Our review of MotoGP Sunday 2019 in Losail
GP Losail in the desert state of Qatar on March 10, 2019, a night race as the first of 19 World Championship rounds. We still remember this trip to the desert state very well. Because we had already planned to stay in BuriRam for the WorldSBK event in Thailand the weekend after that, we found a very cheap flight offer from Qatar Airways. It was supposed to be the last race of the Superbike World Championship and in terms of flight technology, our stay in Doha was just a so-called stop-over, followed by a flight to Bangkok. Of course, we were really looking forward to the season opener on the Losail International Circuit. From the MotoGP event, however, came the first low blow that had nothing to do with racing.
The first huge disappointment right after arriving
When checking in at Vienna-Schwechat airport, we pointed out that we had a stop-over (short stay with a later onward flight) and this was also evident from our tickets. Nevertheless, we were advised at the Qatar Airways counter to check the checked baggage as far as Bangkok. It is no problem to pick up one of the suitcases with our most important clothes in Doha anyway. Before departure, we bought a bottle of wine in the duty-free shop and a little later got on the plane for the night flight to Qatar. On arrival there was a long waiting break and despite the huge Doha airport, our pilot had to use an outside parking lot. It took a long time for a bus to arrive and then the final hammer followed a little later. A fee of over 800 euros was charged for handing over one of our suitcases! We cursed and refrained from doing so and then they took away the bottle of wine we had bought in Vienna, without justification and later return.
In the afternoon heat on the edge of the desert
Visiting a MotoGP or WorldSBK event in the desert state of Qatar is different from anywhere else we have visited. The journey by taxi worked without unnecessary annoyance, which unfortunately should change on the return journey. In the heat in the afternoon we would have voluntarily paid a surcharge for a cold beer. But you don’t get something like that on the route, even non-alcoholic ones were not available. The same is true in all supermarkets in Doha. The only chance for this in a very few hotels or at the international airport after passport control. The price for this is pretty painful, however. But now to the action and there was enough of it on the normal Grand Prix weekend in Losail for a long time.
First surprises before the race
Definitely nobody could seriously complain about the lack of tension in the MotoGP race. It was already very exciting in qualifying and even in the 2nd and 3rd free practice sessions before that. With Jorge Lorenzo as Repsol Honda newcomer and successor to Dani Pedrosa, a prominent name surprisingly had to take part in Q1. LCR Honda semi-works driver Cal Crutchlow and his teammate Takaaki Nakagami shared the same lot as the Mallorcan. This also applied to Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha), but with him, you knew in advance that he would be weak in training sometimes. In the end, the two Honda drivers qualified for Q2, while Rossi and Lorenzo missed out.
Lots of action and impressive Rossi at the start of the season
Annoyance for “Jack Ass” shortly after the start
After the start, Andrea Dovizioso took the lead from 2nd on the grid and followed by Jack Miller, World Champion Marquez and Cal Crutchlow, Dovi crossed the finish line after the 1st lap. Pole setter Maverick Viñales had dropped to 7th place, followed by Alex Rins and Rossi was already twelfth after the first lap. Shortly after crossing the finish line at the beginning of the second lap, Jack Miller began waving at the rear of his Pramac Ducati. In the end, the Australian threw away the seat cushion, which had loosened and fell back a long way. With ten laps to go, he gave up the race disappointed and pitted.
Rossi and Rins on the rise
The advance of Valentino Rossi and Alex Rins was impressive. At the end of the third lap, Rins was already fifth and Rossi had improved 4 places to 10th. Two laps later, Rins was already behind the leader Andrea Dovizioso and Rossi was eighth. On lap 8, the Suzuki driver even took the lead for 3 laps in front of Dovi and Marc Marquez. At the end of the penultimate lap, however, Marquez crossed the finish line first, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and Alex Rins, who in turn was harassed by Cal Crutchlow. Rossi was already in 5th place for two laps ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) and Monster Energy Yamaha team-mate Viñales.
The showdown between Dovi and the reigning world champion
The two ruffians Marquez and Dovizioso fought for every inch in the final round as if it were for their lives. Dovi managed to overtake the Spaniard again and went into the last corner as the leader. But Marc Marquez tried desperately to squeeze past the Italian on the inside of the finish curve, and there was even a slight collision between the two. The Repsol Honda rider couldn’t hold the line, however, and Dovizioso passed him inside and emerged victorious after another epic duel between the two. At the start of the season, he scored his first victory for Ducati. But in the next race the Catalan struck back and by the end of the season he had won 12 races and safely secured the 6th MotoGP title of his career.
Podium for Crutchlow and Top 5 for Rins and Rossi
Cal Crutchlow was able to defeat Alex Rins on the last lap and thus made it onto the podium in third place, while the Spaniard was only left with the ungrateful fourth place. On the other hand, Valentino Rossi on rank 5 could be more than satisfied after his fourteenth starting position. Not so his team-mate Maverick Viñales, who started from pole position and couldn’t get past seventh place and crossed the finish line behind Danilo Petrucci (Ducati). After starting from the pit lane, Fabio Quartararo missed the last championship point by just under a second. After all, the not even 20-year-old from Nice at this point had set the fastest race lap with 1:55.039 on his chase to catch up. It was clear to most of the experts that the young Frenchman might still be capable of a few surprises, and they were not mistaken, as it turned out later.
Protest against Ducati
After the race, other competitors filed a protest against Ducati with the race management. This was due to an aerodynamic aid that was officially declared as a tire cooler. However, you don’t need to study physics for 5 semesters to understand that this was a trick to improve the downforce on the Ducati. In principle, an aerodynamic trick that was applied very close to the legal limit, but which, according to Ducati’s arguments, was in line with the regulations. The protest of the competition was rejected and the waves went up until shortly before the second race in Argentina. But later calm returned and some other manufacturers had developed and used similar tools for their bikes afterwards.
KTM – no increase compared to 2018
While the Spaniard Pol Espargaro by no means kept the damage for KTM within limits by finishing in 12th place, only Johann Zarco came in 15th for the Austrians. The Frenchman, who was very successful on Yamaha in 2017 and 2018, has had a hard time on the KTM since he switched in autumn 2018. Miguel Oliveira (POR) as 17th and Hafizh Syahrin (MAL) from KTM B-Team Tech 3 as 20th and last of the riders ranked, did not even make it into the points. If you also consider that Fabio Quartararo had started out of the pit lane and reached the finish just a second behind Zarco, it looked all the more worrying about KTM.
The tide clearly turned for KTM one season later
A year later, the oranges should really take off. Due to the earlier lockdown and subsequent lifting in their country, they started testing in May. Therefore, their knowledge of how Michelin’s new standard tires worked gave them a clear advantage. As a so-called Concession Team, the KTM riders benefited enormously from tests in Brno, Spielberg and Misano in the first half of the season, which started late due to Covid-19. In the end, Binder and Oliveira were even supposed to achieve victories for the Austrians, while other teams were sometimes downright desperate for the French manufacturer’s new tires.
Result and conclusion of the first MotoGP race of 2019
After the season opener in Qatar, the first 15 drivers formed the interim classification after the first lap out of a total of nineteen. In addition to KTM, Yamaha in particular was one of the losers. Although with Maverick Viñales as pole setter and Fabio Quartararo in 5th place on the grid, everything looked very positive for the brand with the crossed tuning forks on its logo. Above all, Rossi got the coals out of the fire for Yamaha in Losail. Much worse, however, the situation for KTM in their 3rd year of participation in the MotoGP.
Poetry and truth – the self-set goals are worlds missed
Originally, the oranges wanted to be involved in the fight for the top at this point in time. That is how it was announced by KTM board member Pierer in autumn 2017 at least full-bodied. However, the course of the 2019 season should prove that KTM had completely failed in this regard. The most magnificent hospitality in the paddock was in stark contrast to the services provided this year. And it was by no means only Zarco who despaired of the almost impassable bike from Austria, but also Syahrin and Oliveira.
The return trip from Losail GP to the airport – a disaster
Qatar is notorious for poor road user discipline. Before the evening of March 10, 2019, however, we did not know that there are taxi drivers who cannot even find their way to the airport themselves. Shortly after we left the Losail route, the man behind the wheel started talking excitedly to someone on the phone. We don’t understand Arabic, but we quickly realized in the back seat that he was asking someone for directions to the international airport. We noticed it at the latest when he had missed a signposted turn-off to Hamad Airport.
When the taxi driver doesn’t know the way to the airport
A little later, gesticulating wildly, our driver even stopped on the shoulder of the freeway to make a passing vehicle stop. We still don’t know today what the real job of a driver was. In any case, I asked him in between if he might be a hairdresser and if he could read. In the end someone who took pity on him and us stopped and drove ahead. By the way, the next time in Qatar for the WSBK final 2019 we booked a rental car.