Rd.01 03/10 Qatar GP
Round: 1 - Qatar GP (Classification after 22 laps = 118.36km)
Circuit: Losail, Qatar
Date: 10 Mar. 2007
Circuit Length: 5.380km
Race condition: Dry
Air: 29 C
Ground: 45 C
Pole Position: V. Rossi (Yamaha/1'55.002)
Fastest Lap: C. Stoner (Ducati/1'56.528)
Rossi launches 800cc challenge with hard-fought second in Qatar
Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi finished second in the inaugural race of the MotoGP World Championship 2007 after losing out in a close battle with Casey Stoner (Ducati), who took his first win in Qatar. After starting from pole position for the 46th time in his career, Rossi battled throughout the race with the Australian, the pair gradually opening up an eventual gap of over eight seconds over the chasing field.
With four laps to go the former World Champion, starting a season as a challenger to the title for the first time since the turn of the millennium, made his final attempt to pass Stoner but the extra top speed of the Italian machine proved crucial as the youngster hauled his advantage back down the long Losail straight and kept his nerve in a tense finale. Despite being consistently fast throughout the practice sessions and also starting from the front row in third, today was not to be Colin Edwards' day as the Fiat Yamaha Team rider struggled for grip and could only manage sixth place.
Rossi and Edwards got the new 800cc era off to a flying start on Thursday, both lapping comfortably under the 990cc circuit record in the opening free practice sessions and finishing the day in first and second place. Following a long winter of testing it was a relief for the team to finally get the season underway, with this the first time the championship had begun outside Europe since Rossi's historic first win with Yamaha in South Africa in 2004.
On Friday things got even better for the team as the pair continued to set an excellent pace on race tyres before switching to qualifiers at the end of the afternoon session. With the new restrictions coming into force this season, meaning each rider can only use 17 rear tyres and 14 fronts throughout the entire Grand Prix, the pair had only two qualifying tyres to work with in the session. The last five minutes saw a flurry of activity with Rossi, Edwards, Stoner, Toni Elias and Dani Pedrosa (both Honda) all putting in quick flying laps in a tense finale. All five lapped under last year's pole time but it was Rossi who took the honours with a lap of 1'55.002, over half a second faster than the existing record. It took Rossi's career pole tally to 46 - his favourite number - and he would be joined on the front row by Edwards, who qualified in third place, with Stoner separating the team-mates.
With ambient temperature reaching 29 C on race day and track temperatures rising to 45 C it was always going to be a major challenge to see which of the frontrunners in practice could maintain their pace over race distance. Rossi got a good start and led the way over the opening lap but surrendered top spot to the eventual winner as they crossed the line for the first time. From then on the seven-time World Champion stalked the Australian and the head-to-head proved to be an intriguing first comparison between the new 800cc machines, with both the Yamaha and the Ducati showing their strength in different parts of the track. The Desmosedici claimed the advantage on the straights but Rossi was able to make up time around the rest of the track, with his M1 generally faster in the corners.
With Stoner holding a clear edge in the drag race from the final corner to the finish line, Rossi knew that he had to try and create a gap before the final lap. With four laps to go he made his move but Stoner quickly reacted with a pass of his own and upped the tempo in a tense finish. A time of 1'56.528 on the final lap from the Ducati debutante established a new circuit record at Losail and finally put paid to Rossi's challenge, leaving the gap at 2.8 seconds as they crossed the line. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) held on for third after a race-long battle with John Hopkins (Suzuki).
Despite his excellent form during tests and practice here, today was not to be Colin Edwards' day and a small slide off the start line saw him lose his grid position into turn one before dropping to seventh by the end of the first lap. The Texan did his best to recover lost ground over the opening laps but struggled to find sufficient grip and as such did not have the confidence to risk an excursion off the racing line at the notoriously slippery track. A huge moment after a third of the race almost sent Edwards to the ground but eventually he found his pace and he looked good to finish in the top five with three laps to go. However, a pass from Marco Melandri (Honda) pushed him back one more position in the final standings.
After a disastrous start to 2006, when Rossi was knocked off in the corner and could only finish fourteenth whilst Edwards struggled to eleventh, Saturday's result was a much more positive way to begin the year and both riders are now looking ahead to the next round in Spain with huge confidence.
The dawn of the new era also produced an encouraging result for the Dunlop Tech 3 Yamaha Team when rookie rider Sylvain Guintoli grabbed a single championship point with a creditable 15th place. The Frenchman showed great tenacity to constantly improve his performance over the weekend - continually lowering his lap time to bring himself into contention with much more experienced riders.
Guintoli's team-mate Makoto Tamada struggled all weekend in his first Grand Prix for the team. Tamada has never been comfortable at the Middle East track, where the nature of the corners work against his riding style and the notorious lack of grip leads to a crushing lack of confidence for the Japanese rider. As such, Tamada was unable to finish in the points as he laboured to 16th position.
|1||C. Stoner||Ducati Marlboro Team||Ducati||43'02.788|
|2||V. Rossi||FIAT Yamaha Team||Yamaha||0'02.838|
|3||D. Pedrosa||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||0'08.530|
|4||J. Hopkins||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki||0'09.071|
|5||M. Melandri||Honda Gresini||Honda||0'17.433|
|6||C. Edwards||FIAT Yamaha Team||Yamaha||0'18.647|
|7||C. Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki||0'22.916|
|8||N. Hayden||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||0'23.057|
|9||A. Barros||Pramac d'Antin||Ducati||0'25.961|
|10||S. Nakano||Konica Minolta Honda||Honda||0'28.456|
|11||A. Hofmann||Pramac d'Antin||Ducati||0'35.029|
|12||O. Jacque||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki||0'42.948|
|13||K. Roberts||Team Roberts||KR212V||0'42.977|
|14||T. Elias||Gresini HONDA||Honda||0'42.989|
|15||S. Guintoli||Dunlop Yamaha Tech3||Yamaha||0'51.639|
|16||M. Tamada||Dunlop Yamaha Tech3||Yamaha||0'57.853|
Valentino Rossi (Position: 2nd Time: +2.838)
"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. I could see that he was faster on the straight and so I knew that if I got in front I was going to need to make a gap from him, but in fact he was too strong! In the last few laps we were getting faster and faster and I thought I still had a chance, but then he kept on going and my tyre started to slide a little bit so I wasn't able to stay with him to the finish. Anyway, we only waved the white flag right at the end so I am happy about this! Of course it's not perfect but my team have worked very hard and it's much better to have 20 points like this than two like last year! Now we need to find a little bit more horsepower, but Yamaha is working very hard and I am confident that we will continue to improve."
Colin Edwards (Position: 6th Time: +18.647)
"I spun off the line on the dirty part of the track and so my start wasn't great, which was annoying. I had a bit of a feeling just before we went out that we would be slower in the first few laps as the tyre was going to take time to heat up and unfortunately that was the case; I just couldn't push hard enough in those vital first few laps. Anyway after that I was holding pace okay and thought I could stay with the top group but then I had a near crash on lap seven or eight coming into turn seven, to the extent when I was holding the bike up on my knee and elbow! I somehow figured out how to get it back up after 30 metres but we lost quite a bit of time. From then on my rhythm was okay and honestly the race as a whole wasn't so bad, but the tyre felt a bit greasy and I was lacking some front grip, which was strange after it had been perfect all weekend. We definitely need more power - that was obvious today, so that's priority number one for Yamaha I guess! Anyway, we've learnt a lot this weekend so let's go forward from here."
Davide Brivio, FIAT Yamaha Team Director
"It could be a better start for us and it's not what we hoped for after starting on the front row with both riders, but anyway it's not so bad! Our bike is good and we can fight for the victory as Valentino showed today, but we have some more work to do. Colin unfortunately wasn't able to match the potential he showed during the practices, but I am sure he will be back at the top in Jerez. In some areas our bike is very strong and in other areas less so; now we will do our best to even this out. We gathered a lot more important information this weekend which will help our engineers over the coming days and I am sure we will be ready to fight again in Jerez."
Sylvain Guintoli (Position: 15th Time: +51.639)
"This first racing weekend in MotoGP was a good experience for me. I worked hard with the team to find the best tyres for the race and I improved my performance in qualifying because it was the first time I had used a qualifying tyre in anger and the result has given me more confidence for the next races. The front tyre which we first tested here a few weeks ago worked really well and the rear was very consistent too, so my times stayed pretty constant to the end of the race as well so that was a good point. Talking about points, I am glad for the team to bring back the first point of the year and it is also my first point in MotoGP so generally it was a good weekend. The tyres were very, very good for the first six laps and I was in the middle of a good fight with some other riders as I overtook Barros and Checa. I tried to push a lot to stay but my rhythm was a little bit slower. We are not too far from the pack so I know we will close the gap as I gain more experience. As a rider to finish the race and go home with a point I am very happy."
Makoto Tamada (Position: 16th Time: +57.853)
"I am very sorry to the team and Dunlop for the result but I have never liked this track as I can never find the grip I like as I find it very slippery and the camber of the corners doesn't suit my style. The tyres were good but I do not have the confidence at this track to push very hard and to make things worse I felt some chattering at the front as I think the tyre moved on the rim Now I want to forget all about Qatar and move onto the next race in Spain. I like the Jerez track a lot better and the test there I had a lot better feeling so I am hopeful that my result will be a lot better and my season starts from there."
Herve Poncharal, Dunlop Yamaha Tech3 Team Director
"I am fairly satisfied after the first race of the new season. At last we started racing after such a long and busy winter. I am very pleased with what Sylvain has done this weekend as session after session he has been improving. He secured a very decent qualifying position, qualifying time and scored his first point in MotoGP and he was really consistent with his lap times until the end of the race. We still have a lot of work to do but we are making progress, plus we are staying here tomorrow (Sunday) to test so I'm sure the improvement will continue. As for Tamada I am quite disappointed because we tested here three weeks ago and he did a good race simulation then but for some reason he was never feeling good here this weekend. We tried everything we could but it is more a rider problem than anything else. The test in Spain was good too so we hope he comes back to usual self at Jerez in two weeks time."