Dorna press release:
As the action in the premier class of the 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship finally got underway, at the spectacular Losail International Circuit on Monday night, it was Casey Stoner who took the headlines, completing a hat-trick of season-opening wins at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.
Following the exceptional postponement of the opening MotoGP contest of the year due to rain in the Arabian desert, Monday night witnessed the first race in the new single tyre supplier era, but it was a familiar story with Stoner crossing the line first, ahead of World Champion Valentino Rossi.
A ruthless Stoner took the holeshot from pole and had built up a two second gap at the end of the first lap. The 2007 World Champion’s victory never looked in serious doubt as he controlled the race from the front, having been the fastest rider in every session over the weekend. His winning margin was more than seven seconds at the end of a brilliant performance, casting aside any doubts about his fitness after winter surgery on his left wrist.
Completing the podium behind the front two was Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha colleague Jorge Lorenzo repeating his rostrum result from his MotoGP debut in the opening race of 2008, in his first race on Bridgestone tyres.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards started his seventh season in MotoGP riding solidly from sixth on the grid to finish fourth on his own Bridgestone debut, making it three Yamahas in the top four.
Also on new tyres and with a new factory bike Repsol Honda’s 2009 signing Andrea Dovizioso was fifth, fading slightly in the second half of the race having run in third place for several laps.
There was a good performance from Alex de Angelis, crossing the line sixth having qualified ninth at the start of his second year with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team. Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen also made a decent start to the year with his improved GSV-R machine in seventh.
An excellent MotoGP debut from satellite Ducati rider Mika Kallio, meanwhile, saw him end up as the best placed rookie in eighth for the Pramac Racing team.
On factory machinery and returning to the Honda Gresini team this year, Toni Elías could not do better than ninth, whilst Frenchman Randy de Puniet brought the satellite LCR Honda RC212V home three seconds behind the Spaniard to complete the top ten.
Dani Pedrosa, riding with knee and wrist injuries, battled through the pain barrier to pick up some important points in eleventh spot. On his Ducati debut, Pedrosa’s former team-mate Nicky Hayden also did well to complete the race in twelfth, given the back and chest injuries he suffered in a huge highside crash in qualifying on Saturday. The brave 2006 World Champion even set his best time on the last lap.
Sete Gibernau finished 13th on his MotoGP comeback with the satellite Ducati Grupo Francisco Hernando team, unable to push into the top ten due to his ongoing shoulder injury.
Marco Melandri made his first appearance for the Hayate Racing Team and ran off track early on but battled back well to finish in the points in 14th.
Commencing his 20th Grand Prix season Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi crashed out on lap eight and was unable to rejoin the race.
Ducati Marlboro press release:
Casey Stoner took a dominant victory in the opening round of 2009 MotoGP World Championship and his third in consecutive years at the Grand Prix Qatar in tonight’s rescheduled race under the floodlights of Losail. With torrential rain forcing the postponement of the original contest last night, the riders returned to the track today for a 20-minute warm-up at 1830h ahead of a 2100h start. The nervous wait didn’t seem to affect the Australian, who launched from pole position to lead the entire distance, maintaining his searing pace in the second half of the race to keep the chasing Valentino Rossi at bay.
Nicky Hayden produced an equally impressive display and whilst the result was not as spectacular as Stoner’s his determination certainly was. The American suffered a heavy crash during Saturday’s qualifying session that left him nursing an extremely sore back and three stitches in his chest but he valiantly battled through to take twelfth place, almost snatching eleventh from Dani Pedrosa on the line with an exciting late charge.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 1st
“I’m so pleased with this victory because it is fruit of the hard work done by everybody at Ducati over the winter. It has been difficult to work in such short sessions here this weekend and going into the race last night we took a gamble with a setting change that we weren’t sure about, but we got the opportunity to try it in warm-up and it felt great, so thank you to the team that worked really hard during the whole week-end. That gave me more confidence ahead of the race. We knew this circuit is demanding for fuel consumpionts and I had to adapt my style a little to keep the pace up and hold the advantage over Valentino but finally we didn’t have problems at all with it. My wrist felt 100% tonight but I still need to work on my overall fitness after the down time over the winter and I’m sure we can keep progressing.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati Marlboro Team) 12th
“It’s been a tough weekend and we’ve had a lot of issues – obviously a 130mph high-side doesn’t help things but nothing really went smooth. In the beginning of the race I was quite slow, I didn’t get a great start but actually as the fuel load changed and I got a better feeling I got faster and faster and the last five or six laps were my fastest of the whole weekend. It would have been nice to nick Dani at the end there but I think the team have showed that even though a lot of stuff has gone against us this weekend we’re not going to give up. Hopefully the bad stuff is behind us now and Casey has shown the potential of the bike, so crazy as it sounds I’m leaving here in a really positive mood and looking forward to Motegi.”
Pramac Ducati press release:
Great begin for the Pramac Racing Team rider, Mika Kallio, who has conquered at his debut in the top class an excellent eight position. The Grand Prix of Qatar didn’t start too well for the Finnish rider who lost two positions after starting in tenth place. Thanks to his rhythm he has came back concluding at only ten seconds from the fourth position. His teammate, the debutant Niccolņ Canepa, has now passed the emotion of the first race in the World Championship and he will have the opportunity to do better in two weeks time in the next race in Japan on the Motegi circuit.
Fabiano Sterlacchini – Pramac Racing Technical Director
“Happy. A lot. Beside the eight final position, the riders that were in front of him didn’t have such a faster rhythm. Unluckily Mika didn’t start well and in the first laps lost some time otherwise he could have finish in a better position. Anyway we are positive because the rhythm he maintained for the all race is excellent for a debutant. For Niccolņ we are happy that he passed this first Grand Prix without any mistakes, of course he will have to improve, but I think that the many emotions he lived this weekend has limited his performances in his first appearance in the top class.”
Mika Kallio – Pramac Racing rider – 8th position
“Before coming here I thought that if I would have finished in the top ten I would have been satisfied: the eight position is therefore a really good result. I didn’t manage to start in the best way, but I have maintained a good rhythm. I tried to catch the group in front of me, but after a few laps I thought to keep my rhythm and this strategy paid off. In the last laps I was seeing Vermeulen closer and closer and I think that if I would have had a couple of more laps I could have pass him. Anyway in general we had a positive weekend and we will try to continue on this direction in the next appointment in Japan.”
Niccolņ Canepa – Pramac Racing rider – 17th position
“I hoped to do better to be honest, but it has been a difficult weekend since the first session and we couldn’t expect a miracle for the race. In the last laps I made it to stay with Toseland and I learnt many things. We will try to improve our performances in Japan even if it will be the first time for me in Japan, but I will surely be more aggressive because it is what I need.”
Rizla Suzuki press release:
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP’s Chris Vermeulen equalled his best-ever result at Losail in Qatar tonight by racing his Suzuki GSV-R to seventh place.
Vermeulen got a good start from the third row of the grid and was up with the leading group early on. As the race settled down he was involved in a number of battles with various riders and fought all the way to the line to score his – and Rizla Suzuki’s – first points of the 2009 MotoGP season.
Loris Capirossi had a less successful race, as he crashed out on lap eight. Starting from fifth on the grid Capirossi got off the line very well and was up into second place by the first corner – a position he held for the first two laps. As the race wore on he experienced a dramatic loss in front tyre performance and eventually lost the front-end of the bike and crashed. Suzuki’s tough Italian walked away unhurt from the high-speed crash and will be fit for the next round in two week’s time.
Today’s race was held in dry and fine conditions with track and air temperatures both in the 20ºCs, stark contrast to yesterday’s torrential downpour that led to the race being postponed and rescheduled for today. Ducati’s Casey Stoner led the race from start to finish to record his third successive victory at the Qatari circuit.
Rizla Suzuki now travels to Suzuki’s home Grand Prix in Japan, which will be held at the Motegi Twin Ring Circuit on Sunday 26th April.
“I made a good start and got into a good group of guys straight away and I was hoping to stay there. The track conditions were a bit different to what it had been all weekend and it was very different to the test which was how I had the bike set-up, and to be honest I really struggled for front-end feeling. Towards the end of the race the rear tyre performance dropped off as well so that’s something we’ve really got to work on. It’s hard though with the lack of testing in race conditions and also on race weekend’s with the sessions being shorter and there being less of them, it makes it very difficult to put race distance on the tyres and to iron out any other problems. It was not the result we wanted because we were hoping to be in the top-five. We have got quite a bit of work to do to catch up to the podium so we need to put our thinking caps on and go to Motegi and have a better performance!”
“I feel really sorry for the whole team, because all winter we have worked so hard and have gone quite well so this was hard to take. It was really strange today because our practice has been good, but in this evening’s warm-up I had a big problem with chatter, this hadn’t happened all weekend and then during the race it was the same. The front tyre didn’t work like normal either, I had done 25 to 30 laps on the same tyre with no problems and the feeling had always been good, but today after just five laps it felt like it was destroyed! This race is over now and we have to concentrate on the next one and find out why the things that happened today occurred.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“Without doubt it was the right thing for MotoGP to stay on and race here at Qatar tonight, but unfortunately for Rizla Suzuki our bike worked quite differently than it had done all weekend for both riders. We suffered from a serious lack of front grip and some bad vibration which restricted both the guys. Clearly some of our competitors were far less affected by the different conditions and the Team – and Factory – will be working very hard to understand the difference in performance between tonight and the rest of the weekend. We will now go to Motegi and push 100% to perform a lot better at Suzuki’s home GP!”
Fiat Yamaha press release:
Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo put in a strong opening showing for the Fiat Yamaha Team tonight, finishing second and third under the Qatar floodlights after the race was delayed 24 hours following last night’s heavy rain. Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards brought his M1 home in fourth, making it three Yamaha’s in the top four, with Casey Stoner taking the race win.
Starting from second on the grid, Rossi lost some ground at the start and was passed by Loris Capirossi and then Lorenzo. He had passed his team-mate back by the end of the first lap and on lap three he despatched Capirossi, but by that time Stoner was already some three seconds clear. The world champion set off in pursuit and after ten laps had closed the gap to less than two seconds, but the wear and tear from pushing so hard on his Bridgestone tyres was beginning to tell and he wisely chose to settle for the safe option and twenty points, crossing the line 7.771 seconds adrift.
His team-mate Lorenzo, who finished second here last year in what was his first MotoGP race, rode a spirited race from the third grid spot. He slipped down to sixth at one point but found his rhythm and fought back to pass Edwards, Capirossi and eventually Dovizioso to take the final podium spot, a further eight seconds behind Rossi.
Round two of the MotoGP World Championship takes place at Motegi in Japan in just under two weeks time.
Position: 2nd Time: +7.771
“So I think it’s definitely more fun to race on a Monday than test, like last year! Today the conditions of the track were quite different to before and this evening in warm-up we encountered a couple of small problems related to tyres, so our strategy had to change slightly tonight. It’s a pity because I think last night we could have put up more of a fight, but anyway this is a good result to start the season, much better than last year. I knew I needed a good start in order to go with Stoner but unfortunately I didn’t get one and I lost some time fighting with Lorenzo and Capirossi and by then Stoner had already gone! The middle part of the race was great fun and I made six or seven good laps to come much closer, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue in that rhythm, it was too risky for the tyres and I decided it was more important to take the 20 points. Casey was very strong today but he is always fast here and I believe that our potential is very good; I think that we can be back fighting again in Motegi. I am so glad we could race today after yesterday and I am satisfied to be leaving here having made a good start to the season – it is long!”
Position: 3rd Time: +16.244
“I am so happy to be on the podium tonight, I really enjoyed some parts of the race when I made some good overtakes and felt confident enough to take some risks. The grip of the track was better tonight but my rear tyre was moving from the start, so this is something we need to address and improve. Apart from the result and the points it is clear we have some work to do because our pace tonight was too far off Rossi and especially Stoner. The gap is too big! After yesterday’s crazy weather I am really happy we could race, it was very important for everyone and now we have got the season underway with a good result, my aim is to be much closer to the leaders in Motegi.”
“We didn’t win but we can consider this a good start to the season, certainly much better than in 2008. Now we need to work to fix one or two small problems that we have. The middle part of the race was good, we were gaining on Stoner but in the latter stages he was in a better condition to push and Valentino was right to settle for second. It’s a long championship and the points are important. We are confident that we will be able to battle with Stoner in Motegi.”
“We are happy with the result because we have started the season well and this is very important, especially with so many rule changes to get used to. It is clear that we have some hard work to do in order to close the gap on the leaders and that we need to improve our setting further, so this will be our target for Motegi. Well done to everyone for the effort to get the race run tonight, it was very important to have the chance to compete.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 press release:
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team finally ended an eventful Qatar MotoGP weekend with Colin Edwards riding to a brilliant fourth place finish in tonight’s rescheduled opening race.
The race was run nearly 24 hours late after the opening round of the 2009 world championship was postponed because of a freak desert storm last night. Tonight’s race went ahead over the scheduled 22-lap distance after Losail International Circuit staff spent the day using specialist vehicles to clear dust and sand off the surface.
Edwards produced one of the best performances of the race in which he was able to showcase his overtaking skills. His stunning surge from ninth on lap one culminated with a pass by Andrea Dovizioso for fourth on lap 14 to ensure Yamaha claimed three of the top four places.
British rider James Toseland looked well set for a top ten challenge as he shadowed Randy de Puniet and Mika Kallio in the early stages. But just as he closed in for an attack, he ran off into the gravel trap at the final corner on lap seven after a tangle with Toni Elias. He got back on track and finished just outside the points in 16th position.
Colin Edwards 4th – 13pts
“That was a good start to the season after I made a rubbish start to the race. I thought I’d got a good start but the next thing I know is everybody flying by me. I was way down and it cost me the chance to fight for the podium really. I’m not saying I could have run with Jorge (Lorenzo) because he was riding really well, but it would have been nice to give myself a shot. The track conditions were good considering the rain we had last night and I just concentrated on being smooth and not abusing the tyre too much and it paid off because when I caught (Andrea) Dovizioso I could see he was having some issues. By the time I passed him for fourth, Jorge was long gone and it was going to take a massive mistake from him for me to get close to Jorge but I kept pushing. I’d like to think I could have kept the pace with Jorge if I’d got a good start, but it’s easy to say that after the race. The grip from Bridgestone was really good and I’m glad we all stayed and raced. I just want to say thanks to all my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3. It has been a long and difficult weekend but we have all pulled together, stayed strong and focused and come out with a good result, so I’m looking forward to another good race in Japan next time out.”
James Toseland 16th – 0pts
“It has been a difficult weekend to say the least and I know we have got a long way to catch up. This race was almost like a test for me, and like in testing, I didn’t have a lot of luck out there. I felt like I could fight for the top ten but Toni Elias came up the inside of me at the final corner as I was closing on Randy de Puniet and Mika Kallio. He touched me and I went off into the gravel and that left me out of the points unfortunately. We tried a different front-end setting for the race to try and solve some stability issues I’ve been having, and there is plenty of room for improvement. I just need time on the bike and a bit of luck to go my way. My guys have put in a lot of effort this weekend and I’m confident I can get a good result in Japan for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team.”
Repsol Honda press release:
Repsol Honda riders Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa put on a battling display in the Qatar Grand Prix, finishing in fifth and eleventh places in the delayed opening round of the MotoGP World Championship. Both came away feeling positive after an eventful weekend, yet also believed their finishing positions didn’t fully reflect their potential in this dramatic 22-lap race.
Making his race debut in the factory Honda team, Dovizioso didn’t get the best of starts and slipped from fourth on the grid to seventh in the first few corners. The 23-year-old Italian then unleashed a series of scorching moves in the opening laps, climbing to third place and setting off in pursuit of Valentino Rossi. His blistering progress was only subdued by a feeling of reduced grip from the front of his RC212V which forced Dovizioso to slow slightly and adjust his riding style. He came home in a creditable fifth to collect 11 points.
No one would have believed his Repsol Honda team-mate, Dani Pedrosa, was riding injured as he stormed through the field from his starting position of 14th. The tough Spaniard was up to an amazing sixth place by lap eight and, considering that he’s been unable to ride for over five weeks as he recovered from surgery, an incredible result looked possible. However, the 24-year-old began to experience some vibration from his front wheel and started slip back through the field. He wasn’t helped by Alex de Angelis who spectacularly slammed into the side of Pedrosa – who had been forced wide as Chris Vermeulen slipped by to take sixth place. At the chequered flag, a battered and bruised Pedrosa valiantly held on to eleventh place to collect five valuable points – confirming that his decision to race in Qatar was the right one.
The Repsol Honda squad now heads for their home race, the Japanese Grand Prix which takes place at the Twin Ring Motegi, in two week’s time.
Andrea Dovizioso, 5th
“I didn’t start well but I was able to overtake some riders and get into third position. During the first three laps the machine was performing really well – as it had during practice – and I tried to keep in contact with Valentino, but then I started struggling with the front. It was folding entering the corners and, later, also mid-corner, so I couldn’t turn as I would have liked. I had to slow down and compensate by turning with the rear tyre. We never had this issue during practice or the pre-season tests, so we need to understand what happened and do some more work to adapt the machine to the tyres. It was a very hard fight today, and I’m satisfied that we learned a lot here in practice and during the race. Now we’ll analyze the data and work hard for the next one in Japan.”.
Dani Pedrosa, 11th
“Overall I’m happy because of my progress over the weekend. I improved in every session and I’m glad to have come here and scored five points – though I’m also slightly disappointed because it could even have been ten or eleven. I got a good start and the race was going very well at the beginning. After seven or eight laps, though, I had started to get some vibration with the front wheel which became more severe as the race progressed. I started to lose grip at the front and my lap times suffered, so we’ll have to check what the issue was. I also suffered a lot physically in the race, and de Angelis gave me a big hit mid-race. The collision was avoidable I think because he could have passed me cleanly. My knee was giving me a lot of pain by the end and my left arm was pretty tired too. Still, we came away having completed the race and with a few points, which was our target, so I’m happy.”
Kazuhiko Yamano – Team Manager
“Both riders were fighting hard to the chequered flag and I’m very pleased with their performance this weekend. We’ve amassed a lot of data from both machines and from Andrea and Dani’s feedback, and we’ll use this to work on the areas where we need to improve our machine’s performance. Now we’re back racing again we know what we’ve got to do. The weekend has been positive overall, but fifth and 11th isn’t where we want to be, so we’ll continue to work hard and move forward.”