Casey Stoner of Australia yesterday led from start to finish to win the season’s opening MotoGP race and complete a personal hat-trick of victories in Qatar.
Stoner, the Ducati rider, produced a near-perfect race under artificial light to win the 22-lap race with a time of 42 minutes 53.984 seconds at the 5.38km Losail International Circuit.
The 23-year-old Australian finished ahead of defending world champion Valentino Rossi of Italy and Jorge Lorenzo of Spain. Rossi, the Yamaha giant, crossed the finish line 7.771 seconds adrift of Stoner.
Lorenzo, also of Yahama, was 16.244 seconds behind Stoner, who picked up 25 points for his efforts. Rossi bagged 20 points while his Yamaha teammate Lorenzo picked up 16 points.
“I feel stronger than last year so this makes for a great start. I am close to being 100 percent fit. I think the team put in a real effort this whole week. We managed to find the right set-up, though it was difficult to do that,” Stoner said after the race. “We did some good work in the warm up (three hours before the race). I managed to make good adjustments during the race. It wasn’t an easy race,” the Australian added.
Rossi said: “I did well in the second half of the race, but I am happy with the start of the (new) season. We have started worse than this so I am happy (with the second spot). The track was very different from Sunday.”
Lorenzo said: “I am happy to be on the podium. We were able to take some risks and I managed to stay close to Valentino and Casey. My pace was slow but we did good (in the end).”
Yesterday’s race took place after torrential rain on Sunday washed out the MotoGP race. It was the first ever postponement of a Grand Prix in Qatar, which is the only stop with a night race on the MotoGP calendar.
Colin Edwards of the US was fourth while Andrea Dovizioso of Italy was fifth.
Spain’s Dani Pedrosa, who finished last year’s world championship in third spot, ended yesterday’s race in the 11th spot, 48.526 seconds adrift of Stoner.
Pedrosa’s Honda teammate Nicky Hayden of the US ended the race in the 12th spot, 48.883 seconds behind Stoner.
Comeback rider Sete Gibernau of Spain ended the race 52.215 seconds behind Stoner.
The next MotoGP Grand Prix will be held in Motegi, Japan, on April 26.