Qatar MotoGP: Valentino Rossi hails winning start

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Valentino Rossi doesn’t usually need much help to win MotoGP races.

But win number 104 in his illustrious career came with a big helping hand from title rival Casey Stoner after the Australian crashed out of the lead just six laps into the first race in Qatar last night.

Less than a third into race distance though and Rossi already looked resigned to defeat, as he was powerless to prevent Stoner from establishing an advantage of over two seconds.

But with Rossi fighting to fend of Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden behind him, Stoner fell off uninjured at Turn Four.

But if Rossi thought he’d be able to cruise to his first opening race success since 2005, he was wrong as an exciting dice ensued in front of a crowd of just 7302 fans.

Dovizioso and Hayden continually hounded the 31-year-old, who became only the third rider in history to score points in 200 world championship races.

Italian Dovizioso briefly led on lap 16 when he slipstreamed Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha YZR-M1 on the long start/finish straight.

But Rossi produced a masterful display of late braking to instantly reclaim the lead at turn one on lap 17.

It was a lead he wouldn’t surrender again as he gradually pulled away from Dovizioso and Hayden, who were soon to be joined by Jorge Lorenzo in the scrap for second.

Rossi said: “I knew it was going to be difficult to beat Casey. But I tried my maximum. I had a target to stay with him at the beginning.

"But after he made a mistake and maybe without his mistake it was going to be difficult to win this race. But anyway it is a great result and these extra five points are so important.

"Especially important is the 104 victories and to start the 2010 season in this way. It is a great, great start because I did not win the first race since 2005 when I had the epic battle with Sete (Gibernau) in Jerez.

"I think I deserve this victory because I work very well with the team and we improve step by step the bike and especially I know the start was very important and I made a fantastic start.

"But I wasn’t enough fast to stay in front and I think it was difficult to beat Casey. But when he made his mistake it was bad luck for him but crucial for us.

"I expected an easier race, but I started to slide too much and then was not able to take too much advantage on Andrea and Nicky.

"I tried not to make any mistakes and when I battle with Andrea I tried for two or three laps at 110 per cent without any mistake and I was able to take enough advantage to arrive in front.“

Rossi’s only issue then was how to get back for the podium ceremony after his YZR-M1 machine ran out of fuel on the cool down lap.

“I ran out of fuel on the slow down lap. I think I used more than expected early on because I was sliding quite a lot, but it was very funny to come to Parc Ferme riding a scooter,“ said the nine-times world champion.

Next stop for Rossi is a trip to the Far East and the all-important Japanese Grand Prix, home race for Yamaha.

Rossi was beaten by Lorenzo at the Twin Ring Motegi last year, and he reckons it could be another successful race for the factory Yamaha squad on April 25.

He added: “Last year Jorge beat me, but anyway Yamaha arrived first and second, so it is a good track usually for the M1 and especially for Bridgestone.

"We’ll try to work the same as in this weekend and try to make the maximum.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt