MotoGP Round 1
MotoGP fans have sat silent for 133 days since Valencia wrapped up the 2010 Championship. But in 22 intense laps, that wait has already transformed into the first points being awarded after the season-opener at Losail International Circuit Sunday.
And the first MotoGP pilot to strike didn't come as a big surprise: Casey Stoner. The Australian has displayed nothing but sheer speed throughout the three free practices at Qatar, and then took the pole with dominating fashion.
Not a bad start after switching from the Ducati Team to Repsol Honda. This was the second time a rider won at Qatar from the pole, the first being Stoner back in 2009 while also competing on a Honda.
Stoner finished Round 1 of 18 At Doha, Qatar, 3.440 seconds ahead of the reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo. The 2011 Losail Podium was sealed off by Stoner's teammate, Dani Pedrosa.
The first race of 2011 MotoGP got underway in typical intensity, although the 17-rider grid was already short a man; Rizla Suzuki's sole entry for the season, Alvaro Bautista, wrecked at Free Practice 3 Friday, breaking his femur.
Without Bautista, who underwent successful surgergy on his leg, the grid was left without any Suzuki riders, a first at Qatar since 1974. Bautista will also miss Round 2 at Jerez; John Hopkins is slated to substitute at Jerez, but there is no word if Bautista will be back for Round 3 at Estoril, Portugal.
And by the time the riders got through Turn 3 at Qatar, Bautista wasn't the only rider lacking. Soon the field shrunk to 15 riders after Pramac Racing Ducati GP11 rider Randy de Puniet went down.
Things got worse for Pramac Racing, though. By the end of Lap 2, the Frenchman's teammate, Loris Capirossi, pulled into the pits, having troubles with the Ducati GP11. Now there were only 14 riders competing in the opening round of 2011.
Getting to Turn 1 first was Pedrosa at the 3.343-mile Losail Circuit under the floodlights. The Spaniard, who finished second overall in 2010 MotoGP, was followed by Stoner, Lorenzo, San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli and the third Repsol Honda rider, Andrea Dovizioso.
Valentino Rossi looked to have an amazing start during his first race on the Ducati Team GP11, the Italian getting up into third into Turn 1. But by the time the field made it through the turn, Rossi got filtered back into sixth behind Dovizioso.
Once lap 1 was complete, Lorenzo showed his championship-winning ways, and was in first. The Spaniard was followed by Stoner and Pedrosa.
But on the second lap, Stoner grabbed the lead from Lorenzo. In the back, Mapfre Aspar Ducati GP11 rider Hector Barbera took Rossi for sixth. Rossi was running quick, but looked to lack strength in his recovering shoulder during right hand turns; Losail is right-turn centric, having 10 out of 16.
With 20 laps to go, Pedrosa passed Lorenzo for second, and began to chase down Stoner. Behind, Rossi retakes Barbera for sixth. The front five (Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Simoncelli) began grouping ahead of Rossi, Barbera and Lorenzo's teammate Ben Spies.
Pedrosa then out brakes Stoner going into turn one, capturing the lead. The two began an intense duel for the lead as Lorenzo runs alone, waiting for one of the Repsol Honda boys to make a mistake.
A bit farther back Spies overtook Barbera, and began chasing down the nine-time World Champion Rossi. Simoncelli then passed Dovi with 15 to go, the two bumping during the pass.
By lap 8, Stoner has developed a consistent rhythm, and is all over the back of Pedrosa. Then with 11 laps to go, Stoner takes Pedrosa on Turn 12, and was never challenged again.
Two laps later and Stoner is 1.307 seconds ahead of Pedrosa, who begins to struggle with the RC212V. With eight to go, Lorenzo robbed Pedrosa of second, and three remain in this order until the checkered flag.
After a few attempts, Spies finally made his pass stick, and passes Rossi on Turn 2 with seven laps remaining. The two were side-by-side in the turn, and while Rossi was on the outside he almost lost it. Rossi regained control of the Ducati GP11, but couldn't catch Spies, the former Yamaha rider settling for seventh.
Things were going smooth for the 2011 MotoGP grid until three laps remained; LCR Honda rider Toni Elias went down, the Moto2 champ walking away from the wreck. With Elias gone, only 13 riders finished at Qatar.
Behind the top three, Dovizioso beat Simoncelli, taking fourth place. Simoncelli would finish fifth, followed by Spies and Rossi.
MotoGP continues in two weeks time (April 3) at Jerez in Spain.
2011 MotoGP: Qatar Results:
|1.||25||27||Casey STONER||AUS||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||166.5||42'38.569|
|2.||20||1||Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||166.3||+3.440|
|3.||16||26||Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||166.2||+5.051|
|4.||13||4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||166.2||+5.942|
|5.||11||58||Marco SIMONCELLI||ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||166.1||+7.358|
|6.||10||11||Ben SPIES||USA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||165.9||+10.468|
|7.||9||46||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||165.5||+16.431|
|8.||8||5||Colin EDWARDS||USA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||164.8||+26.293|
|9.||7||69||Nicky HAYDEN||USA||Ducati Team||Ducati||164.8||+27.416|
|10.||6||7||Hiroshi AOYAMA||JPN||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||164.7||+28.920|
|11.||5||35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||164.3||+34.539|
|12.||4||8||Hector BARBERA||SPA||Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP||Ducati||164.3||+34.829|
|13.||3||17||Karel ABRAHAM||CZE||Cardion AB Motoracing||Ducati||164.1||+37.957|
|24||Toni ELIAS||SPA||LCR Honda MotoGP||Honda||162.8||4 Laps|
|65||Loris CAPIROSSI||ITA||Pramac Racing Team||Ducati||142.4||21 Laps|
|14||Randy DE PUNIET||FRA||Pramac Racing Team||Ducati||0 Lap|