The re-scheduled first MotoGP race of 2009 saw Casey Stoner take victory at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.
As the action in the premier class of the 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship finally got underway, at the spectacular Losail International Circuit on Monday night, it was Casey Stoner who took the headlines, completing a hat-trick of season-opening wins in Qatar.
Following the exceptional postponement of the opening MotoGP contest of the year due to rain in the Arabian desert, Monday evening witnessed the first race in the new single tyre supplier era, but it was a familiar story with Stoner crossing the line first, ahead of World Champion Valentino Rossi.
A ruthless Stoner took the holeshot from pole and had built up a two second gap at the end of the first lap. The 2007 World Champion’s victory never looked in serious doubt as he controlled the race from the front, having been the fastest rider in every session over the weekend. Stoner’s winning margin was more than seven seconds at the end of a brilliant performance, casting aside any doubts about his fitness after winter surgery on his left wrist.
Completing the podium behind the front two was Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha colleague Jorge Lorenzo repeating his rostrum result from his MotoGP debut in the opening race of 2008, in his first race on Bridgestone tyres.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards started his seventh season in MotoGP riding solidly from sixth on the grid to finish fourth on his own Bridgestone debut, making it three Yamahas in the top four.
Also on new tyres and with a new factory bike Repsol Honda’s 2009 signing Andrea Dovizioso was fifth, fading slightly in the second half of the race having run in third place for several laps.
There was a good performance from Alex de Angelis, crossing the line sixth having qualified ninth at the start of his second year with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team. Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen also made a decent start to the year with his improved GSV-R machine in seventh.
An excellent MotoGP debut from satellite Ducati rider Mika Kallio, meanwhile, saw him end up as the best placed rookie in eighth for the new look Pramac Racing outfit.
On factory machinery and returning to the Honda Gresini team this year, Toni Elías may be disappointed not to have done better than ninth, whilst Frenchman Randy de Puniet brought the satellite LCR Honda RC212V home three seconds behind the Spaniard to complete the top ten.
Dani Pedrosa, riding with knee and wrist injuries, battled through the pain barrier to pick up some important points in eleventh spot. On his Ducati debut, Pedrosa’s former team-mate Nicky Hayden also did well to complete the race in twelfth, given the back and chest injuries he suffered in a huge highside crash in qualifying on Saturday. The brave 2006 World Champion even set his best time on the last lap.
Sete Gibernau finished 13th on his MotoGP comeback with the satellite Ducati Grupo Francisco Hernando team, unable to push into the top ten due to his ongoing shoulder injury.
Marco Melandri made his first appearance for the Hayate Racing Team and ran off track early on but battled back well to finish in the points in 14th.
Commencing his 20th Grand Prix season Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi crashed out on lap eight and was unable to rejoin the race.
After a weekend off the MotoGP riders next reconvene at the Polini Grand Prix of Japan for round two, which takes place at the Motegi circuit from 24th-26th April.