Stoner holds on to an early lead to win the opening round of MotoGP with Rossi and Lorenzo rounding off the podium.
Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner struck his first blow at the 2009 MotoGP opening round in Qatar, maintaining an early lead over the two factory Fiat Yamaha riders Rossi and Lorenzo. Valentino Rossi took a lone second with teammate Jorge Lorenzo rounding out the podium.
Stoner jumped out to an amazing 3 second lead as Rossi lost time battling past Loris Capirossi and then Lorenzo early in the race. By the halfway point of the race Rossi had managed to shave a second off Stoner’s lead, but Stoner picked up the pace when Rossi’s Bridgestone tires began losing traction. The Australian rider set a quickest time of one minute 57.053 seconds around the Losail circuit. That beat defending champion Rossi’s best lap of 1:57.439. From the 11th lap to the end of the race, Stoner steadily widened his lead to a margin of victory of 7.771 seconds. Rossi settled for riding to a safe 20 point second-place finish as Stoner booked his third consecutive win at the Losail circuit.
Valentino Rossi – Fiat Yamaha – 2nd:
“I knew I needed a good start in order to go with Stoner but unfortunately I didn’t get one and I lost some time fighting with Lorenzo and Capirossi and by then Stoner had already gone! The middle part of the race was great fun and I made six or seven good laps to come much closer, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue in that rhythm, it was too risky for the tires and I decided it was more important to take the 20 points.”
Rossi made a valiant attempt to catch up with the front-runner, but didn’t have the traction to match Stoner’s speed.
After slipping down to sixth, Lorenzo battled back to pass Edwards, Capirossi, and finally his old 250GP rival Andrea Dovizioso with a hard charge on lap 5.
Jorge Lorenzo – Fiat Yamaha – 3rd:
“Apart from the result and the points it is clear we have some work to do because our pace tonight was too far off Rossi and especially Stoner. The gap is too big! After yesterday’s crazy weather I am really happy we could race, it was very important for everyone and now we have got the season underway with a good result, my aim is to be much closer to the leaders in Motegi.”
The Italian 23-year-old Dovizioso was the highest scoring Honda with 5th. He rode to a handful of 4th and 5th-place finishes last year in MotoGP, so expect him to continue putting pressure on the front-runners in ’09.
Andrea Dovizioso – Repsol Honda – 5th:
“During the first three laps the machine was performing really well – as it had during practice – and I tried to keep in contact with Valentino, but then I started struggling with the front. It was folding entering the corners and, later, also mid-corner, so I couldn’t turn as I would have liked. I had to slow down and compensate by turning with the rear tire.”
Honda’s Alex De Angelis rode to a controversial sixth, with the San Carlo Gresini racer running wide and smashing into Dani Pedrosa’s recently surgically repaired left leg when Pedrosa took the outside of a left-turn in lap 11. Two laps later De Angelis would captured sixth from Chris Vermeulen.
Alex De Angelis – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 6th
“I didn’t get a great start but I knew my pace was okay so I just tried to stay calm, pass as many people as possible and make up positions.” Acknowledging the collision with Dani he remarked, “I was called up to Race Direction to put forward my version of the collision with Dani but there was no complaint against me so it wasn’t a big deal.”
De Angelis made contact passing Pedrosa in the 11th lap, then proceeded to steal 6th from Suzuki’s Vermeulen. A final charge on Dovizioso was just barely rebuffed.
The injured Pedrosa made an amazing save and limped his way to the finish, although the Repsol Honda man faded in the final laps and lost valuable positions.
Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen had a good start from the third row of the grid, but began to fade as his tire performance fell off towards the end. He still managed to match his best-ever result at Losail with a seventh-place finish.
Chris Vermeulen – Rizla Suzuki – 7th:
“Towards the end of the race the rear tyre performance dropped off as well so that’s something we’ve really got to work on. It’s hard though with the lack of testing in race conditions and also on race weekend’s with the sessions being shorter and there being less of them, it makes it very difficult to put race distance on the tyres and to iron out any other problems.”
The Finnish rider Mika Kallio put in a solid 8th-place debut with Pramac Racing. His teammate Niccolo Caneba will need to improve his speed after a disappointing 17th.
In his MotoGP debut, Mika Kallio recovered from a slow start with consistent lap rhythm, bringing his Ducati to a solid 8th for the Pramac Racing Team.
Mika Kallio – Pramac Racing – 8th:
“In the last laps I was seeing Vermeulen closer and closer and I think that if I would have had a couple of more laps I could have pass him. Anyway in general we had a positive weekend and we will try to continue on this direction in the next appointment in Japan.”
Toni Elias was the first of three Hondas to finish in order. Behind came LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet and Pedrosa. De Puniet battled a front tire grip problem that slowed him early on and he could finish no better than tenth.
One rider to challenge Pedrosa at the flag was Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, who just missed nipping his old teammate at the line to finish 12th. It was a poor way for the Kentucky Kid to celebrate his 100th career Grand Prix, although the
A brutal highside left Hayden with three stitches in his chest and an extremely sore back, yet he nearly took 11th from Pedrosa.
American did manage to avoid finishing behind satellite Ducati rider Sete Gibernau. Overall it was a lackluster weekend for Nick the Quick, with a sub-par result to team with his sickening highside during qualifying on Saturday.
Nicky Hayden – Ducati Marlboro – 12th:
“It would have been nice to nick Dani at the end there but I think the team have showed that even though a lot of stuff has gone against us this weekend we’re not going to give up. Hopefully the bad stuff is behind us now and Casey has shown the potential of the bike, so crazy as it sounds I’m leaving here in a really positive mood and looking forward to Motegi.”
Kawasaki rider Marco Melandri overshot the track on the first corner, but managed to ride back to score some points with 14th place and was followed by MotoGP rookie Yuki Takahashi, who grabbed a point in his debut.
Italian Loris Capirossi, who actually turned the opening laps behind Stoner, crashed hard after a strong push going into the first right hand section of lap 8. He said that chatter and front tire problems left his bike feeling “destroyed” after just five laps. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s James Toseland also ran into the gravel trap at the final corner of lap seven following a tangle with Toni Elias.
Loris Capirossi said of his disappointing crash, “I feel really sorry for the whole team, because all winter we have worked so hard and have gone quite well so this was hard to take.”
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
4. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
6. Alex De Angelis (Honda)
7. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
8. Mika Kallio (Ducati)
9. Toni Elias (Honda)
10. Randy De Puniet (Honda)
11. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
12. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
13. Sete Gibernau (Ducati)
14. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki)
15. Yuki Takahashi (Honda)
16. James Toseland (Yamaha)
DNF Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)