Qatar : MotoGP race
Casey Stoner was the worthy victor of today's Commercialbank Grand Prix Of Qatar, taking his first ever win in the premier class on his race debut for Ducati.
The Australian puts himself into the history books as the first ever winner of an 800cc
Stoner started from second on the grid, but set the tone for the race when he pulled a cheeky manoeuvre on Valentino Rossi at the end of lap one. A three-rider pack then formed, with Stoner, Rossi and Dani Pedrosa breaking away from the rest of the field. The difference between the Ducati, Yamaha and Honda bikes was illustrated perfectly during the trio's duel, as Rossi and Pedrosa either made up ground or overtook Stoner before being caught on the straight courtesy of the Desmosedici GP7's monstrous power.
Rossi attempted to take a more permanent lead on lap 18, and it seemed that ‘The Doctor' was on course for a third consecutive victory at Losail. However, Stoner showed his ever-growing maturity to bite straight back at his Italian rival and pull away by nearly three seconds before taking the chequered flag.
Third-placed Pedrosa bowed out of the proceedings when he went wide on a corner, not only leaving a two-rider battle for the win but also allowing John Hopkins to provide a real podium threat. Hopkins was determination personified, refusing to take things easy despite still being far from 100% fit. The Suzuki rider was only half a second away from both Pedrosa and his debut appearance on the podium, and confirmed his status as one of the gutsiest riders in the world of motorcycle racing.
Marco Melandri and Colin Edwards rounded off the top six, with the latter having dropped down the field courtesy of a bad start. Behind them, Chris Vermeulen concluded a positive day for Suzuki, ahead of reigning World Champion Nicky Hayden. The 2006 title holder never really established himself during the practice sessions, but will be hoping to find some sort of quick solution before Jerez as he attempts to retain his crown.
Alex Barros finished ninth on his return to MotoGP, ahead of Honda debutant Shinya Nakano. There were crashes for Loris Capirossi, Carlos Checa and Randy de Puniet, without consequences, whilst Andrew Pitt suffered mechanical problems and had to return to the garage on the only Ilmor bike to run today.
Jeremy McWilliams had chosen against riding as a result of his crash yesterday.
DORNA / CAPSIS International