Casey Stoner wins MotoGP opener

Casey Stone leads Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa

Casey Stone leads Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa

Casey Stoner has scored victory on his return to Honda wining the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, the opening round of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship.

Stoner finished 3.440 seconds ahead of second placed Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing).

It had been eight years since a Honda rider won the opening round of the MotoGP season, the last rider to do so was Valentino Rossi in 2003 at Suzuka. Stoner continued his impressive record at the Losail International Circuit, following on from his victories in 2008 and 2009. The Australian claimed his 24th MotoGP victory.

“After a great pre-season, we came into this race weekend and everything kept getting better and better for us,” said Stoner.

“Tonight the bike was fantastic, as it has been for all the sessions and I’m very proud to be racing for Repsol Honda and to take my first victory in the first race.

“It is a great way to start the season! I’m really happy with how everything has gone and the way the team has all worked together, a big thanks to Honda and my best wishes to Japan in this difficult time”.

The 22 lap race was run in the best conditions of the weekend with fairly high temperatures without the strong winds that had been feared. It produced a thrilling race with close encounters throughout the pack.

Pedrosa took the lead from the start of the race and then it was the reigning World Champion, Lorenzo who took up the mantle as race leader. What followed was fierce between the two Spaniards and Stoner, with the Repsol Honda’s eventually pulling an advantage. Stoner and Pedrosa swapped position for the lead on several occasions and at the midway point, the pole sitter, increased his pace and set off for the chequered flag. This left the two championship rivals from 2010 duelling it out for second place and it was the Yamaha rider taking the runner-up spot.

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) were involved in a close battle for fourth place throughout the race and it was the Repsol Honda who took the first position off the podium. Dovizioso finished 5.942 seconds behind Stoner.

There was much anticipation surrounding the debut of Valentino Rossi with the Ducati Team. The Italian finished seventh after racing Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing), after swapping places with the American, the Yamaha got the advantage over the Ducati to take sixth place.

Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was eighth, with Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) completing the top ten. Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) managed to take 11th place on the last lap ahead of Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar Team). GP debutant Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) was the final rider to pass the chequered flag and earned himself three points, with just 13 riders finishing the first race of the season.

See below for results, and bottom for video.

Pos. Num. Rider Nation Team Bike Time/Gap
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
24 Toni ELIAS SPA LCR Honda MotoGP Honda 4 Laps
65 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Pramac Racing Team Ducati 21 Laps
14 Randy DE PUNIET FRA Pramac Racing Team Ducati 0 Lap

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