Ducati rider Casey Stoner won the MotoGP race in Qatar after it was postponed due to torrential rain.
The Aussie finished over 7 seconds ahead of Fiat Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi. Rossi's Spanish team mate Jorge Lorenzo finished in third.
Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards took fourth ahead of fifth place Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso. MotoGP veteran Loris Capirossi, riding for Rizla Suzuki, crashed out on lap 8, while his British team-mate James Toseland placed a disappointing 16th. Full results
Stoner was untouchable on the new carbon fibre chassis Ducati GP9, which dominated the race in its first competitive outing.
Once 2007 world champion Stoner had broken Yamaha rival Valentino Rossi’s resolve at the halfway stage, Stoner comfortably extended his lead from just under two seconds to nearly eight seconds at the conclusion of a dour opening race.
Stoner is convinced he will be able to mount a more serious challenge to Rossi in 2009 after such a brilliant start.
He said: “I am happy but not getting carried away. I led the world championship at this time last year as well and from there it took a turn for the worse. But this year I think with our package we’ve made sure that it’s working at a lot of different circuits, it’s working well and tonight was one of those times. It really did everything right for me.”
He added: “I think a lot of people had the same tyre problem - there was a lot of chattering on the front with about six laps to go. These conditions are very tough on the tyres. But the team did a fantastic job. If the race was the night before we were going into the race a little bit unknown. I wasn’t 100 per cent with the set-up I had. But we made an adjustment for the race the previous night, which we could test in warm-up. And everything seemed to work well, so we went into the race with a little more confidence realising that we were able to at least fight for the victory. So everything’s just worked so well and it’s now time to keep it up, go to the next race and see what we can do. But this is the best way to start the championship.”
Stoner also said that he had not suffered any issues with his left wrist that had been a big pre-season concern.
Reigning world champion Valentino Rossi had to settle for a lonely second position to start the defence of his world title in a processional first MotoGP race in Qatar.
Slowed by the fast starting Loris Capirossi and Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, by the time Rossi had fought his way into second, Stoner was already nearly three seconds clear of the field.
Rossi produced an admirable effort to make a race of the 22-lap encounter and his efforts got him to within 1.9s of Stoner’s impressive factory Ducati GP9 on lap ten.
At that point though he hit severe front-end grip issues with the medium compound Bridgestone and immediately started to drop back off the pace to allow Stoner to romp home by close to eight seconds.
Rossi said: “Unfortunately I lost a bit of time after the start fighting with Loris and with Jorge and when I had the track clear, Casey was already quite far ahead. But I had fun in that part of the race, because I was able to ride fast. I made a lot of good laps and I was able to catch a little bit to arrive at less than two seconds, but after that I was too much at the limit with the front tyre. In the warm-up I was very, very close to crashing and it happened twice in the race, so I had to decide to arrive second or try to crash and I decided to slow a bit. I tried to remain concentrated to make the best job I could, but I had to reduce a lot my pace. When lose the front it is very, very difficult because you have to ride very smooth. The rear is possible is to control. But with the front, if you make a small mistake you crash. It’s quite frustrating abut second place is a good result for us. The start of the season is better than last year and I’m quite happy about the work and the performance of the M1. We know on this racetrack that Stoner and Ducati are very strong with the result of the last years. So we wait for Motegi where last year I was strong and we hope also this year we are fast.”
1 Casey STONER Ducati Marlboro Team
2 Valentino ROSSI Fiat Yamaha Team +7.771
3 Jorge LORENZO Fiat Yamaha Team +16.244
4 Colin EDWARDS Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +24.410
5 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Repsol Honda Team +27.263
6 Alex DE ANGELIS San Carlo Honda Gresini +29.883
7 Chris VERMEULEN Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +33.627
8 Mika KALLIO Pramac Racing +34.755
9 Toni ELIAS San Carlo Honda Gresini +39.481
10 Randy DE PUNIET LCR Honda MotoGP +42.284
11 Dani PEDROSA Repsol Honda Team +48.526
12 Nicky HAYDEN Ducati Marlboro Team +48.883
13 Sete GIBERNAU Grupo Francisco Hernando +52.215
14 Marco MELANDRI Hayate Racing Team +56.379
15 Yuki TAKAHASHI Scot Racing Team MotoGP +1'00.286
16 James TOSELAND Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +1'14.978
17 Niccolo CANEPA Pramac Racing +1'15.028
Loris CAPIROSSI Rizla Suzuki MotoGP