two of the three Americans. Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies both finished inside the top 10. Hayden was eighth, nearly running down his teammate Andrea Dovizioso on the final lap. Spies, meanwhile, ran a conservative race, stayed cleaned, protecting his still tender shoulder after crashing in qualifying, and finished 10th. Colin Edwards dropped out of the race with a broken rear sprocket on his FTR machine. He was running 15th at the time.
Spaniard Pol Espargaro took victory in the first post-Marquez era of Moto2. Espargaro beat Brit Scott Redding. Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami was third, making it a clean podium sweep for Kalex-framed machines.
Luis Salom made it a perfect day for Spanish riders. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider won the Moto3 opener. It marked the third-career victory for Salom, who was runner up in the Moto3 last year.
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
Marc Marquez (Honda)
Dani Pedorsa (Honda)
Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)
Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
Andrea Iannone (Ducati)