MotoGP: Qatar GP Turns into a Two-Wheeled Battle Royal

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The MotoGP season is underway in earnest now, as the premier class took to the desert’s night sky in Qatar for the inaugural race of the 2011 MotoGP Championship season. With the Repsol Hondas seemingly operating in a parallel universe, all eyes were on the rest of the field to see if they could touch the dynamic duo of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.

With the pair joined by Jorge Lorenzo on the grid, the Spaniard was eight tenths of second slower in qualifying than the second-fastest Honda of Pedrosa. Some worried that the MotoGP fans of Qatar would be in for a follow-the-leader race, but those concerns were put to rest as multiple bouts between riders erupted on the night track. Spoilers on the Qatar GP after the jump.

With the flag dropping against the Arabian night, the first lap saw all the riders make it through Turn 1 unscathed. Unfortunately for Randy de Puniet his old ways of crashing seem to be rearing their ugly head again, as the Frenchman was in the gravel before making a complete lap around the circuit.

Taking the lead in the first lap was Jorge Lorenzo, but he would swiftly be chased down by the ridiculously quick Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa. Stoner lead the first five laps, then swapped places with Pedrosa in Lap 6, who then took over for the six laps. Stoner definitively answered Pedrosa’s challenge in the twelfth lap, and proceeded to check-out from the race at the point forward, taking the gap up to 3.376 seconds by the finish line.

By Lap 14, Stoner’s battle with Pedrosa soon became Pedrosa’s battle with Jorge Lorenzo. The two Spaniards have no love lost between them, and both were pushing their machines to the very edge trying to catch each other. Battling all the way to the final lap, Lorenzo was able to best Pedrosa, who was dealing with immense pain from his still injured left shoulder after the race.

The battle for fourth was equally entertaining as the battle for second, as Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli delighted fans with their maneuverings. Dovi lead Simoncelli though Lap 7, but saw his fellow Italian begin to challenge him by the 5th lap. Leading Dovizioso through Lap 17, Simoncelli finally had to relinquish his lead, watching Dovi slip through his grasp. The pair would fight it out to the line, in another epic showing of racing at Qatar.

Though finishing seventh, Valentino Rossi found himself battling with Ben Spies & Hector Barbera for sixth early on the in the race. Once Barbera’s pace could longer stay with the pair, he fell from their ranks, leaving Spies to work on Rossi unhindered. Finally in the 17th lap, Spies got past and clear of Rossi, and into open track. Fading from the pace with his injured shoulder, Rossi would drop to three seconds behind Spies as they crossed the finish line.

Americans Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden finished farther down the grid, finishing the race 8th and 9th respectively, which was mixed result for Edwards and a disappointment for Hayden. The Pramac Ducati team must also be frustrated with its outing in Qatar as well, seeing both of its riders retire from the race due to the same incident.

Crashing in the first lap, Randy de Puniet’s bike clipped Loris Capirossi’s hand, hyper-extending his finger. Capirex was in such pain, he returned to the pits a lap later, fearing he’d broken his finger. Toni Elias also didn’t make the race distance, touching the white line with four laps remaing, the Spanish rider went for a high-speed fall, marring his MotoGP return.

Race Results from MotoGP at the Qatar GP:

Pos. No. Rider Nation Team Bike Diff
1 27 Casey STONER AUS Repsol Honda Team Honda 42’38.569
2 1 Jorge LORENZO SPA Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha +3.440
3 26 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda +5.051
4 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Repsol Honda Team Honda +5.942
5 58 Marco SIMONCELLI ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda +7.358
6 11 Ben SPIES USA Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha +10.468
7 46 Valentino ROSSI ITA Ducati Team Ducati +16.431
8 5 Colin EDWARDS USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha +26.293
9 69 Nicky HAYDEN USA Ducati Team Ducati +27.416
10 7 Hiroshi AOYAMA JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda +28.920
11 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha +34.539
12 8 Hector BARBERA SPA Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP Ducati +34.829
13 17 Karel ABRAHAM CZE Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati +37.957
Not Classified
DNF 24 Toni ELIAS SPA LCR Honda MotoGP Honda 4 Laps
DNF 65 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Pramac Racing Team Ducati 21 Laps
DNF 14 Randy DE PUNIET FRA Pramac Racing Team Ducati 0 Lap

Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved