More a whimper than a bang. . .

Qatar MotoGP, Losail, 13th April 2009
Words by Simon Bradley, pics as credited

James Toseland. Has the Golden Boy's luck finally deserted him?Losail, in Qatar, has been the first round of the year for a few seasons now, primarily because it's always warm there so they can start early and get an extra round in. Something to do with the desert, apparently. And it always is hot and sunny there. Except when it rains or does something else. In fact it's so hot that DORNA decided last year that the race should be held at night on a floodlit circuit, a gamble which, I have to say, was massively successful. However, there are potential pitfalls in running the race under lights, as we'll see in a bit.

Practice and qualifying saw Casey Stoner, to use a horrible phrase, hit the ground running. The former champion pegged himself at the top of the timesheets throughout free practice and qualifying, dogged by Valentino Rossi the whole way through but clearly on top of the situation. Stoner took pole by a comfortable margin, with Rossi lining up next to him and Lorenzo completing the front row and just under half a second splitting first to third. Dovizioso headed Capirossi and Edwards on the second row, with Randy de Puniet, Chris Vermeulen and Alex de Angelis on row three. New boy Mika Kallio did well to put the Pramac Ducati up to tenth on the grid while James Toseland continued to have a torrid time down in thirteenth. Mind you, he had more fun than Dani pedrosa, the factory Honda rider ending up fourteenth, or Nicky Hayden who ended up in the Clinica Mobile after an horrendous highside that knocked the stuffing out of the affable American.

About as close to a race as we saw all evening. Apart from the 250s that is...Race day, well race night I suppose, showed us the downside of a floodlit circuit. Because it rained, thundered, and rained more. And the wet track acted like a mirror, reflecting the floodlights and making it impossible to see properly, let alone ride at nearly two hundred miles an hour in the company of similarly minded lunatics. So the race was postponed until the Monday. If you wondered why your Sky+ box didn't record it, now you know.

Monday, happily, was rather more in the usual vein of hot and dry, so the race was able to go ahead as usual. The lights went out and Stoner got the holeshot, pulling away from the rest of the pack immediately as is his wont. Loris Capirossi had a fantastic start on the Suzuki, slotting into second place in fine style and making a real race of it until first his front tyre went off, dropping him down the field at first and then giving up completely and spitting the Italian veteran into the gravel at high speed though happily unhurt. Rossi made a poor start, dropping to fourth but passing Lorenzo before the first lap was out to get back into third, moving past Capirossi a few laps later as the Suzuki's tyres went off.

Colin Edwards made an appalling start, dropping to ninth but fighting his way through the field in fine style. Toseland too had a hard time, the Englishman qualifying poorly and needing a great start to make up lost time. Working on getting into the top ten and looking threatening, Toseland was skittled into the gravel by one of Toni Elias' notorious "not really enough room but go for it anyway" overtakes, rejoining last and finishing outside the points.

Capirossi doing what he still does best. Riding the wheels off his bike...It looked as though there might be a race on for a while as Rossi set off after Stoner, but the Australian had the performance advantage and maintained, then extended, his lead.

Final results, then, were Stoner first, joined on the podium by Rossi and Lorenzo. The best of the rest was Colin Edwards, whose sheer determination got him back up through the field.

It's a boring write-up because, to be completely honest, it was a boring race. Stoner took control from lights out to chequered flag and the single tyres rule appears to mean that there's no real opportunity to actually race - it's just a case of riding the bike fast.

Next round is Japan. I do hope it's more exciting than this one.





Casey Stoner shows a clean rear slick to a distant Rossi...Qatar MotoGP Results

1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
4. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
6. Alex de Angelis (Honda)
7. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
8. Mika Kallio (Ducati)
9. Toni Elias (Honda)
10. Randy de Puniet (Honda)

MotoGP standings (after one round)

1. Casey Stoner 25
2. Valentino Rossi 20
3. Jorge Lorenzo 16
4. Colin Edwards 13
5. Andrea Dovizioso 11
6. Alex de Angelis 10
7. Chris Vermeulen 7
8. Mika Kallio 8
9. Toni Elias 7
10. Randy de Puniet 6

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