Valentino Rossi (46): “It is great to be level with Mick Doohan, now only Giacomo Agostini is ahead of me. Records are not the most important thing but they are always nice! This feels like the start of the championship for me. Jerez was a nightmare but here we woke up! Big thanks to Jeremy and all the guys because they stayed focused during a difficult time and this is their reward.”
“That was a great race – it was hard but that is what made it such fun,” said Rossi. “My M1 worked really well today – as the race went on the grip went down and the vibration completely disappeared, so I was able to go fast at the end. Also I set the fastest lap of the race on lap three, so this shows how well my M1 was working. This win is important for the championship but even more so from a mental point of view for me and the team. It was windy but the grip was good and I was able to chase Stoner, who was very fast at the start. When his tires went down I was able to pass him and I thought I could escape but Nicky stayed with me. Then I looked back and saw Loris was coming too so I began to get worried about the last few laps. Anyway, I pushed hard and managed to hold on.”
Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden finished second after running at or near the front for the entire race and surviving a late-race battle with eventual winner Rossi. The American actually got around the champ for a moment but Rossi would not be denied. Rather than push the issue further, Hayden settled in to the runner-up spot and secured the best start to a season in his GP career with a second consecutive podium to start the 2006 season.
“Battling for the win is so much more fun than battling for fourth place,” said Hayden. “I pushed Valentino hard today and I pushed myself about as hard as I could too. We had the bike that could win today, but on the last lap in a left-hander I got into a nice little slide, Valentino gapped me pretty good and it was hard to recover. We gambled a bit with setup today, we rolled the dice, and it worked well for me in the race, helping a lot in the fast corners. So a big thanks to my crew. It’s my second year with my crew chief and were working really well together. All the guys have been working hard and making some good improvements on the bike. We’ve still got some work to do and we’ll be back here in the morning testing, but the new bike’s definitely getting better and were heading in the right direction. Six podiums on the trot is cool, but it would be nice to get a few wins along the way!”
Pole-sitter Casey Stoner had his LCR Honda at the front of the pack and looking good until Rossi got past him on lap ten. That started a rearward slide for the Australian rookie who would ultimately end up fifth after Ducati’s Sete Gibernau made his way around him as well.
Things didn’t go very well for the rest of the American riders. Yamaha’s Colin Edwrads finished ninth with Team Robert’s Kenny Roberts Jr. behind him in tenth.
“I made a good start and over the first five laps I felt fine – the bike was good and I was able to ride aggressively,” said Edwards. “I thought: ‘okay, let’s go for it.’ Then on lap six I lost the front three times in a row and I almost crashed on each one of them. I thought it was a bit early in the race for that to happen so I pushed on and got going again but the front kept going and I had to ride slower and slower. In the practice simulation I ran a 1’57.2 on my last lap but in the race it was three seconds slower so clearly something is not right. Thankfully we have a test tomorrow to find out what it was and make sure that we are in better shape for Turkey.”
Both John Hopkins and his Rizla Suzuki teammate Chris Vermeulen retired with mechanical problems.
Nicky Hayden: “We gambled overnight on some changes. The team got it right but I didn’t quite do it right today. I had fun though. The six podiums in a row are OK but we need to take another step up. We’ve got two weeks to put some hard work in to find the extra second a lap we need.”
“I got a better start than I did at Jerez,” explained Vermeulen. “I was balked a bit on the first lap and then I lost a bit of time when another rider crashed. I passed Kenny Roberts Jr and I was up with the group in front of me, but then it looked like John’s bike started to leak fluid. This made the track slippery and we all dropped back. I was doing ok and was in the 1 minute 58 seconds lap-time bracket but then I had a problem of some kind and the bike slowed down – I realized how slow it had become when another rider passed me doing about 100kph more than I was! So I just headed for the pits and that was the end of my race. We’ve all worked hard in Qatar and it was a big disappointment.”
Marlboro Ducati’s Loris Capirossi claimed the final spot on the podium and now leads Nicky Hayden by five points in the 2006 MotoGP championship.
“I am very happy and this is a great weekend for the team, because for sure this circuit was not one of the best for us,” said Capirossi. “Bridgestone made a good job during the winter tests and we have made great improvements. For us, this was a difficult track and last year we had big problems. But this year we managed to fight for the victory right to the end, and took a very good result. The first part of the race was difficult because of the wind, but I adapted my style and made a good rhythm. Big thanks to everyone in the team and Ducati Corse.”
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
3. Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
4. Sete Gibernau (Ducati)
5. Casey Stoner (Honda)
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
7. Marco Melandri (Honda)
8. Toni Elias (Honda)
9. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
10. Kenny Roberts Jr. (Team Roberts)
11. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki)
12. Carlos Checa (Yamaha)
13. James Ellison (Yamaha)
14. Makoto Tamada (Honda)
15. Alex Hofmann (Ducati)
16. Jose Luius Cardoso (Ducati)
DNF. Randy De Puniet (Kawasaki)
DNF. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
DNF. John Hopkins (Suzuki)
1. Loris Capirossi, 41
2. Nicky Hayden, 36
3. Dani Pedrosa, 30
4. Valentino Rossi, 27
5. Toni Elias, 21