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GP Week : Issue 41
The Australian Marlboro Ducati rider, winner of the title in 2007, dominated every practice and qualifying session just as he had all the tests so far this year. When the floodlit race was cancelled due to an C unprecedented desert storm on Sunday night, he led calls to pack up and go home. Over-ruled, he again led the extra pre- race warm-up session, and then from the first corner of the race to the last. Stoner’s run finally laid any doubts about the strength of his post-operative left wrist. It was also the first top-class race win for a machine with a carbon-fibre chassis – the distinguishing feature of the latest Desmosedici GP9. He had seized the early advantage while main rival Valentino Rossi moved past some troublesome rivals into second place, on the third of 22 laps. By then the red Ducati had a lead of almost three seconds, and though Rossi worked hard over the middle of the race, and cut it back to less than two seconds shortly before half distance, it was in vain. Stoner kicked again, and had an advantage of 7.7 seconds over the line. It was his third win in a row at Qatar. “The grip here is not the best, but I don’t mind if the bike moves around, from my dirt-track days,”he said. “Anyway, the new bike doesn’t throw me around as much as before.” Fuel consumption had been a concern, but he had changed his style mid-race when Rossi had been closing, to open up the gap again. Wrist trouble? Not a jot. Rossi looked bleak on the rostrum, but professed himself satisfied with second. “The track was completely different from yesterday, and I had some small problems with the tyre,”he said. “The real problem was I lost contact with Casey too early. In the middle of the race I was fast enough and I got closer, but it was a little too risky, and I decided that it was better to have 20 points.” Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo took a safe but distant third, finally deposing a charging Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) on lap eight. Dovi continued to fall back to fifth behind yet another Yamaha, the impressively ridden Tech 3 machine of Colin Edwards. Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) held second in the early stages while Rossi and Lorenzo bickered behind him. He had dropped back to fifth, his bike plainly down on top speed, when he finally succumbed to trying too hard to make up for it in the corners, sliding off unhurt on Lap 8. Alex de Angelis impressed on his privateer San Carlo Honda with a forceful ride to sixth, though his position was under review – a particularly wild swerve had seen him collide with Dani Pedrosa’s factory Repsol Honda, almost knocking the returned injury victim off. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) had lost touch with him in seventh, and was barely second ahead of the impressive rookie Mika Kallio (Alice Ducati). Elias and de Puniet (both Honda) completed the top 10; the pained Pedrosa just held 11th from the injured Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati), who closed right up at the finish. Both passed the fading Sete Gibernau (Ducati) on the last lap. Marco Melandri’s Kawasaki was 14th after he’d run off the track to rejoin last. 26 ASEY Stoner drew a big line in the sand at Qatar, in a desert race that finally came to pass a full 22 hours later than planned. If he carries on like this, nobody will be able to stop him.