MotoGP Qatar 2006 - Rossi gets it back on track!

Reigning world MotoGP champion, Valentino Rossi, got his faltering title defence off to a good start in Qatar last Saturday, It was the 27-year-old Italian's 54th win in the top category, equalling the tally of Australian Mick Doohan with only Giacomo Agostini (68) ahead of him on the all-time victory list.

Casey Stoner (LCR Honda) at 20 years old was the second-youngest rider in the history of premier class motorcycle racing to take pole position, and he made no mistake at the start of the race, leading away into the first corner.

Defending champion Valentino Rossi made up two places between the grid and the first corner slotting in behind Loris Capirossi and Nicky Hayden . Behind them came Shinya Nakano, Sete Gibernau, Rossi's teamate Colin Edwards and Marco Melandri. Meanwhile Hayden got past Capirossi into second place and Rossi demoted the Italian another place to fourth. On the third lap, Hayden set a fastest lap of the race and beat his own lap record, but on the next lap, Rossi bettered that to 1'57.305 to write the record behind his name. Further back, Nakano, Elias and Pedrosa were all disputing tenth place in a no-holds-barred battle.

On Lap 5, John Hopkins retired his Suzuki from eighth place.

On lap 6, Rossi and Hayden gave a fine display of riding under maximum pressure. Rossi passed Hayden but ran wide, allowing the American to take back second place. Rossi got past again at the next corner, only to have Hayden once more reclaim the place. Then at the next corner, Rossi once more forced his way past and this time there was no alternative line through the corner and Hayden had to settle for third.

This action had slowed the two riders, allowing the Ducatis of Capirossi and Gibernau to catch them from behind, and Stoner to increase his lead to a second. But with a clear track ahead of him, Rossi put his head down and began to reel in Stoner at the rate of a half a second a lap.

By Lap 9, Rossi had caught the race leader and he drafted him down the main straight, popped out of the slipstream and braked up the inside of the Turn 1 right-hander and into the lead. Two laps later it was the turn of Hayden to get past Stoner into second place, Stoner fought back, reclaiming the position, but Hayden would not be denied and took it back again. Capirossi then stalked the former race leader, demoting Stoner to fourth on Lap 13.

Back at the front, and with five laps left, Hayden had closed up on Rossi and was patiently waiting for the Doctor to make a mistake, Capirossi was half a second back with similar gaps back to Stoner and Gibernau.

With four laps left, Hayden got close to Rossi down Losail's long straight and outbraked him into Turn 1 to take the lead, Rossi then looked back at Capirossi approaching from behind and then set off on a charge after Hayden to try to reclaim the lead.

On the next lap, Rossi did exactly the same to Nicky Hayden and took the lead into turn 1 with Capirossi closing on Hayden. This time Rossi stopped playing about and opened up some daylight between himself and Hayden, with Capirossi ever closer to the young American. Behind, Gibernau relegated Casey Stoner to fifth.

Meanwhile in amongst all the changing up at the front Pedrosa and Melandri were disputing sixth place, dicing side by side through the corners in a truely exciting bit of racing.

Rossi needed a win after his disastrous start to the season in Spain as he only picked up just two points for 14th place. He made no mistakes this time in Doha and tucked the Qatar GP trophy firmly under his arm, this was his 54th victory and equalled the record held by Australian Mick Doohan for the greatest number of wins in premium motorcycle racing.

"The numbers are always important and to have as many as Mick Doohan is a great pleasure. But this victory is very much more important," said Rossi, who moved up to fourth in the championship with 27 points. "We had difficult times in Jerez and even here it was tough going during the qualifying. But I'm happy that I was able to pull off this win. For me, this was the first race. It was a difficult race, very funny and a great battle from the beginning...I was quite well in front but Nicky was able to come back and overtake me again. The championship is very long and I'm sure it will be a great battle this year."


Qatar MotoGP Results

1. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 43min 22.229secs
2. Nicky Hayden (Usa) Honda 43:23.129
3. Loris Capirossi (Ita) Ducati 43:23.723
4. Sete Gibernau (Spa) Ducati 43:26.867
5. Casey Stoner (Aus) Honda 43:29.804
6. Daniel Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 43:33.049
7. Marco Melandri (Ita) Honda 43:34.013
8. Toni Elias (Spa) Honda 43:41.710
9. Colin Edwards (Usa) Yamaha 43:45.149
10. Kenny Roberts Jr. (Usa) KR211V 43:56.515

MotoGP standings (after two races)

1. Loris Capirossi (Ita) Ducati 41
2. Nicky Hayden (Usa) Honda 36
3. Daniel Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 30
4. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 27
5. Toni Elias (Spa) Honda 21
6. Casey Stoner (Aus) Honda 21
7. Marco Melandri (Ita Honda 20
8. Shinya Nakano (Jap) Kawasaki 14
9. Kenny Roberts Jr. (Usa) KR211V 14
10. Sete Gibernau (Spa) Ducati 13

Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Motorbikestoday.