Honda had a brilliant start to the 2017 Moto3 Word Championship, taking the top five places at the end of a typically thrilling multi-rider battle. The top eight finishers passed the checkered flag separated by less than nine tenths of a second! Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V, #93) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) finished tonight’s season-opening Qatar Grand Prix in fourth and fifth positions, just four tenths of a second apart at the finish line.
The race started 45 minutes later after the freakish desert weather that has dominated much of this weekend threatened to soak the track once again. A brief shower as riders lined up on the grid caused the nerve-wracking delay, but in the end none of that mattered as the world’s greatest riders laid on a battle royal under the floodlights. Then, as riders returned to their pits after the race, the heavens properly opened.
Reigning World Champion Marquez started the race from the front row of the grid but he never expected an easy race, because this is not one of his favorite racetracks. The night’s tricky conditions complicated matters further, with the track surface cooling rapidly and dew forming in some areas.
“I think we worked well over the weekend, and we had everything clear for today,” Marquez shared. “Our plan was to use the harder front compound, but the chaotic situation with the rain and the continuous delays created many doubts. In the end we decided to go with the medium front, aiming to reduce the risk of crashing, but this turned out to be our biggest mistake of the weekend.”
The 24-year-old Spaniard was in the lead group from the very beginning, chasing early leader and rookie Johann Zarco (Yamaha), who crashed out after-one third distance, highlighting the delicate grip situation. In the later stages Marquez slipped back a few seconds to finish fourth, six seconds behind winner Maverick Vinales (Yamaha).
His issue was the cooling conditions that prompted him to change his front tire on the grid, from the usual hard compound to the medium compound, in the hope that this tire would retain its temperature more efficiently in the cool conditions. In fact Marquez used up
much of the tire’s performance in the first few laps, which meant he could not maintain his usual hard-charging style in the later laps.
“We were aware that we struggle a bit at this track, but as always we kept a positive attitude, as we also knew that if everything was in place, we could have fought for the podium or even the victory,” said Marquez.
Pedrosa had a great race, fighting his way through from the third row of the grid to move forward as the shortened 20-lap race went on. The 31-year-old former 125cc and 250cc World Champion also used the medium front and was happy with his performance at a track that has never been really kind to him. Like all the other riders, the Spaniard did superbly to maintain his focus in the run-up to the race, despite the delays.
In the final laps the main interest focused on Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) who showed a fine turn of speed. After getting the better of Morbidelli’s team-mate Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) the Portuguese closed the gap on Nakagami, but wasn’t quite close enough to attack on the final lap. Marquez finished a strong fifth, well clear of Luca Marini (Forward Team Kalex), who got to the checkered flag just two tenths ahead of impressive Moto2 rookie Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40 Kalex).
The MotoGP circus leaves Qatar tomorrow, making its way to Argentina for the second round of the 2017 MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 World Championships on April 9.
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