Marquez and Pedrosa place better than expected at season opener in Qatar

Despite a difficult winter testing the Repsol Honda Team seemed to turn things around for the first race of the MotoGP season at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

Marquez and Pedrosa place better than expected at season opener in Qatar
Marc Marquez in action at the Qatar MotoGP | Photo: Mirco Lazzari

The two riders Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have both struggled to get the Honda RC213V to perform at race pace throughout the winter testing.

Practice followed at Qatar and the Hondas still appeared to be off the pace. However something soon changed for Marquez who was able to qualify in second on the grid for the first race in Qatar; his teammate Pedrosa qualified in seventh after being unable to break the 1:55 minute barrier.

The race came and both made a great start despite the acceleration from the Ducati duo making a big impact on the field. Marquez slotted in behind Movistar Yamaha rival Valentino Rossi on turn one and Pedrosa was sixth. During lap sixth, Ducati rider Andrea Iannone fell off after touching the white line. This meant the two Hondas moved up a place and Marquez and Rossi split from the front two riders Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso briefly; Marquez soon caught up to Dovizioso with Rossi in tow.

Jorge Lorenzo won the first race of the MotoGP season | Photo: Mirco Lazzari
Jorge Lorenzo won the first race of the MotoGP season | Photo: Mirco Lazzari

The battle commenced

The battle commenced between Marquez and Dovizioso; the two duelled whilst trying to keep Lorenzo in their sights.

However Marquez’s constant attacks on Dovizioso allowed the 2015 MotoGP Champion Lorenzo to edge away slightly before going on to win the race. Marquez worked hard to catch Dovisioso each lap, but each time they exited turn 16 on the start-finish straight, Dovizioso was able to accelerate away undoing all the work Marquez had put in. After one last attempt in the final corner Marquez ended up wide allowing Dovizioso to finish second behind Lorenzo, with just 0.1 seconds of a gap between him and the Ducati when he finished in third.

Marquez was "happy" with his third place finish because he knows his team "gave our all" and that just just weeks ago they were "one second off the pace compared to the other guys on the podium.

"I want to thank Honda and my team for all the hard work they are doing," said Marquez. "The race was faster than we expected and we had a great weekend because we got 100% out of performance at a circuit that we find hard."

Marquez laughed at the competition between himself and Dovizioso telling reporters "whenever I got close I'd lose him again!

"Although I knew it would be difficult, I made another attempt with four laps remaining but he overtook me on the last lap," added Marquez. "I tried again in the last corner but it wasn’t possible. I hope that the circuits coming up on the calendar favour us a little more.”

Pedrosa struggled to keep on the pace

Pedrosa struggled to keep on the pace of the group of four riders that led the race; he was able to maintain his own pace and keep Team Ecstar Suzuki rider Maverick Vinales at bay but was never in contention of catching or gaining a place.

Pedrosa admitted it was a "difficult race" and that although he got off the mark quick, "I ran ride at the first corner." The Spaniard told reporters his "pace was not good enough" and that he "gradually lost touch" with the leading pack."

Dani Pedrosa during the Qatar MotoGP | Photo: Mirco Lazzari
Dani Pedrosa during the Qatar MotoGP | Photo: Mirco Lazzari

"The negative side to this race is the result and the distance from the winner but the positive is that I learned more about the bike and maybe we can improve for the next race," said Pedrosa. "Physically I also held up very well. We knew that this was a difficult track for us but now we must look ahead to Argentina.”

The next round will take place in Argentina where both riders seem more confident than Qatar; however they will not have anywhere near as much time there as they did in Qatar with the private test just weeks before the main race.