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Page last updated at 08:42 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 09:42 UK

Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

By Matt Roberts
BBC Sport in Qatar

Sete Gibernau in the rain
Torrential rain stopped the MotoGP race just as it was about to start

Having the riders lined up on the grid for a MotoGP race in the middle of the desert, under floodlights, only for it to get postponed just seconds before the start due to torrential rain has to be about as unlucky and unlikely as it gets.

Unsurprisingly, the genius that is Valentino Rossi summed up the mood in the paddock on Sunday night perfectly when he said (and I am toning this down significantly): "It's like being alone with a girl only for your mother to walk in at the crucial moment!"

Thankfully the rain abated in time for Monday night's restart and we were all able to resume position and finally get it on as Australia's Casey Stoner eased to victory, with 2008 champion Rossi finishing second and Jorge Lorenzo third.

There had already been a sense of anticlimax on Thursday when Valentino and Sete Gibernau publicly made their peace over a bitter row that started, coincidentally, at Qatar back in 2004.

It was the first ever race to be run here and Vale was forced to start from the back of the grid after a complaint from Sete's Honda team that Jeremy Burgess and his crew had swept his grid position clean.

Valentino crashed out trying to recover positions in the race and, when Sete took victory, Rossi swore he would make sure the Spaniard would never win another race - a promise he stuck to in their most public falling out at Jerez in 2005, when he punted him off the track on the final corner.

Sete Gibernau (left) and Valentino Rossi
Gibernau (left) and Rossi made peace after a five-year feud

Sete announced his retirement at the end of 2006, marrying a supermodel and disappearing into the ether before divorcing and returning to MotoGP as a test rider last year. When he announced he was coming back full-time for 2009, we were all looking forward to some unfinished business getting sorted out.

"Honestly, I'm really happy to have Sete back," said Vale, disappointing the hacks but without doubt echoing the sentiments of the entire paddock.

"Some of my hardest battles have been with him and I wish him luck. Hopefully he can be at the front again - not in front of me, but at the front - and I think we can be friends again."

"We've all matured since then and I've come back with my hand outstretched to Valentino and to everybody else," said Sete.

"I'm proud of the way I've been welcomed back and proud that Valentino says he had to ride on the limit against me in the past. I think he'll be champion again this year."

The pair had actually already kissed and made up - metaphorically speaking of course - in an impromptu phone conversation last summer when Sete was visiting his friend Fonsi Nieto, the former 250cc and WSBK rider, in Ibiza.

The Spanish pair were having dinner when Fonsi received a call from Valentino, who owns a house on the island.

Fonsi cheekily passed the phone to Sete without telling either who was on the other end. "It was a bit confusing and he caught us both out," recalls Sete. "We talked for a little while and we've been in touch a couple of times since."

Friendly rivalry is an essential part of racing and while it may have overstepped the mark at Tech 3 Yamaha, where Colin Edwards and James Toseland are still not talking, there is very much the opposite vibe going on a few doors down the pit-lane at Ducati.

Nicky Hayden suffered a 130mph high-side during qualifying on Saturday and when Casey Stoner returned to parc fermé at the end of the session to be congratulated and interviewed on his pole position, his first question to his mechanic before he'd even taken his helmet off was about the welfare of his team-mate.


As soon as the front-row press conference was over, Casey headed straight down to the medical centre to see Nicky, who was laid on a stretcher with an oxygen mask over his face. Casey asked him how he was and Nicky pulled the mask to one side to say: "Well I don't feel like going for a jog, that's for sure!"

Despite heavy bruising to his back and three stitches in a chest wound Nicky bravely made it to the grid for his 100th Grand Prix start.

The same could not be said for fellow ton-up contender Marco Simoncelli, who pulled out of the 250cc race with a scaphoid injury picked up when motocross training last week.

Having undergone surgery on Tuesday to insert a screw in his right wrist the defending world champion tested his fitness by taking part in practice in Qatar but decided he wasn't confident enough to race.

As it was, the race was reduced to a 15-lap dash because of the adverse weather on Sunday, with Hector Barberá taking the win ahead of surprise contender Jules Cluzel.

Cluzel is a former crash merchant who failed to score a single point in the 125cc class last year, earning himself the unfortunate nickname 'Inspector Cluzel' thanks to his propensity to spend an excessive amount of time examining the gravel traps.

The move to replace the 250cc class with the eagerly anticipated Moto2 class, which will feature four-stroke bikes with standard 600cc engines in prototype chasses, has been brought forward to 2010.

The new class will include a one-make engine rule and there have already been two bids from potential suppliers - one of which is widely believed to be Kawasaki. There are currently no plans, however, for a single-tyre rule.

It is an exciting announcement for British fans, not only because our great young Grand Prix hope Scott Redding is already looking far too big for his 125, but also because Cal Crutchlow and Eugene Laverty are cleaning up in the World Supersport category riding production 600cc machines.

With Bradley Smith scoring fifth in the farcical four-lap opening round of the 125cc season in Qatar, and Danny Webb also making a decent start with ninth place in the same race, we should have a bright future to look forward to.

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see also
Stoner takes win in MotoGP opener
13 Apr 09 |  MotoGP
Stoner promises aggressive return
13 Jan 09 |  MotoGP
Kawasaki pulls team out of MotoGP
09 Jan 09 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP round-up
29 Oct 08 |  MotoGP
Steve Parrish's MotoGP review
27 Oct 08 |  MotoGP
Stoner romps to season finale win
26 Oct 08 |  MotoGP
Rossi cruises to win in Malaysia
19 Oct 08 |  MotoGP
Stoner undergoes wrist operation
01 Nov 08 |  MotoGP
Superb Stoner wins in Australia
05 Oct 08 |  MotoGP
Rossi celebrates 'toughest title'
28 Sep 08 |  MotoGP
Rossi roars to sixth world title
28 Sep 08 |  MotoGP

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