Belfast Telegraph

Michael Laverty sweet 16 in MotoGP thriller

By Paul Lindsay

Michael Laverty finished the opening MotoGP race of the 2014 season, under the floodlights at Qatar in 16th position aboard his PBM Aprilia.

The Ulsterman can take heart from his finish, despite a stop and go penalty, on a day when the likes of front-running riders Stefan Bradl, Jorge Lorenzo, Alavaro Bautista and Bradley Smith all threw their bikes at the scenery during the 22-lap encounter.

The race was won by Repsol Honda mounted world champion Marc Marquez after a titanic battle with Yamaha legend Valentino Rossi, who surprised even the most ardent of GP fans, coming from 10th on the grid to battle for the victory with the Spanish youngster.

Just six weeks on from breaking his leg in a pre-season training accident, Marquez looked to have lost none of the sharpness that took him to the title in his debut season last year. For a time it appeared as though seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi would take an unlikely victory as he vied for the lead with the young Spaniard in the final laps.

But ultimately the Italian had to play second best as pole-sitter Marquez pulled away to win by just 0.259 seconds, with Dani Pedrosa making it two factory Hondas on the podium as he came through for third place.

“I enjoyed that race a lot,” 21-year-old Marquez said. “After the injury, I didn't expect that race to be honest. But yesterday I had a good feeling, and today, with the battle with Valentino, I didn't think about the injury.

“The last lap I pushed 100 per cent but the lap before we overtake each other two or three times, and that was so nice.”

Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith was on course to be top British rider before crashing out of fifth place in the closing stages; leaving the top Brit accolade to be taken by Ducati mounted Cal Crutchlow in sixth.

Enigmatic young Englishman Scott Redding, making his MotoGP debut with the Go & Fun Gresini Honda was majorly impressive in seventh place, finishing ahead of former world champ Nicky Hayden on the Aspar Honda.

The opening Moto2 race of the year was won by Marc VDS Racing’s Esteve Rabat, with Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda) and Mika Kallio on the second Marc VDS machine, filling out the lower podium positions.

Aussie Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) was the opening weekend victor in the Moto3 class, with Scotland’s John McPhee 11th and Englishman Danny Kent 13th.

RESULT: 1 Marc Marquez (Spa) Repsol Honda Team 42mins 40.561secs, 2 Valentino Rossi (Ita) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP at 0.259secs, 3 Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Repsol Honda Team at 3.370secs, 4 Aleix Espargado (Spa) NGM Forward Racing at 11.623secs, 5 Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Ducati Team at 12.159secs, 6 Cal Crutchlow (Gbr) Ducati Team at 28.526secs, 7 Scott Redding (Gbr) Go&Fun Honda Gresini at 32.593secs, 8 Nicky Hayden (USA) Drive M7 Aspar at 32.628secs, 9 Colin Edwards (USA) NGM Forward Racing at 39.547secs, 10 Andrea Iaonne (Ita) Pramac Racing Ducati 163.6 at 43.360secs

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