Enea Bastianini won the season-opening Qatar MotoGP on Sunday and dedicated his first victory in motorcycling’s premier class to former team boss Fausto Gresini, who died last year after contracting Covid-19.
The Italian, in his second season in the elite, took first place ahead of South African Brad Binder on a KTM with Spaniard Pol Espargaro of Honda third after leading for most of the race.
“I think now it’s incredible,” said Bastianini, the Moto2 champion in 2020 who rejoined Gresini Racing this season after beginning his career with the team in Moto3.
“At the end Pol was really close to me. I understood that now I could try to win the race, and I overtook Pol on the first corner after he went out.”
Bastianini paid tribute to the late Gresini, the team’s founder and a double 125cc world champion in the 1980s who passed away at the age of 60.
“I dedicate this victory to Fausto. He pushed me a lot from the skies, and it’s fantastic for all the team. I think we’ve all been crying.”
Bastianini started second on his Ducati but took control of the race from Espargaro with four laps remaining, improving on a couple of third-place finishes from his debut season.
AleixEspargaro on an Aprilia was fourth ahead of Honda’s six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, whose past two seasons have been derailed by injuries.
Suzuki duo Joan Mir and Alex Rins failed to replicate their success from Saturday’s practice, crossing the line in sixth and seventh respectively.
Reigning champion Fabio Quartararo of France finished ninth after a challenging weekend on his Yamaha.
Quartararo began in 11th after barely sneaking into the final qualifying session, and suffered with tyre-pressure problems and a lack of top speed.
“What’s frustrating is that I’m really giving my all. I’m definitely here to get a good result and I finish ninth on a track where I won last year,” said Quartararo.
“It hurts but you have to stay strong. The most important thing is to keep in mind that, whatever the position, you’re giving your all and today, sincerely, I couldn’t have done better. So we’re going to need to find a solution.”
Francesco Bagnaia, who came second behind Quartararo last year, crashed his Ducati on lap 12 and took out poleman Jorge Martin’s Pramac Ducati.
Celestino Vietti of Kalex won the Moto2 race following Andrea Migno’s Moto3 victory on his Honda.
Like many sports bodies since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, MotoGP displayed the words “United for peace” during its television broadcasts.
Several riders also wore a “Give peace a chance” sticker on their helmets.
This weekend’s Grand Prix was the first of a record 21-race season climaxing in Valencia, Spain, on November 6. The next race is scheduled for March 20 in Indonesia