MotoGP Info 2012: Jorge Lorenzo opens 2012 with victory in Qatar

MotoGP™

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) took his first premier class victory at the Losail International Circuit to open the 2012 MotoGP™ season in the best possible manner, after battling reigning World Champion Casey Stoner and the Australian's Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa for the duration of the 22-lap race on Sunday evening. It was also a superb start to the new 1000cc era in MotoGP, as the CRT machines also made their debut in an action-packed race.

Starting from pole for the first time since the US Grand Prix last July, Lorenzo held the lead until the third lap before Stoner assumed first position with a pass on the start/finish straight. Lorenzo then followed Stoner for the majority of the race before passing his rival with three laps to go, and he eventually crossed the line 0.852s ahead of Pedrosa who placed second as Stoner ended the race third.

[After a difficult weekend which had seen Pedrosa qualify in seventh the Spaniard shot from row three of the grid into third position on the opening lap, and on lap 20 passed his team-mate Stoner with a superb move on the brakes going into Turn 1 to take second. Stoner, who had won in Qatar for four of the past five seasons, took his 16th successive podium finish as he got his title defence underway.

With the leading trio involved in an eye-catching contest for the podium positions at the front, an excellent duel between Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mates Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso played out in their wake. The Italian, in his first race on the M1, was in front with his British team-mate all over his exhaust until lap 17, when Crutchlow got past Dovizioso and held out for fourth to equal his best-ever MotoGP result.

[Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) was the highest placing Desmosedici, beating Álvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) to sixth by just 0.033s on the Spaniard's debut with the team, and 2011 Moto2 World Champion Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) capped an impressive debut MotoGP ride with eighth place.

Héctor Barberá (Pramac Racing) had been in the hunt for sixth but ran off when he pushed too hard in the closing stages and the Spaniard finished ninth, and the final spot in the top 10 went to Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) who had appeared to be struggling with his Desmosedici GP12 in the early stages of the race.

[Yamaha Factory Racing's Ben Spies ended the race in 11th, whilst the honour of the highest placing CRT went to Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team). The American held off the challenge of Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) to place his BMW-Suter 12th, with Yonny Hernández (Avintia Racing MotoGP) and Aleix Espargaró (Power Electronics Aspar) taking the last points on offer.

Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing), Danilo Petrucci (Came Iodaracing Project) and Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini) all suffered the disappointment of not finishing the race.

Moto2™

[In Moto2™ Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) beat Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) to victory by just 0.061s, as the intermediate class put on an absorbing 20-lap encounter.

Following a race-long battle for the lead which involved up to seven riders at one point, Márquez and Iannone came out of the last corner on the final lap neck-and-neck, with the Spaniard winning out in the sprint for the chequered flag by the slimmest of margins. After being enveloped in a tight group of riders scrapping for first position, the two eventually finished over a second clear of the remainder of the chasing pack.

Completing the podium after being involved in the fight for victory for the most part Pol Espargaró (Pons 40 HP Tuenti), who at one stage had led, crossed in third after spending the closing stages of the race locked in combat with his team-mate Esteve Rabat who finished fourth.

Crossing the finish line in fifth position was Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock), who had started from pole position and who spent the entire race in the leading group. The Swiss rider's challenge for victory ended going into the final lap however, when he ran wide at Turn 1 as he and Márquez went head-to-head.

Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team) rode a strong final few laps to take sixth position from 13th on the starting grid, and he finished just 0.026s ahead Frenchman Mike di Meglio (S/Master Speed Up). Simone Corsi (Came Iodaracing Project) had played his part in the show at the front during the race and eventually ended eighth, with Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing) and Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team) completing the top 10.

Riders also leaving Round 1 with points on the board included Randy Krummenacher (GP Team Switzerland), Moto2 rookie Johann Zarco (JiR Moto2), returning 2010 Champion Toni Elías (Mapfre Aspar Team), Takaaki Nakagami (Italtrans Racing Team) and Julián Simón (Blusens Avintia), who all finished inside the top 15.

Moto3™

[The debut of the new Moto3™ category in the World Championship delivered an excellent spectacle as Maverick Viñales (Blusens Avintia) took victory in the first race of the evening.

The Spaniard, who won the last two 125cc races of the two-stroke machine era and was the Rookie of the Year in 2011, was followed across the line by debutant Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI) who scored a podium in his first ever Grand Prix start. The young Italian led the race for the opening six laps before Viñales overtook him, and the pair traded places again before the more experienced Viñales – still only 17 and now the second-youngest rider in history to have won three successive Grands Prix – pulled away to win by a margin of 4.3 seconds.

The displays of Viñales and 16 year-old Fenati were hugely impressive, and as the pair rode out front for the majority of the 18-lap race a thrilling battle for the third and final podium position raged behind.

In the end it was pole position starter Sandro Cortese (Red Bull KTM Ajo) who prevailed after an intense five-way fight with, in order of their final race positions, Luis Salom (RW Racing GP), Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0'0), Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Airasia-SIC-Ajo) and rookie Arthur Sissis (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Each of the four and Cortese had looked like taking third in an open race, before the German managed his drive out of the last corner on the final lap perfectly to beat Salom.

Completing the top 10 were British rider Danny Kent (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Frenchman Louis Rossi (Racing Team Germany) and another rookie, Spanish prospect Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0'0).

It was a special evening for new talent on the World Championship stage as Alan Techer (Technomag-CIP-TSR) registered points on his GP debut by taking 11th, with Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar Team), Niklas Ajo (TT Motion Events Racing), Alberto Moncayo (Bankia Aspar Team) and Jakub Kornfeil (Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta) also scoring as they completed the top 15 riders across the finish line.

The MotoGP World Championship returns to action in just under three weeks, for the Gran Premio bwin de España at Jerez, which takes place from April 27-29.