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Rossi launches 800cc challenge
With hard-fought second in Qatar
Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi finished second in the inaugural Grand Prix of the 800cc era today after losing out in a close battle with Casey Stoner (Ducati), who took his first MotoGP win.

After starting from pole position
for the 46th time in his career, Rossi got a good start but surrendered his lead to the eventual winner as they crossed the line at the end of the first lap with Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and John Hopkins (Suzuki) in close contention. From then on seven-time World Champion Rossi stalked the Australian youngster with both showing their strength in different parts of the track; Rossi's Yamaha was generally faster in the corners whilst the Ducati claimed the advantage on the straights.

With four laps to go Rossi made his move and passed but Stoner passed him back over the line and Rossi was unable to stay with him in the final few laps. Stoner eventually took the chequered flag 2.8 seconds clear of Rossi with Pedrosa just holding on for third ahead of Hopkins.

After being consistently fast throughout the practice sessions and also starting from the front row in third, today was not to be Colin Edwards' day and a small slide off the start line saw him lose his grid position into turn one before dropping to seventh by the end of the first lap. The Texan had a few problems during the race and was unable to make it back up to the front group, settling into a best position of fifth before Marco Melandri (Honda) eventually relegated him to sixth with three laps to go.

Valentino Rossi :
« It was a great race today and a good battle, although of course we would have preferred to start the season with a win! After the practice this morning we were a little bit scared because we had some problems with the tyre, but we understood what to do and I definitely made the right tyre choice with Michelin, so I am happy for that.
I got a great start and my M1 worked very well, I could ride it how I wanted on the limit and keep pushing. I wanted to push Casey and try to take the fight to him more, but in fact he was perfect today. He didn't make a single mistake as far as I could see and he rode very well; he deserved to win so congratulations to him. I could see that he was faster on the straight and so I knew that if I got in front I was going to need to make a gap from him, but in fact he was too strong! In the last few laps we were getting faster and faster and I thought I still had a chance, but then he kept on going and my tyre started to slide a little bit so I wasn't able to stay with him to the finish. Anyway, we only waved the white flag right at the end so I am happy about this! Of course it's not perfect but my team have worked very hard and it's much better to have 20 points like this than two like last year! Now we need to find a little bit more horsepower, but Yamaha is working very hard and I am confident that we will continue to improve.”

Colin Edwards :
“I spun off the line on the dirty part of the track and so my start wasn't great, which was annoying. I had a bit of a feeling just before we went out that we would be slower in the first few laps as the tyre was going to take time to heat up and unfortunately that was the case; I just couldn't push hard enough in those vital first few laps. Anyway after that I was holding pace okay and thought I could stay with the top group but then I had a near crash on lap seven or eight coming into turn seven, to the extent when I was holding the bike up on my knee and elbow! I somehow figured out how to get it back up after 30 metres but we lost quite a bit of time. From then on my rhythm was okay and honestly the race as a whole wasn't so bad, but the tyre felt a bit greasy and I was lacking some front grip, which was strange after it had been perfect all weekend. We definitely need more power - that was obvious today, so that's priority number one for Yamaha I guess! Anyway, we've learnt a lot this weekend so let's go forward from here.”

Davide Brivio :
“It could be a better start for us and it's not what we hoped for after starting on the front row with both riders, but anyway it's not so bad! Our bike is good and we can fight for the victory as Valentino showed today, but we have some more work to do. Colin unfortunately wasn't able to match the potential he showed during the practices, but I am sure he will be back at the top in Jerez. In some areas our bike is very strong and in other areas less so; now we will do our best to even this out. We gathered a lot more important information this weekend which will help our engineers over the coming days and I am sure we will be ready to fight again in Jerez.”
Yamaha Racing

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