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.

It took a bit longer than expected but the 2009 MotoGP season is underway!

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.

Colin Edwards continues to outshine his teammate James Toseland.
Chris Vermeulen fared much better than teammate Loris Capirossi who crashed out. Wonder how Suzuki would do if they had a talented three-time AMA Champ ...

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.

Casey Stoner continues his dominance of Doha. Valentino Rossi doesn't seem too concerned about finishing second.

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
Pos. Rider Team Time
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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