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GP Week : Issue 1
38 D AY or night, the first race of 2008 was a corker. A fearsome brawl in the early laps promised much and the rest of the race certainly delivered. But it was not quite as it had appeared at first. Flying third-row starter Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) led the early laps, Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha) took over, with pole starter and class rookie Jorge Lorenzo well in the mix. Defending Champion Casey Stoner (Marlboro Ducati) seemed stuck in the desperate clash of bikes and fairings behind them. He was only biding his time. On lap eight of the 22 laps round the floodlit 5.380km Losail circuit outside Doha, the Australian on the red bike went from fourth to first, and was never headed again. Neither Rossi nor Pedrosa could match his pace. It was reigning 250 champion Lorenzo who went with him, running him close until two- thirds distance. Then Stoner really showed his class, with a series of ever- faster, record-speed laps that stretched the gap to more than two seconds on lap 18, and more than five by the finish. “It was a little bit crazy in the first few laps,” said Stoner. “I just stayed not involved and made sure no-one was getting away up front. When the right opportunity came to pass, I took it. After that, I could put in some decent laps.” If his win blew a chill down the spines of his rivals, then so too should the performance by Lorenzo. He also survived a near collision with Toseland in the early brawl, but kept himself collected for an equally fierce battle with Rossi, when he passed him for second. Pedrosa’s third was a remarkable achievement, after suffering serious hand injuries while testing late in January. “Seven days ago I was almost last here. I didn’t expect this.