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Qatar MotoGP Race Rescheduled To Monday 9pm Local, But Riders Displeased

As news, rumor and speculation seep out from Qatar, with news stories contradicting each other appearing almost every minute or so, there is only one thing that we know for sure about the 2009 MotoGP Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail: That it wasn't run at its scheduled time. The latest state of affairs is that the race is to be run on Monday, at 9pm local time - though by the time you read this, that may have changed.

The story so far: Unseasonal thunderstorms have been plaguing the Qatari peninsula for the past few weeks, causing the loss of a day of testing, and hanging like a sword of Damocles over the practice sessions by spattering thick, heavy raindrops on the paddock's rental cars as they made their way to and from the track. Rain started to fall during the 125 race, causing the race to be shortened to just 4 laps, the shortest race in MotoGP history, with half points awarded to the finishers. 

The rain started to clear after the podium ceremony, and the 250 race started 40 minutes later than scheduled, though drastically shortened to just 13 laps so as not to force the MotoGP race to be rescheduled. But Mother Nature had other plans: rain started as the MotoGP bikes sat on the grid, falling in earnest once the grid was cleared ready for the warm up lap. A downpour of almost biblical proportions then ensued, scuppering any chances of running the race later that night.

If the race had been scheduled to take place during daylight, then the rain would not have been a problem. Racing has taken place in similar conditions before, and only the severest of downpours has stopped racing before, and then only if the rain falls once racing begins. But Qatar is held under the floodlights - ironically to avoid the extreme heat that can scorch the desert state at most times of the year - and though the Musco lighting systems are ingeniously designed not to dazzle the riders, the rain turns the track into a mirror, reducing visibility for the riders to zero.

The cancellation of the race caused a veritable whirlwind of activity among staff from Dorna, the teams, the riders, the MSMA and the track authorities. Meetings were held, adjourned for further consultation, held again, adjourned again and then continued. The teams were consulted, the riders were consulted, most importantly of all, the TV companies were consulted, and eventually, the race was rescheduled to take place on Monday, in the early evening.

The decision was not met with universal enthusiasm. A group of riders including Casey Stoner, Sete Gibernau, Chris Vermeulen, Dani Pedrosa, Nicky Hayden and Loris Capirossi were opposed to race being put back a day, with Stoner telling Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, "It's not a good idea to run on Monday. We can't be sure it won't rain tomorrow, and the rain today has washed sand onto the track, so there's a safety risk."

Valentino Rossi was none too complimentary either: "For sure it would have been worse not to race. We waited an extra month to avoid the cold we had in 2008, compressing 17 races of the world championship into the time between April and October: Not to race would have been a big joke. Also for the fans. We would have literally wasted the days of practice. This is the risk you run when you have a race at night. I have never agreed with this, I don't like it at all. I don't think it adds anything to the spectacle. It's just a TV show. Now we need to look at what we do for the sport, and what we do for the show, because to turn the world championship into a circus is not a good thing."

As ever, irony is never far from the scene in MotoGP. All winter long, the FIM, Dorna, the MSMA and IRTA have engaged in talks and hammered out a series of proposals aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP. And at the very first race of the season, the weather causes the race to be delayed for a day, forcing the teams, manufacturers and press to engage in a frenzied bout of flight and accommodation rescheduling. Valentino Rossi was booked on a 3:45am flight out of Qatar, and Rossi is not subject to Yamaha's economy class flight edict. Many team members will not have had hotel rooms for Sunday night, as they expected to fly out on Sunday night, and the trucks will already be pouring into the paddock at Qatar ready to ship the containers off to be flown to Japan for round two of the series, at Motegi. Adding an extra day of truck hire will be expensive enough, but if a freight aircraft has to be rescheduled, this could get very expensive indeed. 

There were also doubts about the logistics of running a race on Monday. It's not certain that the teams will have enough tires to run another warm up on Monday, followed by the race. And with the time of the race having been brought forward by two hours, the temperatures could be very different too. Tires aren't the only problem though, as Sportmediaset is also reporting that they may not have enough of the special gas the teams use to run the race either.

One suggestion bandied about by Loris Capirossi was to run the race in the slot vacated by the abandoned Hungarian Grand Prix which was due to take place in September, until it was canceled over wrangling about money between the Hungarian authorities and the Spanish construction company building the track. But other riders were less attracted to this idea. "For sure I would like to race tomorrow and go on holiday in September," Marco Melandri responded, when asked about this possibility by the official website.

Will this be the last of the night races at Qatar? It's too early to tell. But one thing is for certain, if anyone doubted that there were risks involved in running a race at night, those doubts will by now surely have been removed.

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MotoGP Qatar Race Delayed, Cancellation Looking Increasingly Likely

Rain at Qatar MotoGP race

Just as happened to the 125cc race, rain has disrupted the MotoGP race. But luckily for the MotoGP riders,  the rain started to fall before the race started, and before the riders had a chance to get hurt. Just minutes before the race was due to start, as the track was cleared ready for the warm up lap, rain drops got heavier, then started to fall in earnest, prompting race direction to delay the start of the race. The rain then started in earnest, drenching the track and making the race look very unlikely.

The problems with the race point to the absurdity of running a race at night. Environmental aspects aside, the threat of rain always meant that the events were susceptible to disruption, as the reflection of the light off a wet surface reduces visibility to zero and makes racing impossible. Having moved the start of the season back to April, so that the temperature would be warmer during the night races, after complaints that the track was too cold and starting to get damp in the colder temperatures of March, perhaps it is time to reconsider, move the race back to March, and just run it during the day. If it rains during the day, at least the race can continue as normal, the riders using wet tires as at every other track.

The lighting at Qatar is remarkable achievement, and the running of the race under the floodlights a triumph of technology. But it is also unnecessary and pointless, serving no purpose other than doing so because we can. As is so often the case when human hubris gets the upper hand, nature is quick to slap us back into place. Better to be practical, and run during the day, rather than try to solve a problem that doesn't really exist in the first place. 

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Rain Stops Play At Qatar - 125 Race Red-Flagged

A sudden deluge has put an end to the 125cc race at the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. Normally, rain is not a problem for the bikes, and the race would be restarted once the bikes had been fitted with wet tires. But the problem with the Qatar race is that it is a night race, run under the spotlights. And despite Musco lighting's remarkable and ingenious lighting system, once the rain starts falling, the light reflects off the surface water, the reflections start dazzling the riders, making it very difficult to see, let alone race.

Racing has been suspended, and there's no news at this time about when the race will resume. Dorna and the organizers will be under a lot of pressure to ensure the MotoGP race starts on time, due to TV commitments in Europe, so if the track does dry out, the races will be rescheduled to give priority to the MotoGP riders. We will keep you updated as and when we learn any more. 

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Qatar - More Fantastic Photos, Saturday Selection

If you enjoyed yesterday's helping of Scott Jones' fantastic images from Qatar, you'll love today's batch MotoGP free practice and qualifying sessions. Click on the photos for hi-res versions of the photos.

Valentino Rossi, Qatar

Valentino Rossi - that's not rim tape, that's brake heat

Casey Stoner, Qatar 2009

There was no keeping up with Casey Stoner, in any session

Mika Kallio, Qatar 2009

Mika Kallio, second fastest Ducati at Qatar

Sete Gibernau, Qatar, 2009

Not a bad looking bike, despite promoting a nasty piece of work

James Toseland, Qatar 2009

James Toseland buries the front end under braking

Toni Elias, Qatar 2009

Toni Elias returns to Gresini Honda

Yuki Takahashi, Qatar, 2009

Yuki Takahashi is finding the step up to MotoGP to be bigger than he thought.

If you loved these shots, you can join the hundreds of other MotoGP fans who have made a donation to help cover our costs. 

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Hayden Crash - No Broken Bones, And The Will To Race

Nicky Hayden has spent his first weekend racing the Ducati MotoGP bike embodying the phrase "inauspicious start". Electrical problems, engines blowing up, nothing would go right for the American, hoping for a new start after years at Repsol Honda. Then, at the very end of qualifying, Hayden added a huge highside to his run of misfortune.

So severe was the crash that it was feared Hayden had suffered serious injury. The American stayed on the ground, barely moving, for a long time. Fortunately, he was quickly able to sit up under his own steam, and was taken first to the Clinica Mobile, and then to a local hospital for further checks. Even better news for the Kentucky Kid was that both checks turned up no fractures, and only a minor wound on his neck, according to

Though Hayden immediately told his team that he wanted to race, team boss Livio Suppo, was a little more cautious. The team will wait to see how Hayden's condition is on Sunday before making a decision about whether to allow the American to race. As the Qatar race would mark his 100th start in MotoGP, Hayden is highly motivated to be on the grid. 

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Moto2 Confirmed As A Single Class

Just a single throwaway line, yet so full of meaning. The FIM today issued a press release with the outcome of deliberations of the Grand Prix Commission:

"For 2010

The commission unanimously accepted the proposition of the MSMA to have a “One Make Engine Regulation” in the Moto2 class. The name of the manufacturer will be announced later."

What this means is that, as expected, the Moto2 class will use a spec engine. And there are a lot of good reasons to do so, not least the history of conflict between Dorna, the Flamminis and the FIM over the definition of a prototype. By requiring a spec engine from a single supplier, any teams being tempted to use an engine out of a road bike, and thereby incurring the wrath of the Flamminis and Infront Motor Sports, the organization which runs World Superbikes, would have to think again.

Of course the ostensible reason - and a very good one - is that by removing the need to compete on the basis of engine development, the costs of running a Moto2 bike will be drastically reduced. This is a perfectly valid line of reasoning, though the fact remains that teams go racing to win, and will spend whatever money they can rustle up to try and do so. Though the bikes may not end up costing as much as the Aprilia RSA 250s they are meant to replace, they are unlikely to be cheap.

The one question left is who will be awarded the engine contract. has already been contacted by one engine supplier, desperate to submit a tender for the contract, but unable to find the proper channels to approach the FIM through. Knowing the FIM, the process will be open, transparent and honest. But it would help if they published the guidelines for application somewhere publicly.

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2009 Qatar MotoGP Qualifying Report - The Grid Is The Race

Changing the way that Qualifying works is apparently the latest fashion in motorcycle racing. The World Superbike series did it by dropping the old single-lap Superpole format, and adopting a series of three knockout sessions, shameless copied from Formula One. MotoGP would protest that it has changed its qualifying format - though cost-cutting measures have reduced the length of qualifying from an hour to just 45 minutes - but the adoption of the single tire rule and the disappearance of full-on one-lap qualifying tires left MotoGP followers wondering just how this would affect the way the teams and riders approached Qualifying.

As the session started, at least one thing remained unchanged. Within a few minutes of the green lights, and on his first couple of laps out of the pits, Casey Stoner was laying down a blistering pace. The 2007 World Champion had cracked into the 1'56 bracket, and by his fourth lap, came within 0.009 of equaling the fastest time of the weekend, set by none other than Casey Stoner. The Marlboro Ducati rider was setting the bar for the rest of the field.

Though no one could directly challenge Stoner, he did not enjoy his huge (over a second) advantage for long. Within a few minutes, Valentino Rossi had jumped up to second fastest, just over 3/10ths of a second behind the Australian. Stoner did not wait long to respond: Six minutes later, the Australian was back out on track and cracking another barrier, into the 1'55s, extending his lead to over a second again with a lap of 1'55.504.

Behind Rossi, the fight for third was hotting up, with first Loris Capirossi taking the last front row spot, then Colin Edwards, before Andrea Dovizioso also got involved. Dovi held the spot for five more minutes, before Jorge Lorenzo confirmed his strong form at Qatar by blitzing a lap just short of Rossi's second place time.

As the session entered it's final fifteen minutes, the question of what difference the lack of a qualifying tire would make was answered: with the choice between a softer and a harder compound, and the hard compound being very much the tire to use for the race, riders started slipping their softer tires on, and pushing very hard, shaking up the grid. It bore a great deal of similarity to an old-fashioned qualifying session, only the times were dropping by half a second rather than a second and a half.

Colin Edwards was the first man to put on an old-fashioned qualifying display on the softer tire, ousting Valentino Rossi from second with a lap of 1'56.478, but Edwards was to be deposed himself a minute later, by LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet, who took an eighth of a second off the Tech 3 Yamaha rider's time. Andrea Dovizioso was improving, too, but only managed to make the jump to fourth.

With 8 minutes to go, The Doctor was back out on track, and lapping faster than he had done previously. At each checkpoint, he was a tenth or less of Stoner, rather than the second he had ceded to the Australian, and in with a shout at pole. But it was not to be, Rossi came up a couple of tenths short, snatching back second spot with a lap of 1'55.774.

As the clock ticked down, Casey Stoner returned to the track to see if there was anything more he could do, and the answer, as so often, was yes. Stoner was lapping fast, but ahead of him, a young Spaniard was matching the Australian's times, in the shape of Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo could not quite match the time of Stoner, nor the time of his team mate Rossi, but got a firm grip on third. His deficit to Stoner grew,though, as Stoner pushed his Ducati to improve his time once again, taking it down to 1'55.286, just over a tenth off the existing race lap record, the pole record gone with the demise of the qualifying tires. 

In the dying minutes of the session, both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo improved their times, though neither could get close to Stoner, and the Australian claimed first blood of the year, taking pole for the season opener at Qatar. Beside him, but nearly half a second behind, sits Valentino Rossi, with Rossi's team mate Jorge Lorenzo just a couple of hundredths behind. 

Andrea Dovizioso heads up the second row, ahead of Loris Capirossi and Colin Edwards, while Randy de Puniet will start from seventh, and the third row of the grid, ahead of Chris Vermeulen and Marco Melandri.

Dani Pedrosa finished respectably, setting the 14th fastest time, but will be focused on getting a few valuable points tomorrow, rather than charging through the field for victory. The Repsol Honda rider's knee is still causing him pain, and Qatar is very much a damage limitation exercise, rather than an assault on the title.

Unluckiest man of the weekend is Nicky Hayden. In FP1, the American suffered first a clutch problem, and then an electrical issue, losing him both pace and time. Then in FP2, Hayden had an engine blow up on him, forcing him onto his second bike once again. And in Qualifying, a difficult session saw Hayden slowly improving, until a huge highside just a few minutes from the end left him banged up and questionable for tomorrow's race. Hayden was taken to hospital for further x-rays, to look for broken bones, and no official word on his condition has been forthcoming. Though beaten up, the Kentucky Kid is not too badly damaged, as he was joking with Casey Stoner after Qualifying finished.

So what conclusions can be drawn, after the first MotoGP qualifying session without special, sticky qualifying tires? First of all, that not all that much has changed. With everyone at Qatar going to race the harder compound tire, the softer of the two available compounds served as the qualifier, allowing riders to put in a fast lap. But though the tire is soft, it is not that soft, and so riders could actually put in three or four fast laps, rather than just a single lap. The grid, though, is still settled in the dying minutes of the session.

Whether this will be the case when we get to a track were the riders will be racing the softer of the two available compounds remains to be seen. That could end up more like the World Superbike Superpole, with some riders opting to use up their soft tires, while other save their tires for the race proper.

But the loss of the qualifying tires has meant that the ability for the grid to be shaken up by a rider capable of putting in a single fast lap on super-soft rubber - a trick Nicky Hayden excelled at - has disappeared. The grid broadly reflects the strength of the riders in qualifying, and probably the relative strengths of the riders in tomorrow's race. Casey Stoner is clearly the fastest rider at Qatar, though Valentino Rossi's cat-and-mouse antics may have gotten under his skin, responding every time Stoner bettered his time. If Rossi can prevent Stoner form escaping, we could well see a good close fight, with a dash of Jorge Lorenzo thrown in for good measure. 

The rest of the field, though, are completely outclassed, though Marco Melandri's good showing is worthy of note. Andrea Dovizioso, Colin Edwards, Loris Capirossi, Chris Vermeulen, even Randy de Puniet, could all run at the front early on in the race, but we have to doubt whether they can match the breathtaking pace set by Stoner and the two men capable of following him. The front three should be gone quite quickly, the field falling into groups. But in each of those groups, leadership will be hotly contested, with close racing to entertain the fans.

Stopping Casey Stoner is going to be extremely hard. But you can be sure that both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will be giving it their best shot.

Result of MotoGP qualifying practice at Qatar

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Marco Simoncelli Won't Race In Qatar

Marco Simoncelli's season got off to a bad start before it even began, when the reigning 250cc World Champion broke his wrist last Sunday riding a motocross bike. Determined to defend his title, he had the fractured scaphoid pinned in an operation on Tuesday, before flying out to take part in the first free practice session at the season opener at Qatar. It was a very short time for the wrist to heal, and was going to be an uphill struggle for Simoncelli to take part in the first race.

It was too much to ask. The Italian announced this evening that he wouldn't be trying to race at Qatar, and would be going home to concentrate on his recovery in time for the next race at Motegi in two weeks' time. Simoncelli had tried running fast laps at Qatar, and had put in respectable, if now world-shattering times, but after just a couple of laps, his wrist was becoming too painful to concentrate. Simoncelli took the wiser course, and withdrew.

Simoncelli's withdrawal leaves Alvaro Bautista in the ideal spot to gain maximum advantage in the 250cc title chase. To do that, of course, he'll have to win the race. And with a surprisingly strong Gabor Talmacsi, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Qualifying for the race is due to take place later tonight.

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Scott Jones' Glorious Images From Qatar - Day 1

As you have surely already noticed, photographer Scott Jones is at Qatar (funded in part by your generous donations and the support of our carefully selected advertisers), sending back interviews and the fantastic photos which make him our favorite shooter. He's starting to send us some of his fantastic photos, which we have shared with you below. All images should link to high-res versions of the photos. Enjoy!

Mika Kallio at Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Mika Kallio testing his toesliders

Chris Vermeulen at Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Chris Vermeulen, being informed he needs to shift up a gear NOW!

Dani Pedrosa, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Dani Pedrosa - In pain, but still on the gas

Casey Stoner, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Casey Stoner demonstrating how to ride a Ducati GP9 really, really fast

Nicky Hayden, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Nicky Hayden trying to emulate his team mate

Alex de Angelis, Day 1, FP1

Alex de Angelis, Fastest Honda in FP1, but also first into the gravel

#99: Like #48, but faster

Danny Webb, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Danny Webb was struggling with new fork parts on his De Graaf Aprilia

Marco Simoncelli, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Break scaphoid Sunday, surgery Tuesday, practice Friday - A week in the life of Marco Simoncelli

Alvaro Bautista, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Alvaro Bautista will be hoping to capitalize on Simoncelli's misfortune

Mike di Meglio, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Mike di Meglio: 125 champion, 250 rookie

Marc Marquez, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Marc Marquez, one of the few people who can make a 125cc racing motorcycle look big

Mika Kallio, Pramac Ducati, commemorating the dead of Abruzzo at Qatar

The Pramac Ducatis are carrying mourning stickers for the dead of the L'Aquila earthquake earlier this week

Hayate, Qatar, FP1, Day 1

The bike formerly known as Kawasaki

Honda RC212V, Qatar, Day 1, FP1

Honda have been in Grand Prix for 50 years this season. They badly want a title to mark the occasion.

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Rossi: "Honda Would Be At Front With Me Or Casey On It"

One of the biggest mysteries of the past few years in MotoGP has been Honda's fall from grace. Throughout the 990 era, the Honda RC211V was the motorcycle to beat, with only Valentino Rossi capable of achieving that feat. Since the switch to the 800s - a move believed to have been made under pressure from Honda - HRC has struggled to produce a bike that is even competitive, the RC212V outclassed by Yamaha's 800cc M1 and Ducati's Desmosedici. This failure has had knowledgeable people both inside and outside scratching their heads in incomprehension. HRC has both the manpower and the brains to produce title-winning equipment, so where have they gone wrong?

Valentino Rossi believes he knows what's wrong with HRC - at least this season. In an interview on, Rossi stated his belief that the problem lay with the riders, rather than the bike. "It's a question of riders," Rossi said. "With me or Stoner in the saddle, HRC would be at the front."

However, Rossi was careful to point out that HRC's current riders could hardly be blamed for the situation. "Pedrosa, the lead rider, is injured; Dovizioso, with a little more experience, is a potential world champion. And on the track, he gives gas, believe me. But right now, he hasn't made the kilometers necessary to develop a bike."

Rossi also spoke about the new schedule for the weekend, and like almost everyone else, complained about the lack of practice time. "With practice like this, with less time, we need to follow a program," Rossi commented. "There's no down time; we are having to use some of our data we collected previously, relying on theory, and a bit less on trying something, then trying it again."

But despite problems on corner entry, the Italian believed he was on track to being competitive on Sunday. "Let's say we are between 92 and 100 percent," he said. Sunday will show whether that will be enough to close the third of a second gap Rossi has to the leader, Casey Stoner.

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