So the opening salvo of MotoGP in the windy desert of Losail Qatar, will go down in history as the only MotoGP/Grand Prix to be run on a Monday. The storm that whipped in from the Persian Gulf and brought rain of biblical proportions Sunday night, postponing the MotoGP race until Monday night, also claimed the 125cc race after 4 laps. Which has also been added as the shortest Grand Prix in history.
The locals say you can count the amount of times it rains per year at Qatar on one hand. MotoGP comes 3 times a year (two tests) and this is the second time it’s bucketed down!
The track became ‘two thirds’ when everyone returned for ‘Groundhog Day’ Monday. The paddock two thirds full – the 125 and 250 teams races having been run were gone. Two thirds of the pit lane boxes empty – only air freight boxes bound for Japan were left. The media office two thirds full – the remainder of hacks and snappers had been able to reschedule costly flights to stay, for indeed it weeded out the men from the boys. The main grandstand two thirds full as well. The last two thirds was Nicky Hayden, who survived a massive highside in Qualifying and was feeling far from fit, more on this later.
So when the red lights finally went out at 9 p.m. local time Monday night, Casey Stoner underlined his status as the world’s fastest red-eye racer by dominating the race and making it a hat-trick of desert wins. Stoner came out throwing from the bell and left all, including Rossi, floored. Casey, almost Spencer-like in his ability to nail his Ducati on ‘cold’ tires from the get-go had opened up a 1.2-second lead over the field after the opening lap and then delivered the knock-out blow on Lap 2 by more than doubling his lead. Rossi and the rest of the field, left stunned and dazed, never recovered. Rossi finally let the young Australian go and cruised in at the end 7.7 seconds adrift.
In stark contrast, Stoner’s teammate Nicky Hayden had a nightmare debut of his much-hyped move to the Bologna factory. Technical problems, sensor and clutch, in free practice affected his No.1 bike. Nicky then abandoned his smoking blown Desmoscedici out in the dark to have the mother of all high-sides at Turn 8 during Qualifying. The crash left a deep cut in Hayden’s chest that required stitching after being flung through the screen, before landing heavily on his back leaving him barely able to walk.
Throwing his debut Ducati ride into doubt, Nick had been caught out on a cold left side of his Bridgestone on his second lap. Frustrated by lack of unhindered track time he was simply trying too hard to pull himself up the grid. James Toseland, another former Michelin rider new to Bridgestones, has also twice been caught out in similar circumstances on the new spec ‘Stones in pre-season testing – two huge high-sides at Sepang and Jerez, again on the left side of
the tire a couple of laps from fresh when hard on the gas.
A different set of tire rules seem to apply to Stoner, seemingly working his Bridgestones harder and faster from new than either Toseland or Hayden. Go figure? To underline how well Stoner and Hayden are gelling as team mates, a concerned Casey went to the medical center to check on Nick, who said with a wry smile “I don’t feel like going for a jog right now, I can tell you that much! It was a big crash and I’m in a lot of pain, so we’re going to get some more x-rays done and see what the score is.” Nicky gamely took his place on the grid in 16th and rode a gritty, never-say-die effort to score 4 championship points in 12th.
Another set of teammates at opposite ends reside in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage. A Rossi-style dividing wall keeps the waring James Toseland and Colin Edwards apart. A very public slanging match was started by Edwards, enraged by Toseland stealing his crew chief, Belgian Garry Reinders, in the off season because Toseland cited a communication problem with his French wrench, Guy Coulon, who consequently was asked to move over to Colin’s side. Edwards was effectively informed of the change by Reinders at the curtain call last year in Valencia, after it had
Edwards feels betrayed that Toseland stole the one true love of his life, his crew chief Garry Reinders. Spited, he now races to prove Garry wrong for leaving his side.
been rubber stamped by Team Boss Herve Poncharal.
Now that he has had five months to calm down, Edwards is reveling in his new Anglo-French partnership and says Toseland is welcome to that ‘Son of a B**** ! The body language of the two Tech 3 riders in their separate pens couldn’t be more different. Toseland completely focused in his zone, looking like a man with the whole world on his shoulders. Edwards with a party atmosphere going on his side, music blaring, swaying to the beat with a grin as big as the Cheshire Cat’s. Edwards was reportedly asked about his pre-season preparation, given Toseland’s punishing daily fitness regime that would put most good triathlete to shame.
“Me? I’ve been in the bar drinking beer!”