Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Pol Espargaro kicked off the 2016 MotoGP season with a positive finish of 7th after a challenging race. The young Spaniard shot off the starting grid from 9th position and after a frantic first lap, he crossed the line two places back. From here, the resolute 25 year old stuck into his formidable race pace as he looked to climb through the competitive field. By lap six he had closed down and passed his teammate whilst he continued riding consistent times before overtaking Hector Barbera for 7th at the halfway point. Espargaro pushed onwards, yet in the final seven laps he suffered with visor issues and had difficulty seeing, but he persevered and diced with his teammate right up to the chequered flag. Eventually, he crossed the line in front, clinching the top independent position.
On the other side of the pit box, Bradley Smith delivered a notable performance today after completing the race just a blink of an eye behind his teammate by only 0.023 of a second. The young British rider began the sprint from 11th, but moved up one place by the end of the first lap. Then, he quickly locked into his race pace and homed in on the positions in front. By the mid point, Smith was in 9th and remained with Espargaro as the race distance progressed. On the final lap, the pair exchanged passes, with the British star finishing right behind his teammate by a hair's breadth. His effort today strongly outlines his desire to win the leading satellite honours which he will fight for again at the next Grand Prix in Argentina.
Position : 7th - Championship : 7th - Points : 9
"I am satisfied with the result today mainly because, looking back on how we finished the season in 2015, I was not entirely comfortable with riding last year’s M1. This year we have started differently and my feelings are better on this bike, plus I am convinced that I can do much more than before. Today the race was not easy, because I made some mistakes, especially at the start which didn’t go to plan. I was stuck behind some riders at the beginning and then I lost Maverick and Dani, which is a pity because at the end they had a very similar rhythm to me. It was a long GP but I am happy with the outcome especially after the battle at the end with my teammate. I was in front of Brad for nearly the whole race, with a gap of about one second. I controlled this amount of time and I was feeling comfortable but seven laps before the end, I encountered an issue where the sweat from my forehead dripped onto my visor and with the lights in Qatar, it dazzled me. Bradley caught 0.6 of a second in one lap and then right at the end he overtook. I fought back and retook him again then, but luckily I was first at the end of the race. For sure, Argentina will be a bigger challenge compared to here because we have had a lot of testing time in Qatar. In addition, I struggled at Rio Hondo last year so it will be tricky anyway, especially if the conditions are hot, yet we will give nothing but 100% just like we have done here."
Position : 8th - Championship : 8th - Points : 8
"I am pleased with the race result today, but the start was a complete disaster, so from there onwards, I knew that things could only get better! I tried to make a few passes in the opening laps and found myself in the position with the other satellite riders. Then I tried to get into my rhythm and aimed to not make any mistakes. In addition, I wanted to understand as much as I could with the new setup for the race and how the bike behaved in the 22 laps. As time ticked down, I got into a good fight with my teammate, plus he was really strong on the brakes into the first corner. Before that, I passed Barbera when he made a mistake and after having finally an open track in front of me, I got some confidence, put my head down and went for it. It was fun chasing Pol with three laps to go and it’s been a while since we’ve had a really tough battle like that. On the last lap, I made the pass into the final corner, but the fact that he is four kilos lighter than me made the difference on the way to the line! It’s been a very tough weekend and we started on a difficult note on Thursday and Friday, yet the team did a fantastic job and kept on working hard. We stayed focused and in the end we came away with 8th position, which is already one place better than last year. In addition, we are only one point away from our target which is to be the top satellite bike and so we will try to rectify that in Argentina.”
Hervé Poncharal - Team manager :
"I am very happy that we have started the championship in the way that we did today. To be honest, we were all wondering what was going to happen and how the race would be with the new electronics and tyre manufacturer, even though we did some simulations. It was a bit of a grey area for everyone but I think our two guys did a really strong job. The start was not incredible but it was solid enough for Pol and Brad to be in decent positions. Then they pushed and passed quite a few guys, so in the end I think we ended up where we should be. There was quite a tough battle between our boys and at one stage I was a bit worried! However, they showed respect to each other and just 0.023 between the two shows that we have a very competitive team. This is a good way to start, and for Pol to claim the first independent rider means a lot to us, but to be first and second in the satellite standings is great. I am very happy for Pol because he had a tough time last year but worked hard in the winter, so it’s a positive beginning for him. Next up is Argentina but clearly, we are happy to have completed our first 2016 race. Honestly, I didn’t expect us to be this competitive, yet, this is a great sign and I’m sure that we will be closer and closer in the next few rounds."