2014 Qatar MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Deserving Winners, Old Champions, And The Correct Way To Celebrate Victory

There's an old racing adage: when the flag drops, the talking stops, though the word 'talking' is rarely used. It's a cliche, but like all cliches, it is a cliche because it reflects such a basic truth. Without bikes circulating on track in anger, fans and press have nothing to do but engage in idle speculation, and pick over the minutiae of rules, rumors and races long past. As soon as the racing starts again, all is forgotten, and we all lose ourselves in the now. It is the zen which all racing fans aspire to.

So after spending months going round in circles over the 2014 regulations, speculating about who they favor, and expressing outrage at either the perceived injustice of the rules, or the supposed incompetence of those involved in drawing them up at the last minute, the talk stopped at Qatar on Sunday night. The fans filled their bellies on three outstanding races, all of which went down to the wire. With something once again at stake, all talk of rules was forgotten.

And to be honest, the 2014 rules had none of the negative effects which so many people had feared. The best riders on the day still ended up on the podium, while the gap between the winner and the rest of the pack was much reduced. The gap from the winner to the first Ducati was cut from 22 seconds in 2013 to 12 seconds this year. The gap from the winner to Aleix Espargaro – first CRT in 2013, first Open class rider in 2014 – was cut from 49 seconds to just 11 seconds. And even ignoring Espargaro's Yamaha M1, the gap to the first Honda production racer – an outstanding performance by Scott Redding on the Gresini RCV1000R – was slashed to 32 seconds.

Even the cut in fuel did not affect the races as badly as many feared. It appeared that there had been some dissembling going on in both the Yamaha and Honda garages. HRC had been brushing off any suggestions that fuel may be an issue for them, while at Yamaha, there were a number of worried faces. There was a clue that things were not as serious as feared when Jorge Lorenzo stopped worrying about fuel and focused his ire on the new Bridgestone rubber, but Valentino Rossi kept banging the fuel drum. On race day, there was no sign of fuel issues for the Italian, Rossi telling the press conference that his engineers had done a great job to fix the fuel issues, and had given him a properly fast bike. 'I think Yamaha worked well on the fuel consumption,' he said.

It was quite the revival for Rossi. The gamble to drop Jeremy Burgess in favor of Silvano Galbusera as crew chief had paid off. 'Last year I made a very dangerous bet,' he said. Galbusera had no experience in MotoGP, but a positive experience working with him testing a World Superbike machine coming back from a broken leg in 2010 had encouraged Rossi to try. The way of working had now changed, with electronics and data engineer Matteo Flamigni playing a greater role.

The biggest gain for Rossi was clearly in braking. Rossi was able to attack on the brakes at will once again, fighting his way forward from 10th on the grid quickly – and aided by a couple of crashes in front of him – and engaging in hand-to-hand combat with Marc Marquez. Braking was an area where Rossi had suffered all last year, and the joy and determination with which he launched himself into corners spoke volumes about the improvements which have been made.

The battle with Marquez turned the race into an instant classic. From the moment when Rossi arrived on the back wheel of Marquez a third of the way through the race, the pair stalked and sniped, swapping places and sometimes even trading paint. The early skirmishes turned into all out war in the last few laps, the lead swapping four times on the penultimate lap. They were tough moves, no quarter given nor asked by either rider, Marquez squeezing his bike through an impossibly narrow gap at one point. In the end, the reigning world champion came out on top, Rossi losing ground after running the merest fraction wide.

Though Marquez' victory was far from a surprise, the fact that he did manage to win at Qatar is still quite a feat. The Spaniard came to the first race of the year after six weeks laid up with a spiral fracture in his fibula, still in pain and having started walking just a week ago. He worked his way through practice and qualifying methodically, serving notice by taking pole on Saturday – his 10th in 19 starts, a strike rate of over 50% for the youngster – then gambled on using the harder of the two rear tire options in the race. It paid off, and his willingness to fight and his appetite for risk landed him the win and the lead in the championship.

What was even more impressive by Marquez is that he showed that he has learned patience. For the first half of the race, Marquez sat calmly behind Stefan Bradl, happy to let the LCR Honda rider make the pace while he rested the right arm he was using to compensate for the lack of strength in his leg. In the end, he didn't need to choose a moment to attack, as Stefan Bradl crashed out of the lead at turn 6, one of very many fallers. But the fact that Marquez has already learned to control his more impetuous nature bodes well for the champion. It was an outstanding ride by the Repsol Honda man, and a portent of what is to come.

Unlike last year, Marquez managed to hold off Valentino Rossi. The battle between the two had provided the entertainment in the 2013 race, and did the same again, and more, this year. It also showed the progress made by both riders, Marquez coming out on top to win the race, and Rossi battling no longer with a rookie, but with the reigning world champion.

Many people had written Valentino Rossi off, believing him to have lost his edge in the two years he spent at Ducati. I was one of the people who believed that though Rossi was still one of the best racers in the world, he was no longer a match for the three Spaniards who dominated last year. It looks like I was wrong: there is life in the old dog yet, once a few fundamental problems have been overcome. That doesn't mean that a tenth world title is on the cards, but at least Rossi should be able to mix it with Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa at more races during the season.

Behind Rossi, Dani Pedrosa occupied the final spot on the podium, a decent achievement given his relatively poor results at Qatar. The low-grip surface is something which Pedrosa has always had trouble dealing with, third being the best finish Pedrosa has achieved here. The Repsol Honda rider was happy to have bagged a podium, but he had luck on his side. The Spaniard benefited from crashes in front of him, taking third after Alvaro Bautista went down with a couple of laps to go.

Crashes were a commonplace, and for some riders, particularly expensive. The reason for the crashes was simple: conditions at race time were different than during practice and qualifying. The track was considerably cooler, robbing the track even further of grip. Crashes were down not so much to problems with the Bridgestones, as in the minds of those trying to brake where they couldn't. Stefan Bradl, Alvaro Bautista, Bradley Smith and Jorge Lorenzo all lost the front in braking, overestimating the grip available.

Jorge Lorenzo admitted the mistake had been his. After a dismal start to the weekend, agonizing over a lack of rear grip, the Lorenzo and his Yamaha crew had found some solutions on Saturday, entering the race with determination and some optimism. Lorenzo got his usual lightning start and took off from the front. His optimism ran out at Turn 15, the last left hander before the final corner. He had got extra drive out of the previous corner, and arrived at 15 with a little more speed than expected. 'I made a mistake,' Lorenzo said. Different tires from last year and cooler temperatures had made conditions trickier than expected. 'I didn't take these circumstances into account.' Lorenzo does not often make mistakes, but this was a very expensive one indeed. 25 points down in the championship, and the initiative passed to Marc Marquez.

The man expected to shake up the order came home in fourth, Aleix Espargaro getting a dismal start and never finding a way past the Ducatis. Aleix paid a heavy price for his two crashes during qualifying, both bikes being destroyed, and his team needing to borrow parts from Colin Edwards' second bike to get to the grid on time. He was stuck behind Ducatis for a large part of the race, losing out on top speed to the Desmosedicis along the straight. He managed in the end, and thanks to the carnage ahead of him, ended up in fourth. The elder Espargaro learned a salutary lesson at Qatar: that when you step into the spotlights in MotoGP, they can easily blind you. With the experience from leading the first sessions of practice at Qatar, Aleix can start to build. His day will come, sooner, rather than later.

For the Ducatis, Andrea Dovizioso was delighted to have halved his deficit from 2013. But that still leaves a gap to the leaders of over 12 seconds, and the most significant problem remains. The understeer which plagues the Ducati makes it impossible to ride the bike the way the others can. That will be Gigi Dall'Igna's next challenge, but it is an issue which he will not be able to address until he has more data.

Dovizioso's teammate Cal Crutchlow's performance was affected by matters out of his own hands. The Englishman parked his bike at the side of the track as soon as he crossed the finish line, after a bizarre electronics problem had played havoc with his settings. A malfunctioning transponder meant that the wrong data was being fed to the ECU, with the result that the bike was getting lost on the track. Power delivery was completely out of sync with the track, too little on the straight, too much in the corners, the bike utterly lost. Signs of Crutchlow's problems could be seen on the timing screens, his name shooting up and down the order as his transponder vacillated between functioning and not. It was a tough debut for the Englishman, but the problems were out of his hands.

The issue has happened to Ducati before. At Estoril in 2012, Nicky Hayden's Desmosedici suffered a similar glitch, though in his case, the bike thought it was half a lap further on than it actually was. Given Estoril's very specific layout – a long, fast front straight, with a tight back section with lots of slow curves – having the bike provide the wrong power delivery can be a terrifying experience. Though GPS is banned, locational awareness is programmed based on the timing loops around the track, as well as measured distance traveled. These sorts of malfunctions are some of the reasons put forward by Dorna technical staff, when arguing for the restriction and simplification of electronics. If there is only one power setting for the entire track, then riders can at least be sure of knowing how the bike will react when the throttles are opened.

For a change, the MotoGP race was better than the Moto2 race, though the Moto2 race still turned into a bit of a thriller. Tito Rabat took a totally deserved victory, seeing off an unfortunate Taka Nakagami in the latter stages of the race. After the race, Nakagami would be scrapped from the results entirely, after it was found that his team had fitted an illegal air filter. The error was judged to be an honest mistake, but a violation of the rules is a violation of the rules, and Nakagami was expunged from the results. His removal gave the Marc VDS team the top two steps on the podium, Tom Luthi shifting up into third.

While Rabat's victory was well taken, the really impressive performances were behind him, with the class rookies. Maverick Viñales crossed the line as fifth, later promoted to fourth once Nakagami had been scrapped from the results. The step from Moto3 to Moto2 is one of the biggest in racing; the 2012 Moto3 champion took a year to adapt to the class. For Viñales to be running at the front in his very first race proves the Spaniard is something very special indeed.

Two places behind him, reigning World Supersport champion Sam Lowes ended the race in 6th. Several riders have tried to make the step from WSS to Moto2, but ended up struggling badly. So far, Lowes has dealt with aplomb everything the new series has thrown at him. A podium cannot be very far off.

If the faces dominating Moto2 were no surprise, the finishing order in Moto3 was much more of a shakeup. Though it can hardly be considered a shock that the Alexes Rins and Marquez of Estrella Galicia should be running at the front, there were fears that the team would have trouble in the first few races as they worked to get the brand new Honda ready to compete. HRC appeared to take all of the preseason and the first two sessions of free practice for the Moto3 class, but once qualifying hit, Honda were ready. Two Hondas led the field in qualifying, then four topped the timesheets during warm up, while on Sunday, there were five Hondas in the top ten for most of the race. The Honda NSF250RW is a serious weapon, and Rins and Marquez will be the title contenders which everyone expected.

Yet it was not a Honda which took the first victory of the year, but rather the young Australian Jack Miller. Miller rode a measured and sensible race, profiting from a mistake by Alex Marquez on the final lap. Taking his first victory in Grand Prix racing, Miller celebrated exactly as a rider should: exorbitant one-handed stand up wheelies; stand up wheelies to kiss his fairing; clowning and showboating on the bike, taking on ridiculous and exaggerated poses as he rode the cool down lap. He followed it up with an accidental obscenity in his post-race interview, giving himself over to the joy he felt.

Miller's victory has been a long time coming, but it was one that was inevitable. The years he spent on a badly underpowered FTR Honda meant he had to find ways in his riding of making the bike go faster. That has turned him into a very complete rider, and he shows great promise for the future. Jack Miller is clearly a future world champion.

Two other riders are worthy of note in the Moto3 race. Miguel Oliveira punched well above his weight on the Mahindra, ending the race in fourth, but over 11 seconds ahead of the next Mahindra. The Suter-built Indian bike is down on power compared to the Honda and the KTM, but Oliveira extracted every last ounce of performance from the bike.

Then there's Karel Hanika. Hanika finished in 14th position in his Moto3 debut, a remarkable achievement given the deeply competitive nature of the class. The young Czech rider still has an awful lot to learn, but he has clearly demonstrated his potential.

Three races, three deserved winners, plenty to talk about, and some memories that will live for ever. This is the hallmark of a great weekend's racing. No need to fill our stomachs with the empty calories of speculation, we have the real meat of results to chew over. Bring on Austin.

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...an epic race.

And to further enhance the occasion, my Dad (who has never watched a full race) watched it with me and then my nine-months-pregnant wife wobbled in and watched the last six laps with us. It was truly unbelievable stuff, and I was accompanied by my two favorite people.

Win for Marquez, but win for ME, and for Dad and Caroline.

I'm blessed to have seen such a great moment in my beloved sport. With my loved ones.

Good to see you admit you were wrong.

Don't ever count Valentino out. He doesn't have the most premier class wins in history for nothing. And he now has amassed the most points in history.

Albeit with a much larger gap to the winner, Lorenzo. If Jorge hadn't misjudged the grip on the first lap though that could well have been the case again this year as he had more pace than Rossi throughout practice. I wouldn't be judging Rossi's sacking of Burgess as a resounding success just yet, Rossi was strong at Qatar last year as well but when they returned to more normal tracks he didn't have the pace of the top guys. Hopefully Rossi he has found something as it will improve the racing but it remains to be seen I think.

I'd be far more inclined to credit Yamaha and the changes they made to the bike, rather than to use this podium to validate Rossi's bus-toss of Jeremy.

First Lorenzo grows a Biaggi beard,
then he crashes out of first place.
If only moto gp news was still around.

biaggi was more likely to crash mid/end of race ... right about the time when vr46 would be on his tailpipes (and in his head) :))

but very nice observation ... perhaps shaving would be the right way to come back into title contention ...

It now seems apparent that the problems with Rossi's bike in the recent past were not just Rossi making excuses, but were real problems which appear to have been solved to some degree. I had suspected this could be the case based on how much faster Rossi was when he switched from Ducati back to Yamaha, but until there is hard evidence you don't really know.

As a side note, Cal Crutchlow's response to the journalist who tried to get a few words from him was needlessly rude. However I also think that the obvious danger posed by the malfunctioning "turn by turn" ECU programming should lead to a mandatory black flag rule for such faults, given the danger posed by incorrect ECU outputs on a bike which has well over 200 horsepower.

In any case, it looks like this season could be one of the best in years, and
I won't be missing any races from now on.

There were those of us who said all along that Rossi's front end was the problem last year. Why? Because you could see it on the track, and more importantly, it's what Rossi told us all. With Burgess reinventing the wheel to respring/revalve the forks for Assen last year, it was blatantly obvious.

I'm not picking on you, David, or anyone else.....but, I don't know how some of you could doubt, write off, etc, the greatest premier class rider in history. 80 wins in GP, and over 100 across all classes. If ever, in this sport, you would cut someone some slack, and believe what they say about their bike, perhaps you might listen to Valentino.

It just proves in bike racing, and in life, that we'd rather hate than love, and we'd rather write someone off rather than cut them the slack they deserve. Even at 35 years of age you could tell he's riding the wheels off that M1. In the preseason tests he put in the fastest lap of his career around Sepang. Just getting faster and faster.

What he did yesterday in the battle with Marquez doesn't surprise me one bit. Hopefully now, some will believe he can compete instead of constantly riding the guy into the ground.

In preseason testing, Dovi turned in the fastest ever Ducati lap of Sepang. You can't extrapolate that the Ducati is getting faster and faster though... my guess is that Rossi's PB there was more down to the track conditions than to his outright speed.

Last year Rossi came second at Qatar - ergo, at this point in time, not a lot has changed. We need to see how he goes over the next few rounds. I do agree that he looks a lot more comfortable this year than at any time last year. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. I like the guy and enjoyed seeing him fight at Qatar, but I'm not blinded by the past, even though I've been cheering him on for over 15 years now.

Until he is winning again, everyone is just guessing. He needs to be winning before anyone can state - with any degree of accuracy - that he is as good today as he was back when he was a consistent challenger for wins. If he can be that guy, I'll be more than impressed, because he'll be doing it without all of the advantages he's traditionally enjoyed in the past.

Don't we have short memories... The general desire to see Rossi succeed (I'm a fan too) seems to have brought premature optimism. As far as I can tell, there is nothing different to last year. He is off the pace in qualifying, which will be an even bigger penalty this year with an additional 4 or 5 bikes that have a legit chance at starting in front of him. Can he overcome his quali woes?

An equally significant question will be whether he can demonstrate this race pace at other tracks. His performance at Qatar last year was very similar...outpacing Pedrosa and battling with Marquez to the end. But where would Lorenzo have been? Rossi NEVER even came close to beating Lorenzo in a race last year, bar the two where the anesthesia had barely worn off. How will Rossi compare to Lorenzo at other tracks? And if I recall, he only beat the Hondas at two tracks last year...Qatar and Assen.

So far, nothing has changed until we seem him at other tracks...so yes, bring on Austin!! By the way, as a Rossi fan, I have learned to govern my expectations for him. Qatar was made actually infinitely more enjoyable for me by the competitiveness of Alvaro, Stefan and Aleix. Lets see what they can do in Austin...I hope it continues!

One race in and other than Jorge crashing you are right about how little has changed.

Marc swapped positions with Vale and kept the same gap - 0.2 of a second at the finish.

Dani was 0.1 of a second further back from Marc this year (3.37 seconds this year).

The race time was just 0.7 of a second slower this year and Stefan crashed on the same lap...

This race was +- 1 sec slower than last years' and that was probably due to the passing between both Rossi and Marc. I don't believe if Lorenzo hasn't crashed he'd take off and leave them all behind like last year. I'd say they would very close all up front until the end of the race.

So, Rossi was indeed 6 or 7 secs faster (don't remember exactly the last year gap) in this race, which is a lot!

but yeah... lets see and hope he can mix at the front more often! The more the merrier!
Dunno if Lorenzo will like thou... If Rossi manages to keep racing like this, now it will be two guys, him and Marc, passing between a bike and the kerb and sometimes using the grass too! :D

Jorge crashed, therefore no points.

Rossi was battling for the lead and was in the lead for a period despite starting from 10th on the grid.

Marquez and Rossi were both 6-7 seconds quicker than last year.

The race for the lead was actually entertaining.

Only the extreme cynics haters would bother writing negatives and downplaying what was a great race, in an era where these are few and far between.

Early days, but I do enjoy seeing the Doctor throwing a few dozen more eggs in the faces of his detractors. Hopefully, to add further change to last year-this may continue.

I think Miller was making a reference to Mick Doohan in his slow down lap, it was like imitating his style... Did he say something about that ?

The bit about Espargaro is spot on. And a strong race result like this one will help him a lot more than flying laps on the soft tires. It's the race that counts !

Utter shame for Nakagami.

The wheelie was pure Corser, but the corners taken with his head over the tank and his bum near dragging on the track was a pretty good Doohan caricature to my eyes :-)

Good debut by Scott Redding, finishing ahead of Hayden on the same bike is a very good start.

Bradley Smith had a good weekend too, excepting no points!

But most of all what a change to see a race!

I'm not a huge fan of the guy, and he doesn't do the best interviews IMO, but I do respect him for what he does on bikes. His reaction to Hodgson surprised me too (although he got his media face back fairly quickly I thought), but I can half-imagine what it must feel like to ride one of those machines; and as a top rider he pushes every aspect to gain an advantage as the thing tries to kill him (which probably isn't too much of an exaggeration given the problem). He's not the pull over and retire unhurt type of guy.
Even Rossi let his guard down in the parc ferme interviews and swore on camera. Door-stepping riders at a point in time when they have had no opportunity to 'calm down' gets some 'good' insights and TV, but don't be surprised at the occasional honest and unguarded reaction. This is one of the most dangerous sports you can choose and you cannot deny body chemistry.
It may not be polite or good manners but I prefer the honesty to the sort of sterilised responses that you get with , for example, F1.
I don't know why Cal would ignore someone's wife, but perhaps he just failed to recognise her?
I had a similar experience with the slightly less-well-known James Whitham a few years ago at a track day. He didn't respond to my attempt at saying hello and I was pretty peeved at his 'rudeness' at the time, but he was pushing hard, eyes on full adrenaline boost, and I later reasoned that he was just 'focused' on what he was doing and perhaps switched off and not in 'media mode'.

A top quality start to 2014 all-in-all though. I'm a convert to BT's streaming too - much better than I thought and the commentary was good. Toseland should go easy on the hair dye though.

Heaven forfend!

I don't have BT Sport so I missed that. Hodgson seems such a nice bloke too; still he's new to shoving a mic under people's noses so he'll probably be a bit more sensitive I future (if he needed to be of course).

I'd love to see a clip, purely for reference, and what's someone's wife got to do with it!? Sounds like a west end farce.

If this is the controversial footage (assuming it's okay to post video links on this board - forgive me if that's not the case DE) I don't really get what all the brouhaha all about: http://youtu.be/ozgnsXcyccE

Seems pretty benign to me. Don't know where 'someone's wife' fits in either. I guess something has to fill in the time until the next race weekend :)

The wife comment was in a comment which got deleted. And posting links to video is not a problem.

Yes, fairly innocuous really, Cal was understandably a bit grumpy at 1st yes, then he put the media face on (err under the helmet).

I'm still missing the BBC; the MotoGP player was crap at my place on Sunday evening; broadband not fast enough. How we laughed when it froze during the Rossi / Marc wing-ding...

Friend, if your wallet can bear it swallow the pill and get BT. It sorely grieved me to do so myself but I wouldn't have wanted to miss 0.28 of a second of that race. I honestly thought the old ticker was going to pack up when I realised Marquez was going to go for THAT gap. It has to be said, the coverage is excellent.

BT, if you want to pm me I'll give you an address for the cheque!

I'm grateful, but I live in a rural area so having researched this, I'd just be relying on the same cable and speed. If I was on a nice shiny fibre then I'd do it.

Oh well, I'll rely on you guys!

yup, i'd give him the benefit of doubt as well, can be easy to miss people of you are away in your thoughts or distracted by stress/tiredness

i agree on BT sport too, very surprised by its quality, shame about the anchor though, totally out of place

For the teams who purchased the RCV1000R's wanted to fit a larger, 24L fuel tank is there anything to stop them? Would Honda discontinue support?

It would seem like a waste to purchase a bike and be told you can't do anything with it.

I think there is. Contrary to general belief, they don't own the bike. Only after two year of using it it becomes theirs, so I don't know how much can they modify it. It's the same deal with the engine, if it's so under power why can't they modify it instead of waiting for HRC updates?

I get the impression that the engine is so weak that the extra fuel literally can't be used.

When you hear someone as PC as Hayden grumbling, "We hope Honda will give us the bike we paid for..." you know it's a dog.

good race...the kid despite the injury showed strength,confidence and most importantly,patience...

lorenzo did a rookie mistake...hopefully it won't happen again...

regarding rossi i also don't think anything has changed since last year...medium tyre but cooler conditions helped duration when on the contrary marquez with the hard suffered a bit...

i still believe that rossi doesn't have the speed the top three have,never had it to be exact...the level these three have achieved the last 3-4 years is higher than the one rossi ever had in regards of keeping that incredible rythm at 100% throughout the race with marginal differences...

we'll see...

Given there are only 5 engines for the season my immediate thought following Lorenzo's M1 barrel-rolling through the kitty litter was whether that engine had been totalled?
-any news on that David?

Great result from Redding, even if the 5 factory riders hadn't crashed out ahead of him he would still have got points plus finished in front of Hayden on equivalent machinery and Edwards on the Open M1.

As Crutchlow's bike was giving 'all the right power in all the wrong places' on the track his distance from Dovi looks quite good.

With Texas then Argentina races coming up next it's still a while (May) before the 'ground war' of Europe begins and we really find out what's what.

Did nobody see that Bradley was catching them at the end- it was inevitable that he would crash- most do when they try to catch up at that stage of a race.
He was right on the pace in practice and Q2. So why is no one raving about him.
He has stepped up, and some. I suspect nobody is talking because they are too busy eating their hats.

Bradley has been much derided here; but Herve knows what he's doing, and he didn't give Smith a job out of generosity.

I'm expecting Bradley to steadily improve this year, and be on the level of Bradl and Bautista. Quite possibly, he could go further and match Crutchlow, with hopefully less crashes. He's an intelligent and measured fellah, and of course doesn't like Pol at all, always a good incentive to beat your teammate!

He's done well pre-season, (as Crutchlow did last year) often a very good sign.

We shall see...

Smith definitely showed improvement in all sessions and the race, but I don't think his performance was up to the praise that the British commentators were giving him. The ultimate result is that he crashed out and scored no points.

If you want to play a game of "what if" and assume that he didn't crash out (which I love to play), then he would have been in fourth place - the second Yamaha out of four, with one of those crashing and one being a rookie. One place ahead of the first open class entry.

If you want to play a fair game of "what if" and assume that no-one had crashed out but instead finished in the position they crashed out of, then he would have been seventh behind Lorenzo and Rossi on Yamahas, and Marc, Dani, Bautista, and Bradl on Hondas.

He was quite a few seconds clear of the Ducatis though, which is the sign of his improvement, because he spent much of last year battling with them.

Cant believe it that Masimo Maregalli and Wilco Zeelenberg dont payed one single word about Valentino in their official statement after the such a great race and instead of that, talking only about bad weekend, because of Jorge crash...?!?
I thought that Maregalli is bit more on Rossi's side, while its clear, that Wilco is on 100% Lorenzo's side only.
But still, form Maregalli its for me very strange attitude ...

... your writing ability and sheer knowledge of roadracing aren't impeccable David, but why the immediate doubt that Rossi could challenge for the championship? He's already thwarted doubts of being past his prime with a near-win, but he also rode thru half the field to do so! Between his preseason form, new (and improved?) crew chief and harder-than-ever training regimen, I'd say Rossi is confidently looking to the front as the place he intends to be this year.

Qatar is a strange race. Rossi has always gone well here, and I'm sure you remember how the rest of his season went. This is one of Pedrosa's worst tracks, and you can be sure he will be stronger elsewhere. And Lorenzo crashed out. A stupid mistake, but he had already pulled his customary gap as he approached the end of lap 1.

I believe Rossi has a legitimate shot at a podium almost every weekend this year. There is clearly that much improvement. But Marquez rode with a broken and painful leg, causing him to overcompensate with his arm. If Marquez had been fit, it wouldn't have been this close.

One race is just one race. It's tough to draw conclusions. I try to be as coldly analytical as I can, and call what I see. I see a revitalized Rossi. But the three Spaniards are still probably just a fraction ahead.

Next we go to Austin, where Honda dominated. The Argentina, another Honda track. Afterwards, Jerez, where Rossi is strong, but then so are Lorenzo, Marquez and especially Pedrosa. I think Jerez will be the first real measure of where Rossi stands.

If I had to guess, I'd say Rossi's best hope is to beat Pedrosa to third; and that won't be easy either, because DP will have a lot to prove this year too, possibly his last shot on the best bike.

But that's not to denigrate VR, he is still great for the spectacle and the sport will be all the better if he can get amongst it. And to be even fourth best at 35 is good going. Going from 10th to 2nd - how can that not be an excellent show?

Still, we are all guessing, but I'd be very surprised if the battle isn't between MM & JL, but who knows? That's why we watch!

David's above comment is spot on.

Lots of people jumped on the Rossi bandwagon last year after Qatar, and we see how that worked out. If anything, I think since he lost the battle with an injured Marquez this year instead of winning a fight against a healthy one, he's taken a step back. He may win a race or maybe two, but he's still the fourth best rider in the world, and even the gap to fifth through nineth has shrunk.

And I think that nobody knows that, not David, you, or I. We need a few more races before predicting anything.

What I saw yesterday, despite all the passing, was VR turning that bike the way he wants, and more importantly braking how he wants, late. That's a clear improvement from last year.

Like I said before, I'd cut the guy some slack before predicting anything. Jerez, Lemans, Mugello, Catalunya. When these races are complete you'll know if it's 2013 all over again.

These 2014 spec tires do not suit the Yamaha at all, and he was right there battling with MM on the better machine. We shall see.

' he followed it up with an accidental
obscenity in his post-race interview' what exactly did he do? never caught that...

He spent most of the race in flying formation with Marquez. When Marquez made an error on the last lap, Jack, in his own words, decided "%$@ it, I'll go by myself" : )

At the end of the interview he closed with "thanks, and sorry for my bad language".

My impression was, that Vale was very much riding like he was walking on eggs.
Of course he was way more comfortable than last year and his braking was magnificent, but I believe in earlier days he would have sete-gibernaued him into the gravel just to teach him not to reach for "his" title any further.

I did saw some of the old anger sting when he commented about beeing defeated by MM93 though.
This gives me hope that he still has enough confidence left to be the ruthless son of a gun he used to be on occasions where he had to break the spirit of his opponent.
If he has the right weapon with the M1 this year, I´m sure it will be bloody like hell this year and points will be handed out like candy from DORNA but we will discuss like crazy what was fair and what not.

I believe Rossi is too aware that a WC can´t be won like in the old day´s anymore and consistency is King while crashing is punished more than ever.
I can only hope that this cleverness led to his soft fighting with MM93 and this cleverness will be rewarded at the end.

MM93 is a worthy opponent no doubt. A game changer.
Sliding his elbows everywhere...its a crazy style and awesome to look at.
If Rossi would have stayed at Honda, he´d probably left with 10 titles allready though I must say.
Hopefully MM93 becomes 35 in this sport as well.

Great article David (as usual) but I have to take umbrage with you saying it was luck that got Dani the podium. If Alvaro rode past his ability, past the bike's ability, or beyond what the track conditions allowed, how is luck involved? I'm not necessarily a Pedrosa fan (although I do like/respect him more now than when he was Pedrobot) but you shouldn't get credit taken away as a rider if you DON'T crash and the guy ahead of you did. That's part of racing. Anybody can just close their eyes and pin the throttle wide open, take the lead....and eventually crash out because you never had a chance of maintaining that pace to begin with.

And I have to ask, if it was Marquez behind Bautista, would the narrative have been different? Would you have said Marquez "pressured" Alvaro into crashing?

Watched the Moto2 and Motogp races. Both were excellent races to me. Moto2 seemed to be more like I am used to seeing in the Motogp class. I was SHOCKED to see Lorenzo crash out before completing a lap. Glad to see Rossi fighting for the win, but even more impressed with Marquez having a leg still healing and not afraid to go toe to toe with Rossi to win. A very measured fight which took brains and force to win. Rossi is not an easy person to beat when battling for the win. It is my greatest wish this year to see Rossi back up and fighting for wins in every race. But, I hoped the same last year after Qatar. Scratch that, was yelling in people's faces, "ROSSI IS BACK!!! AND THERE IS NOTHING YOU AN DO ABOUT IT MOTHERF....."

This year I will be a little more cautious. I did not post that here, but said it to friends of mine in person. Would love to see a Young vs Old battle to the end. But I know Lorenzo will be back with a vengeance and Pedrosa will get some wins. Between those two it is hard for even me to see Rossi getting enough wins to take a title. But here is to hoping that Rossi can go out in a blaze of glory. Speaking of going out, can someone ask Colin Edwards to stop.... behind Hayden and Redding?!?!?? There is not reason in the world for that to happen.

New crew chief.
Different riding style.

For someone as superstitious as Rossi to make these changes shows how desperate he is to get his edge back. So far, I think it's working.

...and what a hottie that is!!!I guess it does smooth your mood lying along side such a beauty, after becoming second....in the race, I mean:)

And all it takes is having 2 riders dicing on the last laps to make it so. We had a nice 6 bike lead group for a long time and they were all Factory entries.

Qualifying was exciting because of 2 reasons:

1. The possibility of an Open entry using a soft tire and getting pole. That didn't work out as expected.

2. The satellite and open teams testing there recently when the Factory riders did not.

The racing was exciting because of 2 reasons:

1. The satellite and open teams testing there recently when the Factory riders did not so there were some satellite riders dicing in the lead group.

2. Rossi and Marquez are 2 riders who love to battle in close quarters. Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner, not so much.

Isn't it ironic that the bikes running 20l of fuel and custom electronics provided the best racing of the weekend right down to the last lap? No fuel sipping worries, just 2 of the best on display for all to enjoy all race long. Rossi on the Yamaha was stable as hell and sticking it in wherever he could and Marquez, even with the 'computer controlled' bike, was visibly out of sorts and squirming all over the place. Running wide at T1 with his rear tire 8" in the air was impressive, as was collecting it and regaining the place. Seems to me that the spec tire and testing rules get more in the way of good racing than anything else being looked at.

And as far as the tires go when will people realize that the faster you go the harder a tire you need? The soft Open tire will not be anything but a long life qualifier. Marquez is on the same page as Stoner here. Stoner always chose the hard tire because he was able to use it and Marquez is continuing the tradition.

Here's to Rossi continuing his resurgence!


"The bikes running 20l of fuel and custom electronics provided the best racing of the weekend right down to the last lap ... Marquez, even with the 'computer controlled' bike, was visibly out of sorts and squirming all over the place."

Heresy! Heretic! Burn the warlock who dares invoke the vile stench of facts in his worship of the Satan-spawned Magneti Marelli blasphemers!

I crack me up. Really.

Seriously, anytime I read someone talking about how electronics have taken the rider and his/her skills out of the equation, I want to show them a picture of Marquez entering a corner on a MotoGP bike at ... at ... well, damned near every corner I've ever seen him enter.

Lap after lap, I would bet cash American money that the way he enters a corner, he's not coming out on two wheels. And he always does! I try to do that, and it's always the same story - earth, sky, earth, sky, then a nice young man in a clean, freshly-pressed uniform is asking me if I know what year it is.

I consider it a privilege to watch that young man ride a motorcycle, and am grateful that he's riding at a time when the motorcycle is equally amazing.

...No need to fill our stomachs with the empty calories of speculation, we have the real meat of results to chew over.

Nice! I'll bet you've waited a while to use a line like that.

It seems to me that although Marquez looked loose, the reality was he was playing with Rossi in much the same way as Rossi used to with his competition. Listening to the post race interviews was particularly illuminating. Marquez says,"The battle with Valentino was so great. I enjoyed a lot. In the last lap I was 100% but in the laps before we overtake three, or, two or three times." Telling.

Something I noticed in the press conference afterwards was Rossi staring across at Marquez as though he was sizing him up for next time. Make no mistake, he intends to beat him, just hasn't yet worked out how.

I just watched it again and I also realized those quick stares.
If Marquez would´ve made one wrong move there would have been a fist fight.
A very tense atmosphere...ready to escalate at every instance.
MM knew it as well and was cautios not to deliver a statement demoting Vale nor to look at him too long.

I agree totally that Vale has not yet figured out how to break MM up.
What I´ve seen and written before, is that the ruthless sonoffagun behind that funny jokester mask of Vale is still very much alive and now given the right M1, is ready to outbreak and gibernau MM into the gravel at the next instance.
BUT he was still on glass feet at this first race of the season, testing the ground beeing extra warned by the early departure of JLo.

AND I think he knew how embarassing it would have been if he´d started a maneuver that didn´t work out.
Under the given circumstances he was at his limit.
Things have changed and Vale is in a role unknown to him, where a young impersonation of himself is treating him like he did when he was young:No respect and showing his enormous talent at every possibillity while sitting on superiour material.

He is also aware that he has used up his credit with the race direction in things about critical maneuvers, opposite to MM93 who profits from a down payment given for his rookie title.

I really don't get this idea that Valentino is past it at 35. Doohan was 34 in his final year, as was Fogarty, and both were in shape to win another consecutive title if their careers hadn't been so abruptly ended. Bayliss was 33 when he came into motogp - if the duc had been the package given to stoner who knows how he'd have got on.

Granted the competition right now is ferocious and a tenth title is a big ask, but with a little luck not impossible. Last night really wasn't a replay of 2013. It was Rossi back at his best, and from the look of things in the Yamaha paddock, more like a returned prodigal son than an unwelcome guest. I sense winds of change there if he outperforms Jorge over the next few races.

As for Jorge and all others who crashed out, for him to have still been there at the end he'd have had to go slower, so there's no guarantee he'd have been dicing for the win. This race was no 'false result', it was those with the best all-round skill getting the best results.

I prefer that Rossi finds the pace to stay with other factory guys, coz he always makes it intresting, unlike lorenzo or pedrosa.With marq and him at the front, races will be more intresting, way more than 2011 and 2012

has impressed me over the last year. The Brit commentators mentioning him at regular intervals was a good thing I think, and deserved (I agree that you can pick your own superlatives). He doesn't seem to have those 'alien' qualities of a few, but he has those Dovisio qualities of quiet and thoughtful development.
He was definitely less of a wallflower on the TV too, so whatever he's been doing for media training has worked as well as the bike stuff.
If you look at his progression he is doing all he needs to and, if he keeps it up and gets the kit, he has as much chance of being Champ as Hayden IMO.
He's not a natural self-promoter from what I have seen (although he must be doing something right) so the rest of us talking him up is a necessary thing I feel (which is why I've posted this!).
Crashing out was undoubtedly frustrating, but when a number of others did the same I suspect he has been told and is learning "when you are in the top five and it feels like you are pushing hard, be careful how much harder you push.....especially at a track like Qatar". C'est la vie. I think he is gaining confidence and ability and has exceeded my expectations in a number of areas. Go Bradders!

Comments using derogative terms for fans of riders will get deleted. No matter how valid the other points in those posts will be. There is no need to stoop to abuse.

Much appreciated David. Not only abusive, but primitive. Dignity and respect is essential in mutuality of love for motocyclismo. It is celebrated here, this site is OURS, and I care about it a ton.

Rossi, Stoner, Biaggi, Pedrosa, Hayden, brilliant each and every one. The hero is arising interdependently from within with the fear and doubt of humanity. Sacred sh*t my friends (they are composting the deep primordial crud and it is trancendental).

Thankful for the joy of such paint swapping battles and massaged pliable limits of the possible. Rossi is beautiful. Stoner cornering at a gazillion frames per second is art. Marquez, WOW.

Experiencing awe inherently involves an open full heart. This brings room for being with the fullness of what is with less judgement and projection of 'the story of me vs the world.' Here there is dignity, respect, and gratitude of the glorious display.

Great article David!

What's wrong with some friendly ribbing of the unwashed Yellow masses, or the Marquez bandwagon, Pedrobot's engineers, or the narcissistic Lorenzo Land inhabitants?

After all, if you don't laugh at yourself, someone else will.

Because about 30 seconds after the friendly ribbing starts, it turns ugly. It takes too much time to police all that. It's much better for everyone if such comments aren't posted, or are deleted when they are.

The Ducati's are closer to the winner when Lorenzo crashes out of the lead.

Rossi is back better than ever when Lorenzo crashes out of the lead, Stephen crashes out of the lead, Dani is riding a bus around the track, Marc has a broken leg and the track is run at night in the desert.

The ever shifting rules produced a good race because the second, third and forth string bikes did not factor into the results even with half the factory bikes laying on the floor and their own personal magic rule set and qualifying tires.

All in all a very fun race to watch despite Dorna and all those also-ran grid fill bikes and I can't wait for Texas.

My preseason picks this year were:

1 JL
2 MM
3 VR
4 DP
5 AE

Stay on the bike next race, George :)

When's the next race? When's the next race? When's the next race? When's the next race? When's the next race? When's the next race? When's the next race? When's the next race? When's the next race?

Sorry, bit excited to see MotoGP back : )

It feels like I'm being a bit stuffed-shirt here, but the thing I like about this site (and dislike about a number of the others I have looked at) is the (usually) decent English that is used (and by that I mean polite grammar, not anything to do with someone using a second language, or having a different form of 'English') and people expressing their opinions in their own way, but without getting at all angry and aggressive (usually - Dorna rule-making excepted).
It is very easy for anyone to act like a child, or talk down to people like some adults do to children. If we use a style and tone that respects other people's position and perhaps politely corrects any 'misunderstandings' there may be I do not see that we lose anything.

For me, David, anything you can do to maintain that atmosphere here will be greatly appreciated.