Casey Stoner wins opening MotoGP of the season in Qatar
Stoner is king in Qatar
Pole-sitter Casey Stoner made a winning start to life with Repsol Honda as he swept to victory in the opening race of the 2011 MotoGP season in Qatar.
The Australian came home 3.44 seconds ahead of world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who edged Stoner's team-mate Dani Pedrosa into third place.
Valentino Rossi came seventh on his Ducati debut, having narrowly avoided coming off with seven laps left.
British MotoGP debutant Cal Crutchlow finished in a creditable 11th place.
Pramac Ducati rider Randy de Puniet came off his bike on the opening lap and team-mate Loris Capirossi was forced to retire hurt shortly afterwards, having damaged his hand swerving to avoid the crash.
Qatar MotoGP - Top three racers
Stoner was understandably delighted at having made such a successful start to life with his new team.
"Testing has all gone well and this weekend we've felt more and more comfortable with the bike and the settings," he told BBC Sport.
"I didn't make the best start and I was a bit worried about people overtaking from behind on the first laps. When I felt comfortable I decided to start moving forward.
"Everything felt good, and as soon as I felt I was able to do a quicker lap than Dani I went for it."
Lorenzo was ecstatic to have split the Honda duo, saying the result was "maybe the best race of my life.
"I feel very proud of myself and my team who never gave up and worked to give me the best bike that they can.
"I put everything I have inside into my riding on the track for the race from the start to the end and was on the limit every lap. I almost crashed on one corner but I managed to stay on the bike and finished in second position which is the best that I could do."
Afterwards, Pedrosa revealed his decline during the race was down to injury.
"I was going very good at the beginning but in the middle of the race I had problems with my left arm and couldn't keep control," he said.
"Finally I couldn't use the clutch for shifting as I couldn't hold the grip. I have a problem with this arm and have to fix it somehow."
Rossi said his first competitive run-out on his new bike had been a learning experience for the next race, and he was glad to have got something out of the evening.
"For sure we're not here to get seventh-place finishes, but there are also positive things from this race, starting with the times, because we were lapping pretty quickly," he said.
"I learned a lot in this test and in this race, and we've already given very specific instructions about what must be done in the long term, in order to improve for the second half of the season for example.
"In the near term, on the other hand, we'll work on the setup, we'll keep gathering experience, and I'll continue exercising and doing everything I can to recuperate physically."
Debutant Cruthchlow said he was glad to have got his first race out of the way after an unsteady start.
"I struggled at the start - the tyres never came in, they just didn't work for the first five laps and I lost a bit laps 4-10, but then things started to get fast again when Nicky (Hayden) came past and I started to pick up," he said.
"I'm happy enough - at least we're here and doing it, I'm glad to get that one out."
Qatar MotoGP result:
1 C Stoner (Aus) Honda 42:38.569 2 J Lorenzo (Sp) Yamaha @ 3.440 3 D Pedrosa (Sp) Honda @ 5.051 4 A Dovizioso (It) Honda @ 5.942 5 M Simoncelli (It) Ducati @ 7.358 6 B Spies (US) Yamaha @ 10.468 7 V Rossi (It) Ducati @ 16.431 8 C Edwards (US) Yamaha @ 26.293 9 N Hayden (US) Ducati @ 27.416 10 H Aoyama (Jpn) Honda @ 28.920 11 C Crutchlow (GB) Yamaha @ 34.539 12 H Barbera (Sp) Ducati @ 34.829 13 K Abraham (Cz) Ducati @ 37.957
World championship standings:
1 C Stoner 25 points 2 J Lorenzo 20 3 D Pedrosa 16 4 A Dovizioso 13 5 M Simoncelli 11 6 B Spies 10 7 V Rossi 9 8 C Edwards 8 9 N Hayden 7 10 H Aoyama 6 11 C Crutchlow 5 12 H Barbera 4 13 K Abraham 3
Moto2 race result:
1 S Bradl (Ger) Kalex 40:38.549 2 A Iannone (Ita) Suter @ 4.330 3 T Luthi (Swi) Suter@ 5.137 Other riders: 9 B Smith (GB) Tech3 @ 18.910 31 S Redding (GB) Marc VDS @ 1:23.743
125cc race result:
1 N Terol (Sp) Aprilia 38:28.687 2 S Cortese (Ger) Aprilia @ 7.710 3 S Gadea (Sp) Aprilia @ 9.147
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