I’ll admit, I was one of the many who thought the 2015 MotoGP season would be a fight for second, with the phenom that is Marc Marquez destroying the world’s supply of elbow sliders en route to yet another title. If yesterday’s MotoGP season opener in Qatar was any indication, however, I should have remembered that Sundays are the only days that matter in racing. Here now are my thoughts on the race and the season to come.

Be warned: if you haven’t seen the race yet, stop reading and go watch it. The rest of this piece will have spoilers. Or, you can check out Bruce Allen’s race recap for full results (but really, go watch the race).

Riding like a man possessed, Rossi dug deep to overcome his YZR-M1’s lack of top speed, carrying immense corner speed to come from as far back as tenth to take the victory.

Riding like a man possessed, Rossi dug deep to overcome his YZR-M1’s lack of top speed, carrying immense corner speed to come from as far back as tenth to take the victory.

Where else do we start than with Valentino Rossi? After qualifying in eighth, getting pushed back two places at the start, then fighting back brilliantly for the win in classic Rossi style, the Doctor put on a show for the ages, showing he’s still fired up as ever to be racing motorcycles at the highest level. Speaking of ages, Rossi is 36! Father time will catch up with him eventually, but for now Rossi is showing that age ain’t nothin but a number.

In post-race interviews, Rossi commented about how much he still enjoys battling for the win instead of simply leading a procession at the front. He lives for moments like this, and the fact the Yamaha has weaknesses in certain areas – top speed, mainly – gives him a challenge each race weekend that he looks forward to overcoming.

Though the Ducati had more top speed, rarely did it make it ahead of the Yamaha before the finish line.

Though the Ducati had more top speed, rarely did it make it ahead of the Yamaha before the finish line.

When talking about overcoming adversity, the work Gigi Dall’Igna has put into the GP15 Ducati is nothing short of remarkable. Having only ridden the bike for the first time 35 days prior to the Qatar race, Dovizioso was 0.174 second away from winning in its debut! Plus, he set his fastest lap on the last one trying to chase down Valentino. The cherry on top is Andrea Iannone rounding out the podium. I had a feeling Dall’Igna would be a force for good at Ducati, but few would have predicted a turnaround like this from Borgo Panigale. Let’s hope the boys in red can keep the momentum for the rest of the season.

If Rossi and Ducati were the feel-good stories to come from Qatar, then Jorge Lorenzo and the Repsol Honda team are the big mysteries. After a strong first half of the race, which saw Lorenzo battle for the lead and have the pace for a victory, the Spaniard faded back to fourth in the closing stages, claiming a helmet defect was blocking his vision and slowing him down. Indeed, an image on MotoGP.com shows the inner liner on Lorenzo’s HJC helmet hanging freely in front of his eyes, severely limiting his view. This surely isn’t good PR for HJC.

A Ducati in front and the number 93 way out in the car park. The Qatar MotoGP race was anything but predictable.

A Ducati in front and the number 93 way out in the car park. The Qatar MotoGP race was anything but predictable.

Then there’s the Repsol Hondas. Marquez got bumped wide in the first turn, reentering the course in last place. This wouldn’t have been the first time he’s clawed back from last place to win, but even if he hadn’t run off course at the start, a win was anything but certain this time around. Throughout the race, MM’s pace was on par with the leaders, never significantly faster. In fact, his fastest lap of the race was only fifth fastest overall. The other four to go faster? Lorenzo, Iannone, Dovizioso and Rossi.

Perhaps the most troubling story of the weekend was Dani Pedrosa. On the surface his quiet sixth-place finish seems lackluster at best, especially considering he qualified second. The troubling part came during post-race interviews, when he revealed he suffered from massive arm pump during the race. Pedrosa has had two previous surgeries to try and remedy this problem, neither of which have worked. This explains why he can put in one flying lap during qualifying but then fade during a race.

To his credit, Marc Marquez fought hard to catch up to the leaders but ultimately made the mature decision to settle for fifth place and 11 points rather than crash and walk away with zero.

To his credit, Marc Marquez fought hard to catch up to the leaders but ultimately made the mature decision to settle for fifth place and 11 points rather than crash and walk away with zero.

He sought the opinion of numerous doctors during the off season, all of whom advised against a third surgery. Dani is running out of options, he and the team know this, and nobody knows what to do next. Considering he basically rode his RC213V with one hand, a sixth place doesn’t seem so bad now.

Granted, one race is too early to make any sort of predictions about the season. The Losail circuit is historically a Yamaha track, and one Rossi has done well at since his return to Yamaha. Let’s see how the Doctor performs at Honda tracks like Austin, Rio Hondo, and Jerez, the next three races on the calendar. The Ducatis look to be a threat for race wins during the season, but let’s see how they perform at tracks the team have never tested at before.

Severe arm pump ruined Dani Pedrosa’s Qatar race. Could it ruin the rest of his career?

Severe arm pump ruined Dani Pedrosa’s Qatar race. Could it ruin the rest of his career?

As for Lorenzo, HJC is likely going through his helmet allotment and making sure he’ll have zero helmet issues going forward. And of course you can never count Marquez out of any race. The real question mark is Pedrosa. Is his career over? Time will tell, but if the Qatar season opener was any indication, the 2015 MotoGP season could very well be the most competitive in years, and I can’t wait to see how it all pans out. On to Austin!

  • Goose

    Wow, I can’t believe nobody has commented on this race. Troy covered things well but somebody must have an opinion about the race.

    It was the best MotoGP in a long while, I didn’t even have to try to stay awake. One thought I’ll throw out about Marquez, after that run through the field he can’t have had much left in his tires. When he finally got some clear track in front of him I don’t think he had much left in his tires. I fear he will be to his old, dominant ways in Austin.

    Poor Danny, he seems doomed to be Randy Mamola, often a bride’s maid, never a bride, without the fun Randy always brought to the races.

    I’m also a big (bigger than MotoGP) Formula 1 fan. Upsets all over the place. It was a really good weekend to be on or in a loud, red, Italian machine.

    • TroySiahaan

      Yes, of course this was a great race. Made more so by all the drama that happened in it.

      As for Marquez, you have a point about him possibly frying his tires charging through the field, but that’s why I also pointed out his fastest lap of the race was still slower than both Ducatis and both Yamahas. Also, his race pace throughout the weekend didn’t indicate he would be the clear run-away winner, either. Also something to take into consideration is the fact Rossi had to charge from 10th, bridging a big gap between himself and the guys in the lead. That was punishing for the tires also, but it would appear his choice for the hard front tire was a brilliant one.

      Who knows, Marquez might very well walk away from everyone come Austin, but the Qatar race is giving me a glimmer of hope that this season might not be a fight for second. Being only 35 days old, the Ducati has potential to be a threat as the season goes on. And if Yamaha can find some speed, Lorenzo and Rossi will be in the mix, too.

      • Old MOron

        Have you read Bruce’s race recap?
        This was just a fluke. No big deal. Don’t get excited. Yawn.

        • TroySiahaan

          I did. I choose to be more optimistic. I hope I’m right. :)

          • Goose

            And I hope you’re right. Austin will tell us a lot.

          • Old MOron

            The Honda’s have been way, way ahead at COTA. But last year Dovi took 3rd place, albeit 20 seconds behind the winner, Marquez. If both Ducati and Yamaha can close the gap, we’ll have another fabulous race. Also, since this is such a Honda-favoring track, it’ll be interesting to see what Cal Crutchlow can do. I’d love to see him mix it up with Marquez and Pedrobot.

  • JMDonald

    Rossi and Moto GP are what racing is all about. They are integral to the overall dynamic that makes racing worth following. Nice analysis. Well done.

  • Backroad Bob

    Just to keep it interesting, Dorna should make Marquez start at the back for every race. If it raises TV ratings, don’t doubt they wouldn’t try it. Follow the money.

  • john burns

    I strongly objectify to all you kids calling Rossi “old” at 36. When he’s still winning 20 years from now, we’ll talk…

    • Old MOron

      Heh, I was about 38 when I was club racing – with no insurance!

  • Julian

    Yes a great race,but I hope you didn’t miss all the action from Moto 3&2.
    If you did look up the Moto3 race more action in one lap than in an entire Forula 1 race.

    • TroySiahaan

      Moto3 was a great race. I love watching those guys battle every single lap. Tactics don’t mean anything. And keep an eye on Fabio Quartararo. Only 15, already a CEV champ and running at the front of his first world championship race. The Moto2 race was strange. Really gutted for Lowes and Zarco.

  • c j chamberlin

    Great season opener! Loved every second! GO VR46!!!! The Doctor is definitely IN!

  • schizuki

    “If yesterday’s MotoGP season opener in Qatar was any indication”

    It wasn’t.

    Two more races and Marquez will be the points leader for the rest of the season.