Qatar MotoGP: The American Trio Report
2011 MotoGP News
For the second year in a row, three MotoGP pilots are representing America in the series: Ben Spies, Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden.
The three finished in the top nine at Losail International Circuit, Qatar, for the opening round of the 2011 MotoGP Championship.
Spies was the highest-placed MotoGP rider, taking sixth after a duel with the man he replaced on the Yamaha Factory Racing M1, Valentino Rossi.
Starting from fifth on the MotoGP grid, Spies got filtered back to eight through Turn 1. Three laps into the race, the Texan passed Mapfre Aspar Ducati's Hector Barbera for seventh, and began chasing down the nine-time World Champion Rossi on the Ducati GP11.
After a few failed attempts, Spies made the pass stick with four laps remaining. "Elbowz" began opening a gap on Rossi, eventually finishing 5.96 seconds ahead of the Italian.
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."
The other Texan and former teammate of Spies, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards, finished Qatar MotoGP in eight place.
Edwards had a strong start, getting up to sixth quickly. But by the second corner, he fell back to 10th. After passing his MotoGP teammate Cal Crutchlow for ninth, he began chasing down Barbera, getting him towards the end for eight position.
Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha 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."
The final American in MotoGP, Rossi's teammate Nicky Hayden, rode a strong race. The Kentuckian began in 13th, and finished ninth after a series of intelligent passes.
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."
The three Americans now have a two-week break before Round 2 of the 2011 MotoGP Championship at Jerez, the first of four races in Spain (Catalunya, Aragon, Valencia).