Reigning MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner began his title defence in style with victory in the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar – the first ever MotoGP night race – ahead of Spaniards Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.
The Ducati Marlboro rider started
the race off the front row for the first time in his MotoGP career, chasing a repeat of his debut premier class victory from last year. Stoner didn't have things all his way in the early going, but held off challenges from some of the favourites for the 2008 crown to win by over five seconds from Lorenzo.
Behind the Australian, Fiat Yamaha rider and reigning 250cc World Champion Lorenzo followed up on his spectacular Saturday pole with a jaw-dropping debut MotoGP race. The Spaniard showed no fear in the face of a field packed with racewinners, joining Stoner in breaking away from the pack to take a maiden podium at his very first attempt.
Another rider to step onto the rostrum in his first MotoGP race was Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa, who for the third consecutive year finished in the top three at the opening race of the year. The 2007 World Championship runner-up had to work for his reward, however, taking the holeshot from the third row of the grid and getting some rough treatment by the frontrunners in their attempts to break away.
JiR Team Scot rider Andrea Dovizioso joined eternal adversay Jorge Lorenzo in making a fantastic 800cc debut, taking fourth place from five-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi on the final lap of the race.
The former 250cc star picked off his fellow Italian after Rossi had dropped out of the running for third, both finishing just ahead of Tech 3 Yamaha's front row duo of James Toseland and Colin Edwards in the former's first Grand Prix.
Suzuki's Loris Capirossi, LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet and 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden completed the top ten, with De Puniet finishing a MotoGP race in Qatar for the first time.
The only two retirees were Chris Vermeulen – with a mechanical problem – and the final debutante in the class Alex de Angelis, who crashed out with five laps remaining.
DORNA / CAPSIS International