Results and summary of the MotoGP race from Qatar:
Valentino Rossi has emerged victorious from the first MotoGP race of the season, in a thrilling and incident-packed race. The Fiat Yamaha rider took a superb start to lead into the first corner, while Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa had an even better start to dive up to 2nd. With Nicky Hayden ahead of his Marlboro Ducati colleague - and the man who has dominated practice so far - Casey Stoner, everything looked to be in place for Rossi to take advantage of others holding up Stoner, while he tried to escape.
That strategy didn't last long, for Stoner was past everyone by the start of lap 3. The Australian proceeded to make his customary escape, but an uncharacteristic mistake saw Stoner crash out of the lead at Turn 4, early on lap 6.
This left Valentino Rossi with the lead, with Dani Pedrosa sitting in 3rd. But the handling problems which have plagued the Spaniard throughout the pre-season saw Pedrosa slide back down the field, eventually finishing the race in 7th.
For most of the race, the podium looked like being settled between Rossi, Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden, but as the laps ticked down, Jorge Lorenzo started to close the gap to the front. Dovizioso challenged Rossi a couple of times, even getting ahead at one point along the front straight - the Honda's strongest point - but Rossi held Dovi off on the brakes to retain the lead.
As the race wound down, Hayden and Dovizioso engaged in a vicious dogfight, allowing Lorenzo to close. With a couple of brutal and audacious passes, the Fiat Yamaha rider dispatched first Hayden, then Dovizioso to get into 2nd. On the final lap, Nicky Hayden launched an inspired attack on Dovizioso to take third, but Dovi's strength out of the final corner meant that the Repsol Honda man just pipped Hayden over the line by eleven thousandths.
Monster Tech 3's Ben Spies crossed the line in 5th, ahead of LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet and Dani Pedrosa. Spies teammate Colin Edwards finished in 8th, ahead of Loris Capirossi and reigning 250 World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama.
This was not the result we were expecting by far, and makes for a fascinating start to the season.
|6||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||42'59.421||9.322|
|19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||SUZUKI||41'25.290||1 lap|
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||DUCATI||13'53.062||15 laps|
|27||Casey STONER||DUCATI||9'48.964||17 laps|
|36||Mika KALLIO||DUCATI||4'08.133||20 laps|