Near-perfect Casey Stoner wins MotoGP opener

Casey Stoner led from start to finish to win the MotoGP season opener yesterday and complete a personal hat-trick of victories in Qatar.

The Ducati rider produced a near-perfect display under lights to win the |22-lap race with a time of 42min, 53.984sec at the Losail International Circuit. The 23-year-old Australian finished ahead of the defending world champion Valentino Rossi of Italy and Jorge Lorenzo of Spain.

Yamaha rider Rossi finished 7.771sec behind Stoner. Lorenzo, also of |Yamaha, was 16.244sec adrift. “I feel stronger than last year, so this makes for a great start. I am close to being a 100 per cent fit. I think the team put in a real effort this whole week,” Stoner said. “We managed to find the right set-up though it was difficult.”

Rossi said he was content despite his second place. “I did well in the second half of the race, but I’m happy with the start of the season,” he said. “We have started worse than this so I’m happy.”

The race took place yesterday after torrential rain on Sunday had forced it to be postponed.

Colin Edwards of the US was fourth and Andrea Dovizioso of Italy fifth. Spain’s Dani Pedrosa, who was third in last year’s world championship, could only manage 11th.

Leading final positions after Moto GP Race (Qatar): 1 C Stoner (Aus) Ducati 42min 53.984sec; 2 V Rossi (It) Yamaha 43:01.755; 3 J Lorenzo (Sp) Yamaha 43:10.228; 4 C Edwards (US) Yamaha 43:18.394, 5 A Dovizioso (It) Honda 43:21.247.

Sylvain Guintoli claimed first- and second-placed finishes on his British Superbikes debut at Brands Hatch to lead the standings after two races.

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