Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo began his MotoGP title defense in style with an emphatic win in the season-opener at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit on Sunday.
The Yamaha ace charged to the 24th win of his MotoGP career, finishing 5.990 seconds ahead of teammate and seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi.
MotoGP rookie Marc Marquez of Honda took a superb third on his debut in the top division, staged under floodlights.
Pole-sitter Lorenzo held the lead right from when the start and held on until the checkered flag, while the rest of the field behind him traded places.
“I knew it was going to complicated. I’m happy that Valentino came back in second place, it’s good for Yamaha,” Lorenzo told BBC television.
Rossi, who had had an ordinary weekend going into Sunday’s race, came into his own in the final stages of the race, going past Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Marquez in quick succession.
The veteran Italian was pleased with his showing after two frustrating years at Ducati.
“That was great fun, I think second is best for me today as Jorge was perfect. I made a mistake at the start with Pedrosa,” Rossi said. “I wanted this podium, this was my target since last November. The bike was fantastic, I had a great battle with Marc.”
Marquez showed glimpses of the exceptional talent that many have come to praise in winter testing and the run-up to the season-opener at crucial times during the race.
After falling behind at the start, he gradually moved up places before going past Briton Cal Crutchlow and then dramatically overtaking Pedrosa with six laps to go.
After his closing tussle with Rossi, Marquez was thrilled at his performance.
“I was racing my hero — it was a great battle with Valentino. For my first MotoGP that wasn’t too bad,” he said.
Crutchlow finished fifth behind Pedrosa.
Alvaro Bautista, Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden, Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies completed the top 10.
The pre-season this year had been abuzz with anticipation thanks to Rossi’s return to Yamaha after a disappointing two-year stint at Ducati and also the emergence of Marquez as a strong contender.
Marquez had impressed many since he topped the timecharts in the first testing sessions in Austin, Texas, earlier this year.
The 20-year-old Spaniard had produced a few scorching laps early in the weekend in Qatar to top the practice sessions, but had been unable to produce consistent runs.
With this win in Qatar, Yamaha lead the team championship with 45 points, while Honda are second with 29 points.
The next race will be run at the Circuit of the Americas on April 21.