In his first race as a member of Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, Maverick Vinales captured the season-opening win in Qatar on Sunday in dramatic fashion.
The mounting pressure of an almost too comfortable lead in his first premier class race proved too much for rookie Johann Zarco, who lost his bike to a heartbreaking lowside after leading the first half of the race .
Weekend favorite and preseason test dominator Vinales capitalized on the Frenchman’s disappointment and turned the race into a two-bike duel between his Yamaha 2017 M1 and Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati Desmosedici GP17.
While the final laps were ripe with overtakes for the lead and a drag races on the frontstretch, Vinales finished a half second over Dovizioso and nearly two seconds over third place, teammate Valentino Rossi.
Repsol Honda teammate’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa finished fourth and fifth, respectively, over six seconds back from Vinales.
The Qatar GP also saw the best finish in the sport for Aprilia with Aleix Espargaro’s sixth place showing, the top from an independent team.
Octo Pramac’s Scott Redding put in an impressive seventh place effort, stunted from the start by Zarco, whose sweeping move to the inside of the frontstretch killed the British rider’s holeshot aboard his Ducati GP16.
Australian Jack Miller finished 14 seconds back in eighth, matching his third best career finish, only better in last year’s maiden victory at Assen and seventh place showing at Sachsenring.
Top rookie honors went to Alex Rins, who gathered Suzuki Ecstar’s only seven points after teammate Andrea Iannone wrecked early on.
Zarco’s fellow first-year teammate Jonas Folger gathered six championship points for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 with a tenth place finish.
New to Ducati Team, Jorge Lorenzo finished 11th after running off track early on.
Just outside of points positions was the new KTM team of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith in 16th and 17th, respectively.