Moto GP: Rossi wins opening-round thriller in Qatar

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Valentino Rossi clinched his 70th Moto GP victory in the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday after overcoming a thrilling race-long battle to finish ahead of the Ducati duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone.

The nine-time world champion started the race in eighth position, but made his way through the field to pass Dovizioso for the lead with three laps remaining.

Rossi then fended his compatriot off to cross the line with an advantage of just 0.174 seconds at the Losail Circuit, making a perfect start to the 2015 season for Yamaha.

Dovizioso had started from pole position and spent most of the race fighting with Rossi’s teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, for the lead.

However, the Spaniard dropped back after a problem with the padding in his helmet meant that he could only see out of one eye, allowing Iannone to get up onto the podium.

The biggest surprise of the race in Qatar was the failure of either Honda rider to finish on the podium. Two-time world champion Marc Marquez qualified third, but after running wide at turn one and dropping to the back of the field, he stood little chance of fighting for the race win.

The 22-year-old could only finish fifth at the flag, but there was worse news for Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was hampered by an arm injury that may risk his racing career. He finished the race in sixth place.

For Rossi, victory capped off a superb weekend for Italy in motorsport. Following Ferrari’s first Formula 1 race win in two years, an all-Italian podium in Qatar was very poignant indeed, especially given the recent domination of the Spanish riders in the premier motorcycle series.

The next Moto GP race takes place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on April 12.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.