The Qatar MotoGP race confirmed a couple of things that became apparent during pre-season testing. First of all, on any given day, Casey Stoner is likely to be the fastest man on the track with his new carbon fibre Ducati. Second, Yamaha has a very solid, consistent package this year, and not just for Valentino Rossi.
In Qatar, Stoner dominated everyone, and Yamaha dominated everyone else (besides Stoner). Stoner won the race, of course, while Yamaha took positions 2-4 with Rossi, Lorenzo and Edwards.
No one will soon forget the amazing start Lorenzo had last year in MotoGP (as a rookie). If he has crashing out of his system, he will be a threat for the title along with Rossi and Stoner. Interestingly, the fabled “Michelin Man” Colin Edwards has shown consistent speed on his new Bridgestone tires in testing, and has now backed it up with a solid 4th place finish in Qatar.
The perennial Honda threat known as Dani Pedrosa, the only other real threat to take race wins and the title this year, is starting out with injuries and struggled to finish 11th in Qatar. With the way Stoner and the Yamahas are rolling now, Pedrosa will certainly have a tough road to the title.
While the Suzukis of Capirossi and Vermeulen are clearly more competitive this year, unexpected tire problems during the race put Capirossi on the ground and limited Vermeulen to a 7th place finish.
The bottom line is this. After pre-season testing and the first race, we put our money on a battle emerging between Casey Stoner and Yamaha riders for the title (particularly, Rossi and Lorenzo). We see Pedrosa and Capirossi mixing it up with the front runners, but ultimately lacking the consistency to take the championship.
MD Readers Respond:
- Casey Stoner and the GP9 Ducati look like the fastest combo on two
wheels, but Casey needs three things to win: (1) Front row
qualification (2) The holeshot, and (3) Clear track for at least two
laps. If he gets all three he will be odds-on favorite to win, tire
or mechanical problems aside. Rossi is a master at racecraft, but he
will need to hit turn 1 of every track either in front of or right
behind Casey if he’s to have a chance of beating him. The only
exception is Mugello, where Rossi seems unbeatable.
Edwards always tests well, and has gone well at Qatar in the past.
Trouble is, he can’t sustain it for a whole season, and he fades with
Lorenzo is still an unknown quantity. He crashed a lot last year
after an impressive start and had to spend much of the season
injured. We really didn’t see him at his best – he could be the
‘joker’ in the deck this year.
The Suzukis will both feature in the top 5 this year, but it will
take a rider more dynamic (and hungrier?) than either Capirossi or
Vermeulen to fight for a championship.
As an aside, I’ve never seen Nicky Hayden so down emotionally on the
starting grid. On TV he was a picture of resigned depression. I
still believe he’ll bend that GP9 to his will, but it will mean a
change in race strategy. He’ll have to emulate Casey and go full
speed right from the start, no matter what feedback the tires are
giving him. Lew
- I just read your article about the first MotoGP race of the season and you are already predicting a winner? Are you kidding me?! There are a lot of races left and anything can happen. You guys are usually such balanced journalist I can’t believe you already want to declare a winner between 2 or 3 riders. Obviously, Rossi will be competitive. He has won more MotorGP titles than anyone, and Stoner proved how fast he was last year. But one accident can take anyone out of contention and/or out of racing. Don’t be so quick to judge, especially after one race. And don’t count The Kentucky Kid out either. Once he gets use to the new Ducati he may come on really strong. At this point it is still anyone’s championship to win. That’s my two cents worth. Scott
- “A careful review of Casey’s ‘stillness’ astride his DUCATI ‘GP09’ mount indicates ‘issues’ lay for ‘Bologna’s Finest’ once competition resumes at other than ‘billiard table smooth’, undulating terrain road courses elsewhere on this planet.”
Unlike America’s AMA, MotoGP competition is not ‘preordained’ yet, Bill