LOSAIL, QATAR, MARCH 20 - Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner led a Honda onslaught in the opening race of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship under the desert lights of the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.Stoner had been fastest in every practice and qualifying session, which caused many,  if not most, to believe he'd check out at the start of the race. They'd be wrong. First Lorenzo led, then it was Pedrosa who Stoner had to contend with. Though he wasn't leading, neither was Stoner panicking. He knew the bike would feel better once some fuel had been burned off and the tires had some miles on them. Once that happened, in the second half of the race, Stoner put his Spanish teammate behind him, after which he put the hammer down.The 2007 MotoGP World Champion set a new race record on the 13th as he quickly pulled away, showing the form that he'd displayed throughout the weekend, as well as pre-season testing.His margin of victory was 3.440 secs.The win was his fourth here in the last five years-he fell off while leading last year-and fifth overall; Stoner also won a 250cc race in Qatar.The victory was Honda's first in an opening round since Valentino Rossi won at Suzuka at the start of the 2003 season. The win also put a Honda rider atop the world championship standings for the first time since Dani Pedrosa was leading the points following Assen in 2008Pedrosa and Lorenzo battled until the 19th of 22 laps when Lorenzo went ahead. Once there, Lorenzo had an easy ride to the finish. What no one knew at the time was that Pedrosa was suffering from a loss of feeling in his left arm. The Spaniard had difficulty holding onto the handlebar and couldn't use the clutch.

The condition first occurred in the final two races of last year, but he believed it was under control. Now he has less than two weeks to find a solution before his first home race in Jerez.Andrea Dovizioso, the third Repsol Honda rider, got the best of fellow Italian Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) after a spirited battle. Dovi made the pass on the 19th of 22 laps and safely secured fourth. Between Dovi's late pace and Pedrosa's decline, Dovizioso came within less than a second of the podium.Ben Spies finished sixth in his debut as a factory Yamaha rider after surviving a tumultuous first lap. Spies got jostled in the first corner and again soon after and by the time he got going he'd lost the scent of the leaders.Later he'd have to pass Valentino Rossi, which he did on the 16th lap. That led to Rossi finishing seventh in his first race for Ducati. The result was admirable given his physical condition and the struggles he'd had during practice and qualifying.Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards was alone in eighth, one up on Nicky Hayden. Hayden had clutch problems at the start that put him near the back of the pack, but that wasn't the end of his problems. A few turns into the race Hayden had to dodge the fallen Pramac Racing Ducati of Randy de Puniet, who'd had a cold tire high-side. By the time Hayden got going he was last, but he made up two spots by the end of the lap, and finished ninth as he gained strength as the race progressed. His last lap was his fastest.Hiroshi Aoyama was tenth in his first race for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team. Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) faded to finish 11th, just in front of a similarly fading Hector Barbera (Mapfre Aspar Ducati). Karel Abraham was the final rider in his first MotoGP race for the Cardion AB Motoracing team.Neither of the Pramac Ducatis finished. De Puniet's tumbling GP11 hit Loris Capirossi's lever, crushing his fingers and forcing him out of the race. Toni Elias also crashed in his return to the MotoGP class after winning the 2010 Moto2 World Championship.

Results

1. Casey Stoner (Honda)

2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)

3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)

4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)

5. Marco Simoncelli (Honda)

6. Ben Spies (Yamaha)

7. Valentino Rossi (Ducati)

8. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)

9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)

10. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)

11. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)

12. Hector Barbera (Ducati)

13. Karel Abraham (Ducati)

 


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Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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