Ducati's Marlboro rider Casey Stoner grabbed his first victory in the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) in the opening round for the new 800cc era in the Grand Prix of Qatar disputed at the Losail International Circuit of Doha.
"We couldn't ask for much more, it was my first time racing with Ducati and Bridgestone, a perfect start. I couldn't be happier with the weekend, the team worked perfectly and the bike and tyres were perfect in the race," said the Aussie.
After a fight of 22 laps, the podium was completed by Valentino Rossi for the Fiat Yamaha Team and Dani Pedrosa with the Repsol Honda. Stoner started from second on the grid, but set the tone of the race when he pulled a cheeky move on Rossi at the end of the first lap of competition.
"We had a bit of a speed advantage and though we had some dramas in other parts of the track I played to the strengths of the bike and was able to do some pretty fast lap times," Stoner offered about his race.
From that point, a three-rider pack formed what would become in the exclusive dispute for the victory between Stoner, Rossi and Pedrosa, breaking away from the rest of the field.
Rossi attempted to take a more permanent lead on lap 18, and it seemed that he was on course for a third consecutive victory at Doha. However, Stoner proved his talent and maturity in his debut on a Ducati and pull away by nearly three seconds before taking the chequered flag.
"Valentino and I had a good battle, it was nice riding up front again. When he came by later on I decided to see how much further the bike can go and I was able to break a bit of an advantage. On the last lap I didn't realize I had a gap and rode the fastest lap, which shows how well the Bridgestones worked," commented Stoner. "I'm really happy with the way things are going and think we'll get stronger and stronger, but we'll have to see how the season pans out. I'm leading the championship which feels a little strange but it's only the first race of a very, very long year."
For Rossi, it was a good result thinking in his aim of getting back the championship he lost last year. "It was a great race today and a good battle, although of course we would have preferred to start the season with a win!"
"After the practice this morning we were a little bit scared because we had some problems with the tyre, but we understood what to do and I definitely made the right tyre choice with Michelin, so I am happy for that. I got a great start and my M1 worked very well, I could ride it how I wanted on the limit and keep pushing. I wanted to push Casey and try to take the fight to him more, but in fact he was perfect today. He didn't make a single mistake as far as I could see and he rode very well; he deserved to win so congratulations to him," recognized the Italian on a great race with Stoner.
Pedrosa took third place and important points for the title battle, but it wasn't just another podium for the Spaniard, who by crossing the line in third, the Repsol Honda rider took his ninth MotoGP podium in only his second season in the premier class.
Adding to his 17 podiums in the 125cc class and 24 podiums in 250s, Pedrosa notched up 50 Grand Prix podiums at the tender age of 21 years and 162 days. The previous holder of this record was Valentino Rossi, who was 22 years and 93 days old when he took his 50th GP podium at the French GP in 2001.
"I'm happy with the result today and to start the season with a third place is pretty useful. We had a fair few problems this weekend, so to finish on the podium is good for us." Pedrosa said. "I made a great start which I was happy with because my practice starts this weekend weren't as good as this. In the race I was trying to ride at the maximum and then I made a mistake in the last corner and lost the slipstream to the riders in front. Anyway I was not able to follow them in the corners because I was having some wheelspin and I lost my rhythm a little."
About what's coming next after this season opener in Qatar, Pedrosa added: "This season is going to be a tough competition between the bikes, tyres and the riders and it should be very interesting. The next race is very important and Jerez is a great track, so I hope we can move on from the good result today and do great job there."
John Hopkins had a steady pace with the Rizla Suzuki to take home a fourth followed by Marco Melandri on a Honda Gresini and Colin Edwards with the second Fiat Yamaha.
2006 World Champion, Nicky Hayden, finished an eighth place behind Chris Vermeulen and ahead Alex Barros -- in his return to MotoGP -- and Shinya Nakano.
"I tried to learn as much as I could in the race. I really felt like I rode my hardest and had some good dices with a few of the guys - I just about caught Vermeulen on the last lap and I got faster as the race went on. The biggest problem is confidence in the front and getting the bike to steer how I want it to. We'll stay here to test tomorrow and try to figure out some improvements, and hopefully be a lot closer when we get to the next race at Jerez," Hayden explained.
Never in the weekend did Hayden prove to be competitive with the Repsol Honda and will have a lot of work to do before round two will be held in Jerez de la Frontera on March 25th.