MotoGP: 2009 Qatar results
It rains in Qatar?
That must have been some Forrest Gump-like rain in Doha on Sunday night to postpone the race. Last September they ran 17 laps in Indianapolis in the remains of Hurricane Ike with the rain falling sideways, infield tents getting blown to South Bend and lawn chairs ending up orbiting the Earth. But with the race being held at night, the reflected glare of the floodlights (perhaps aptly named in this case) on the track made it too dangerous to race. I wasn’t aware that it ever rained in Qatar – add that to the list of stuff I don’t know about MotoGP.
For Casey Stoner and the Ducati Marlboro team, after waiting a year and 22 hours, it was déjà vu, all over again. On Monday night in beautiful Doha, Qatar, Stoner started on the pole and led wire to wire in the first MotoGP race of the season, dusting rival Valentino Rossi by a considerable 7.8 second margin. The hyper-excitable race announcers did their British best to make the race sound contested, but it wasn’t close.
In 2007, Stoner beat Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha by almost 3 seconds. Last year, he took first again, 5.3 seconds in front of Rossi teammate Jorge Lorenzo. The hat trick win was his most dominating performance yet at the Doha circuit.
The Qatar race is more about the machine than the man riding it. It must be said that the Losail layout was designed for the Ducati. It is the longest and widest track on the circuit. If it were a golf course, it would be long and flat, without a lot of trees or water. The significant advantage that Rossi enjoys on the small, twisting, tight courses is completely negated at Losail.
Although the race lacked drama, it showed us a few things. Stoner, Rossi and Lorenzo started on the front row and finished in the same order they started; they are the class of the class. American Colin Edwards and his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 overcame a poor start to finish 4th and figures to be competitive all season. Edwards’ teammate, Brit James Toseland, started in 13th place, finished in 16th place, and can now be officially referred to as a “wanker.” Toseland is clearly in team owner Hervé Poncharal’s doghouse.
Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden spent the evening racing motorcycles when they probably should have been racing hospital beds. Pedrosa is nowhere near recovered from surgery in early March, and Hayden, injured in an impressive high side in qualifications on Saturday, ran on pure courage Monday, starting 16th, finishing 12th, and recording his fastest lap on Lap 22. In the words of legendary college basketball announcer Bill Raftery: “Onions!” Both riders appear capable of finishing in the top six most weeks, assuming they can keep their machines upright long enough for their injuries to heal.
Andrea Dovizioso riding the factory Honda started 4th and finished 5th despite having a girl’s name, and seems likely to benefit from the new team and the new tires. Australian Chris Vermeulen, riding the factory Suzuki, started 8th and finished 7th, while teammate Loris Capirossi managed a second row start but faded throughout the evening, eventually crashing out on lap 15. At age 36, he may be over the hill.
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alex De Angelis started in 9th place and finished 6th, a very respectable showing. He and Pedrosa traded paint midway through the race, and Pedrosa called him out afterward, but it looked like they were just racing, nothing malicious. A sophomore in the premier class, he seems to have it going on. However, until he’s riding a Yamaha or a Ducati, he won’t see many podiums. (Ed- mixing it up with the already-injured star factory rider may not put him in Honda’s good books either!)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the performance of Finnish premier class rookie Mika Kallio on the Pramac Racing Ducati. In his eighth year of World Championship racing, he started in 10th place and finished a respectable 8th. He will undoubtedly fare worse on the smaller tracks, but this was a positive start in his premier class debut.
What are we to conclude from the first MotoGP race of the season? Last year’s usual suspects – Stoner, Rossi and Lorenzo – will populate the podiums all year. Yamaha and Ducati will dominate, Honda and Suzuki will trail, and Kawasaki will cease to exist. Pedrosa and Hayden will “play hurt” most of the year. Edwards will be the top American rider, but won’t threaten Rossi and Stoner. Dovizioso and De Angelis will likely join Edwards as bridesmaids. Kallio will likely emerge as the top rookie. And the eventual winner of the 2009 championship will be riding Bridgestone tires.
|2009 MotoGP Qatar results|
|1st||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||1:59.701|
|2nd||Valentino Rossi||Fiat Yamaha||+7.771|
|3rd||Jorge Lorenzo||Fiat Yamaha||+16.244|
|4th||Colin Edwards||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+24.410|
|5th||Andrea Dovizioso||Repsol Honda||+27.263|
|6th||Alex De Angelis||San Carlo Honda Gresini||+29.883|
|7th||Chris Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki||+33.627|
|8th||Mika Kallio||Pramac Racing Ducati||+34.755|
|9th||Toni Elias||San Carlo Honda Gresini||+39.981|
|10th||Randy de Puniet||LCR Honda||+42.284|
|11th||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+48.526|
|12th||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Marlboro||+48.883|
|13th||Sete Gibernau||Francisco Hernando Ducati||+52.215|
|14th||Marco Melandri||Hayate Kawasaki||+56.379|
|15th||Yuki Takahashi||Scot Racing Honda||+60.286|
|16th||James Toseland||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+74.978|
|17th||Niccolo Canepa||Pramac Racing Ducati||+75.028|
|18th||Loris Capirossi||Rizla Suzuki||DNF|
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