MotoGP Qatar Race Report: Stoner Wins Convincingly After Fighting to the Lead


What Happens When the Outcome is Expected but the Method is Not

3:52pm EST — Casey Stoner continued his domination of the Grand Prix of Qatar, winning with more than three seconds over Jorge Lorenzo and five seconds on teammate Dani Pedrosa. Though the Australian dominated at the end, there was plenty of scrapping throughout the race, with Lorenzo leading early on, then Pedrosa, and Valentino Rossi nearly into second at the first turn. He quickly dropped back and spend much of the race fighting over sixth with his replacement Ben Spies. Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli showed the beginnings of what looks to be a major fight for 2011, with the two factory Honda (Repsol Honda and Gresini Honda, respectively) riders fighting tooth and nail over fourth position, with Dovi beating Simo by the end.

Stoner started the 2011 season off well, winning pole for the during Saturday’s qualifying by two tenths over teammate Pedrosa, with Lorenzo completing the front row. Despite fighting for a place on the front row during much of the session, new factory Yamaha rider Spies started fifth, having been pipped by Simoncelli, on on of those very quick Hondas, in the final minutes of the session. Barbera, famous this weekend mainly by catching a tow from anyone available, will complete the second row. Bad form for Ducati continued, with Barbera the quickest for the Italian manufacturer and new hire  Rossi only able to qualify ninth, with fellow factory rider Hayden thirteenth. Rookie Crutchlow qualified a great eighth, despite pain from shearing off the tip of his little finger in a practice accident.

Pedrosa was fastest during the afternoon warm-up, with Stoner close behind. Lorenzo and Spies were the next fastest, as it was in the qualifying session, though Spies was a half second slower than his teammate. Sunday night was the warmest of the weekend, with spirits high even between the factory Ducati riders on the grid. Sole Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista had a difficult crash during the final free practice, breaking his  femur and leaving the team without a rider. John Hopkins will substitute for the team in the second race, at Jerez.

The Hondas were away quickly, but for a moment the great surprise was Rossi’s start. He was almost second into the first turn before getting bogged down in the group and dropping back down to sixth. de Puniet had a scary highside, tucking into himself in the middle of the track as half the field stormed around him. He got up, but was unable to continue. Lorenzo had the lead by the end of the first lap, but was taken by both Honda’s across the line at the end of the second lap. Quickly, Loris Capirossi, who hit his hand on the way past the crashing de Puniet, was in the garage and retired as well.

In the early laps, Rossi slid through on Barbera for sixth on the front straight and into Turn 1, though it was Stoner leading the Honda charge, with Lorenzo keeping Dovizioso from making it a Repsol Honda 1-2-3. By the end of the sixth lap, the top five were making a break for it, with Pedrosa having taken the lead from Stoner. The two had a slight gap on Lorenzo, with the Spaniard looking for a way around his teammate and taking it on the sixth lap out of the slipstream and slotting in front of the Australian into Turn 1. Rossi continued to lag behind the top five, with Spies having overtaken Barbera and closing on the Italian.

At the halfway point, Pedrosa still led Stoner by less than two tenths, with Lorenzo another 1.3s back. Simoncelli, then Dovizioso completed the top five with less than a half second separating them. Rossi and Spies were scrapping for sixth, as Spies had taken it but immediately run wide and given the position back to the man he replaced at the factory Yamaha team. The American had been predicted to be fighting for a podium, but was well back from even the top five. Ewards, Barbera, and Aoyama completed the top ten while Hayden and Crutchlow were in a world of their own, fighting over eleventh position.

Soon, though, Stoner was back around Pedrosa and off into his own land, with 1.3s between them by end end of L13. Lorenzo was nearly a second behind his rival Spaniard, with a comfortable margin over Simoncelli, who had Dovizioso nearly on his rear wheel. Within a couple of laps, Lorenzo made up a considerable margin on Pedrosa and sailed past to take second on L15. Spies and Rossi continued their fight, with Spies again nearly taking sixth, going wide, sliding up the inside on the next turn and keeping the position as Rossi’s right foot slid off the peg.

With five laps left in the twenty-two lap race, Pedrosa was back around Lorenzo for second. Simoncelli still led Dovizioso, Spies, Rossi, Edwards, Hayden, and Aoyama as the top ten. Quickly, Dovizioso was back around Simoncelli for fourth. Pedrosa and Lorenzo continued to fight, more than three seconds behind Stoner. Meanwhile, at the very back of the field, Toni Elias crashed out of the race as his bike seemed to simply drop out from underneath him. He seemed to be unhurt, though his leathers were another matter.

By the final two laps, Lorenzo had maintained a second, then two second gap on Pedrosa, while racing around three second behind Stoner. Stoner won, as many had expected, with Lorenzo and Pedrosa completing the podium. Pedrosa appeared quite sick after getting off his Honda and complained of arm pump, which could explain his drifting backward in the latter stages of the race.

Final Positions for the 2011 Grand Prix of Qatar:

Pos. # Rider Team Gap
1. 27 Casey Stoner Repsol Honda
2. 1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Factory +3.440
3. 26 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +5.051
4. 4 Andrea Dovizioso Repsol Honda +5.942
5. 58 Marco Simoncelli San Carlo Gresini Honda +7.358
6. 11 Ben Spies Yamaha Factory +10.468
7. 46 Valentino Rossi Ducati +16.431
8. 5 Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha +26.293
9. 69 Nicky Hayden Ducati +27.416
10. 7 Hiroshi Aoyama San Carlo Gresini Honda +28.920
11. 35 Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha +34.539
12. 8 Hector Barbera Mapfre Aspar Ducati +34.829
13. 17 Karel Abraham Cardio AB Motoracing Ducati +37.957
24 Toni Elias LCR Honda CRASH
65 Loris Capirossi Pramac Ducati RET
14 Randy de Puniet Pramac Ducati CRASH
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4 Comments

  1. Cracking race review; much better detail than half the jargon that gets posted on so-called proper or official websites! So thanks for posting.

    If you’re interested, we’ve just published an article on how Stoner’s ominous pace in pre-season and in Qatar makes him look a likely shoe-in for the title this season. Feel free to have a browse and lay or comment or two down on it! http://wp.me/p16qgr-yL

    Kudos on the blog by the way… can see a lot of effort goes into it! A dedicated writer indeed…

    • Thanks so much!
      Glad to see you’re enjoying the site, please return often.

      • I intend on doing so. Just so you know, I’ve included your blog on our blogroll – so hopefully a few of our readers might head your way. All the best.

      • Thanks again.
        I popped over to your site, too. You guys cover a little bit of everything, don’t you?!
        G’luck to you as well. Feel free to comment or email anytime.


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