MotoGP: 2010 Qatar Results

Rossi swipes the season opener as Stoner bites the dust

The 2010 MotoGP premier class season opened much as expected Sunday night in beautiful Doha, Qatar, with Casey Stoner on the pole and the two Fiat Yamaha studs on the front row. Five laps into the race, Stoner was done for the night, and Round 1 was suddenly up for grabs. Valentino Rossi then spent another day at the office demonstrating that he is the best in the business and the odds-on favorite to repeat as World Champion. However, some emerging guns are suggesting that it’s not all going to be business as usual in 2010.

Early on, one could see this wasn’t going to be no steenkin’ procession. Although Rossi ended up leading 17 of the 22 laps, Dani Pedrosa, Stoner and an ascendant Andrea Dovizioso all enjoyed some time in the lead. At the moment when Stoner lost the front end on Lap 5, Rossi, Pedrosa, Nicky Hayden and Dovizioso were all within 3 seconds of him and within a half second of one another.

Defending MotoGP Champion Valentino Rossi earned his first victory at the Losail Circuit since 2006, snapping Casey Stoner's winning streak in Qatar.

Jorge Lorenzo, New Kid in Town Ben Spies and a surprising Randy de Puniet were all running within three seconds of Dovizioso. Lap 6 of this race was about as good as it ever gets in MotoGP, with the top 13 riders all within 9 seconds of each other. It was, as they say in the Southwest Airlines commercials, “ON”.

A glance at the top eight finishers at Qatar provides some useful insights:

2010 Grand Prix of Qatar - Top Eight Finishers
Pos. Rider Nation Team
1st Valentino Rossi Italy Fiat Yamaha
2nd Jorge Lorenzo Spain Fiat Yamaha
3rd Andrea Dovizioso Italy Repsol Honda
4th Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Marlboro
5th Ben Spies USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
6th Randy de Puniet France LCR Honda
7th Dani Pedrosa Spain Repsol Honda
8th Colin Edwards USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3

  • Three of the top eight finishers were Americans.
  • Nicky Hayden is going to be a factor again this year, the way he was in 2008. Not the champion he was in 2007, but a definite contender.
  • Ben Spies is for real. A legitimate threat to win the title in the foreseeable future. Ditto for Dovizioso.
  • Yamaha is the top machine out there. Ducati may be the most overrated machine out there. Honda has a puncher’s chance most weeks. Suzuki is out to lunch.
  • Randy de Puniet is improving. He may belong in my mythical Division 1. In that he’s French, I expect him to run stronger in practice than in races. At Doha he qualified 4th and finished 6th.
  • Dani Pedrosa is not yet up to speed this year. Although he got off to his usual un-freaking-believable start, he qualified 7th and finished 7th.
  • For perhaps the first time EVER, Jorge Lorenzo exhibited some patience and maturity. After getting off to his customary poor start, he appeared content to settle back in 6th place. At Stoner’s exit he moved into 5th. At Lap 7 he sat in 4th place, where he remained, biding his time, until Lap 21, when he ate Hayden’s, and then Dovizioso’s lunch and got Rossi in his crosshairs. At the finish, he trailed Rossi by a mere second. If the race had lasted one more lap he probably would have won. Is this a new, improved Jorge Lorenzo, one with only six engines to last an entire season? We’ll find out.
Ben Spies is off to an impressive start, finishing fifth in his first race as a full-time MotoGP racer.

Good Nights, Bad Nights

For a few riders, Sunday was a great night. Rossi and Lorenzo obviously enjoyed themselves, Valentino appreciably more than Jorge. Andrea Dovizioso started 6th, finished 3rd and was able to put away Nicky Hayden in the final straight. So much for the Ducati’s pure straight-ahead speed. Hayden, for his part, started 9th and finished 4th, a mere blink of an eye off the podium. Not a bad start to the season after the debacle that was 2009.

With a fourth-place finish in Qatar, Nicky Hayden is off to a strong start to the 2010 season.
Come on Bruce, say what you want about Loris Capirossi and the Suzuki GSV-R, but at the very least, you've got to respect that hair.
Fellow American Ben Spies started 11th and finished 5th, and must be elated about his Monster Tech 3 debut. Yamaha, too, must be happy that they have some immediate bench strength in the event Rossi or Lorenzo bolts or starts making unearthly contract demands.

Bluntly stated, it was a terrible night for Ducati Bologna. They occupied spots numbered 1, 9, 12, 14 and 16 on the starting grid. At the finish, they recorded a 4th, a 12th and three DNFs. Mika Kallio started 12th, finished Lap 1 in last place, finished Lap 2 in 15th place and crashed out on Lap 3. Stoner left the building while leading on Lap 5. Aleix Espargaro vacated the premises on Lap 8 while running in 11th place. Rookie Hector Barbera qualified 16th and finished 12th out of 13 riders to actually complete the race. Were it not for Nicky Hayden, Team Ducati would have gone into Round 2 trailing Team Suzuki in manufacturer’s points. Buon Dio onnipotente!

In addition to Stoner and Kallio, it was a disappointing night for de Puniet, who must have had a podium in mind, starting from the four hole and then watching Stoner go walkabout. And, sadly, Loris Capirossi’s troubles continue, as he managed a second row start in 5th place but ran 8th and 9th all night long, and never came close to threatening the leaders. MotoGP start #300 had to have been a big disappointment for one of the good guys in racing. (Ed: You've gotta dig Capirex's sideburns though.)

How ’Bout Them Rookies?

The four graduates from the 250 Club performed about as expected in their premier class debuts:

The Rookies from the 250cc Class
Name Team Started Finished
Hiroshi Aoyama Interwetten Honda 10th 10th
Alvaro Bautista Rizla Suzuki 13th DNF (Lap 22)
Marco Simoncelli San Carlo Honda Gresini 15th 11th
Hector Barbera Paginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati 16th 12th

Reigning 250cc World Champion Aoyama was clearly the most impressive of the four. Simoncelli’s and Barbera’s apparent progress in the standings was the result of passing riders who were lying on the ground, bleeding. At least these two rooks managed to stay on their rides. Bautista made what they call a “rookie mistake”, crashing out on the last lap while running 12th and giving up four championship points in the process. Too many more of those and he’ll be running Moto2 next year.

Hiroshi Aoyama fights off Marco Melandri. As he often did in his 2009 Championship-winning season, Aoyama finished ahead of his former rivals from the 250cc class.

One Last Dig

Anyone think Fausto Gresini is regretting giving Alex de Angelis the boot and demoting Toni Elias to Moto2 last year? Both riders have been near the top of the Moto2 leader boards in testing and during the run-up to Qatar. Meanwhile, rookie Simoncelli is riding, well, like a rookie, while veteran Marco Melandri maintained a pretty solid grip on last place on Sunday night, finishing 13th out of 13 riders to complete the race. If nothing else, at least Melandri and Simoncelli are Italian, which must count for something.

Up Next: Round 2 – Motegi, Japan – April 25th

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