Sixteen riders started the opening round of the 2011 MotoGP Championship, but only 13 finished Sunday under the floodlights at Losail International Circuit, Qatar.
Pramac Racing Ducati teammates Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet were out by the end of the second lap, and LCR Honda Toni Elias with three laps to go. De Puniet crashed, and his bike hit Capirossi, which caused the latter to retire early. Elias also crashed. And Alvaro Bautista did not start due to breaking his leg at FP3 Friday.
But all eyes were on the front three: Repsol Honda RC212V riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, and the reigning MotoGP Champion, Yamaha Factory Racing's Jorge Lorenzo.
Each of the three riders led, but it was Stoner who took the checkered flag, winning by 3.440 seconds over Lorenzo. Pedrosa rounded out the podium.
As for Ducati Team's Valentino Rossi, he had a hard fight with Lorenzo's teammate Ben Spies. The Texan got the best of Rossi towards the end of the Qatar race, and the Italian had to settle for seventh.
Here's what the riders were saying after Sunday's MotoGP race in Qatar:
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team GP11) says: "For sure we're not here to get seventh-place finishes, but there are also positive things from this race, starting with the times, because we were lapping pretty quickly. I had a great start, and that was a nice feeling because the horsepower that this bike has really helps it to launch.
"Then I made a small error in the first turn, which is a shame because I got stuck behind Barbera for a few laps. Otherwise I would have been closer to Simoncelli and Dovizioso, since anyway there was a period when I lapped with them.
"I wouldn't have beaten them though, because at the end of the race, I'm no longer able to ride like I have to. I'm not referring to the Ducati because even last year, after I hurt my shoulder, I had the same problems in the latter parts of the races, and since the two bikes are so different, it means that it's really a matter of me not being physically right. It's not just that. We also have to improve the bike because the others have clearly made a step forward since last year.
"Still, I learned a lot in this test and in this race, and we've already given very specific instructions about what must be done in the long term, in order to improve for the second half of the season for example. In the near term, on the other hand, we'll work on the setup, we'll keep gathering experience, and I'll continue exercising and doing everything I can to recuperate physically."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team GP11) says: "I got a bad start in the race, and then when De Puniet crashed, I just about ran over him and had to come to a complete stop. I'm happy I didn't run into him, but that was a bad break, because I was dead last with a gap to the next person.
"I started picking my way through, and once I got into ninth, I got into a decent rhythm and started doing my pace. I was trying to catch Edwards because I thought it would've been nice to have a last-lap race with him, but I didn't quite get to him. It's been a tough weekend for me on and off the track, but everybody around here is working to the maximum.
"They're the first ones in and the last ones out. I can't be happy with the ride, but I came from dead last, and my fastest lap was my last one. We've got a lot of work to do, but it's just one race, and no one can say we weren't trying."
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: "After a great pre-season, we came into this race weekend and everything kept getting better and better for us. This morning in warm up we had a few issues getting a good feeling with the bike, carrying a full tank of fuel and this issue also affected us in the early part of the race.
"We knew though as the fuel level decreased and the tyres aged, that our bike would come back to us. Dani came past and we decided to follow to see where he was strong and where I was weak. Then when I started to feel more confident with the bike and had more grip and better turning, we decided to push forwards and take advantage.
"Tonight the bike was fantastic, as it has been for all the sessions and I'm very proud to be racing for Repsol Honda and to take my first victory in the first race. It is a great way to start the season! I'm really happy with how everything has gone and the way the team has all worked together, a big thanks to Honda and my best wishes to Japan in this difficult time."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: "I'm disappointed, not for the race I had, but for the physical problems I had again with my left arm. Already in practice I felt something, but I was not sure if it could be that bad. At the end I couldn't grab the handlebar and in the last 7-8 laps I couldn't use the clutch at all.
"I was just holding the arm and I was suffering a lot. The bike was perfect all race, I had the chance to win but I had a very hard time, one of the toughest races of my life. I don't know what I can do because I should be ok after the rest I had this winter. I did the tests and everything was in order.
"I feel sorry for my team as well, because the bike was very good, fast, perfect also in the corners. I'm proud of how I've been riding, I've been fighting with Casey in this circuit, as nobody else did in the past, but at the same time, I feel sad because I don't know what the future will bring. I know we will go to Jerez in two weeks, where the bike will run very well, and I'm very strong and fast, but I don't know what will happen."
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: "I'm a bit disappointed because our target was the podium but all in all I had a good race. In the first laps I thought I could fight for the podium. I'm satisfied with my pace, I also did my fastest time on the last lap.
"The bike was consistent, but we need to make another step forward to stay with Casey and Dani. I lost time in the fight with Simoncelli, his passing maneuver was at the limit in my opinion. This was a crucial moment because we lost time which we needed to fight for the podium. I want to thank my team for the work done on the bike.
"I'm also happy of my physical condition because I finished the race without being too tired although racing here is demanding."
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1) says: "I think maybe I am more proud of that podium than a race victory, that's how I feel tonight. I feel very proud of myself and my team who never gave up and worked to give me the best bike that they can.
"I put everything I have inside into my riding on the track for the race from the start to the end and was on the limit every lap. I almost crashed on one corner but I managed to stay on the bike and finished in second position which is the best that I could do."
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing M1) says: "That's the first race of the year done and dusted, it wasn't picture perfect and I got pushed out a bit in turn one, getting trapped behind Barbera and Rossi the first few laps.
"They were fighting together which meant I lost touch with the guys in front. Other than that it was a good race, I struggled to get by Valentino for a while, he was riding really well and he's not an easy guy to get around!
"Once we were able to get past we set fast lap times and the bike was feeling good. It was just the first part of the race that didn't pan out, I didn't get a lucky break on the start. We race in two weeks so I'm happy to get back on it at Jerez. It's the first race of the year, I didn't make top five but we got some points so I'm happy."
Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11) says: "Disappointed, but in racing these things can happen. I am very sorry it had to happen with my new team-mate who has no faults however. Again, anything can happen in racing. We now hope that fortune turns around and we will have better luck next time. The only positive aspect is that the hand is not broken, I felt a lot of pain and I had some concerns, but we will be in Jerez!"
Randy De Puniet (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11) says: "I'm sorry for the fall and to have the misfortune to hit my team-mate. The rear tire was probably still cold on the left side and as soon as I opened the throttle the bike raised in the air and all of a sudden I found my nose on the ground.
"It 's really a shame because we were very confident after the good warm up that we had done. The only thing we can do do is think of Jerez where in two weeks time we will try to redeem this unfortunate weekend."
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3 M1) says: "That was the best I could do and I'm happy with the way I rode and my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 gave me a good bike as always. A top eight is pretty good considering the speed of the guys in front of me and I was pretty much where I thought I'd end up based on practice.
"I got a good start and thought the only way I've got any chance of getting a top six is to take a few early risks. I went round the outside at the first corner and made up a couple of places. But I had a couple of moments, one when I nearly ran into Ben, which wouldn't have been a good move.
"I thought I might have had something for Valentino early on but even when he's not 100 per cent he can still ride pretty good. I'm never happy with eighth but we got some decent points and we can move on to Jerez with confidence."
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3 M1) says: "I'm pretty happy with that and honestly I'd have liked to have got a top ten after how well qualifying went. I couldn't keep up with the group that included Nicky and Aoyama because it was tough to pass Barbera.
"They passed Barbera and I then overtook him to chase them, but he got me back immediately and let them get away because his pace dropped off quite a bit. But he's got a fast bike and that makes it hard to make a pass and stay in front of him.
"I was happy to be in the fight for the top ten for as long as I was and the experience gained is invaluable to help me progress in MotoGP. I wanted to finish and get a race under my belt, so it was mission accomplished. The next couple of races will be tough because I don't know the circuits but I'll be doing my best for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad."
Toni Elias (LCR Honda RC212V) says: "Well… this first week end has been very tough for me and the Team. Since the 2-day test prior to the race we have been struggling with the bike set up and even after. We have tried different adjustments to find the right feeling on this track but at the end we could only lap at low 1.58.
"And that was my lap time during the race from the first lap till the crash. We knew we could not do better than this as we knew our limit but I feel sorry for the crash. I want to cancel this bad week end and start again in Jerez."