It was the Repsol Honda show at the MotoGP opener in Qatar at the weekend.
Australian Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) had a titanic tussle with his Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar in the first round of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship to snatch 25 points on his debut ride with Repsol Honda.
Stoner finished 3.440 seconds ahead of second-placed Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing).
It had been eight years since a Honda rider won the opening round of the MotoGP season, the last rider to do so was Valentino Rossi in 2003 at Suzuka. Stoner has an impressive record at the Losail International Circuit after winning there in 2008 and 2009. The Australian claimed his 31st win of his career here this evening and his 24th in MotoGP.
The riders observed a one minutes silence in honour of the victims of the Japan earthquake ahead of the MotoGP race. The 22 lap race was run in the best conditions of the weekend with fairly high temperatures without the strong winds that had been feared. It produced a thrilling race with close encounters throughout the pack.
Pedrosa took the lead from the start of the race and then it was the reigning World Champion, Lorenzo who took up the mantle as race leader. What followed was fierce between the two Spaniards and Stoner, with the Repsol Honda’s eventually pulling an advantage. Stoner and Pedrosa swapped position for the lead on several occasions and at the midway point, the pole sitter, increased his pace and set off for the chequered flag.
This left the two championship rivals from 2010 dueling it out for second place and it was the Yamaha rider who picked up the 20 points.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) were involved in a close battle for fourth place throughout the race and it was the Repsol Honda who took the first position off the podium. Dovizioso finished 5.942 behind Stoner.
There was much anticipation surrounding the debut of Rossi with the Ducati Team. The Italian finished seventh after racing Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing), after swapping places with the American, the Yamaha got the advantage over the Ducati to take sixth place.
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was eighth, with Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) completing the top 10. Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) managed to take 11th place on the last lap ahead of Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar Team). GP debutant Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) was the final rider to pass the chequered flag and earned himself three points, with just 13 riders finishing the first race of the season.
It was not the MotoGP return that Toni Elías (LCR Honda) had been hoping for. After languishing in 14th place at the back, he suffered a strange crash towards the end of the race which cost him two points.
It was a nightmare start for the Pramac Racing team after Randy de Puniet had a nasty highside on lap on causing his race to end early. His team-mate Loris Capirossi was hit by the Frenchman’s bike, crushing his hand and therefore had to retire from the race.
1. Casey Stoner, AUS, Repsol Honda Team 42m 38.569s
2. Jorge Lorenzo, ESP, Yamaha Factory Racing 42m 42.009s
3. Dani Pedrosa, ESP, Repsol Honda Team 42m 43.620s
4. Andrea Dovizioso, ITA, Repsol Honda Team 42m 44.511s
5. Marco Simoncelli, ITA, San Carlo Honda Gresini 42m 45.927s
6. Ben Spies, USA, Yamaha Factory Racing 42m 49.037s
7. Valentino Rossi, ITA, Ducati Marlboro Team 42m 55.000s
8. Colin Edwards, USA, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 43m 4.862s
9. Nicky Hayden, USA, Ducati Marlboro Team 43m 5.985s
10. Hiroshi Aoyama, JPN, San Carlo Honda Gresini 43m 7.489s
11. Cal Crutchlow, GBR, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 43m 13.108s
12. Hector Barbera, ESP, Mapfre Aspar Team 43m 13.398s
13. Karel Abraham, CZE, Cardion AB Motoracing 43m 16.526s
Toni Elias, ESP, LCR Honda MotoGP
Loris Capirossi, ITA, Pramac Racing Team
Randy de Puniet, FRA, Pramac Racing Team