Qatar MotoGP: How close was first single-tyre race?

Monday's season-opening Qatar night race was the first event of the single-tyre MotoGP era, with all 18 riders offered the same limited range of tyres for the first time. 

    As well as reducing costs, it was hoped that the move would make the racing closer, after two seasons dominated by drawn-out runaway wins since the switch to 800cc engines.

    However despite having the same tyres available to all, and satellite teams getting machinery closer to factory spec (all the Honda and Yamaha teams now have pneumatic-valve engines for example) this year's Qatar Grand Prix saw the leaders break away even further than before, with a knock on effect throughout the field. 

    Casey Stoner had to fight his way back from a bad start to win in 2008, but led the 2009 race from start to finish. Both seasons saw 17 riders reach the finish.

    Victory margin: 5.323sec (2008) - 7.771sec (2009)
    Podium margin: 10.600sec (2008) - 16.244sec (2009)
    Top 6: 14.040sec (2008) - 29.883sec (2009)
    Top 10: 38.354sec (2008) - 42.284sec (2009)
    Top 15: 58.930sec (2008) - 1min 0.286sec (2009)
    1st to 17th (last): 1 lap* (2008) - 1min 15.028 (2009)
    Chris Vermeulen had to make a pit stop.

    However, the gap did close significantly for those fighting in the 'mid-pack' - behind Stoner, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.

    4th to 10th: 25.066sec (2008) - 17.874sec (2009)
    4th to 15th: 45.642sec (2008) - 35.876sec (2009)
    No real conclusions can be drawn from one race (especially a night race, being run one day late after a desert rainstorm) - except that the likes of Stoner, Rossi and Lorenzo will be fast whatever tyres they are on.

    Meanwhile, Bridgestone expressed satisfaction with its single-tyre debut, although made no reference to the lack of close racing at the front.

    “I am happy with the new regulations and I think they worked well in Qatar,” said Tohru Ubukata, manager of Bridgestone's Motorcycle Race Tyre Development. “I believe we made the correct selection of two compounds for this first race, and I believe that these options also were ok for the teams. With just 20 tyres per rider, every team had sufficient to complete the race weekend, even though it was extended by one day, so I think new regulation is working ok.”

    “I am pleased that we have been able to meet the task of providing a consistent control tyre and I am pleased we have completed this weekend with no problems,” stated said Hiroshi Yamada, manager of Bridgestone's Motorcycle Sport Unit.

    MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi was looking on the bright side after failing to challenge Casey Stoner in Monday night's Qatar MotoGP season-opener.

    Rossi found the track conditions less to his liking after Sunday's rainstorm, then dropped two positions to fourth on lap one, while Stoner charged into an early eland.

    The Fiat Yamaha star recovered to second by lap three of 22, but was already three seconds behind Stoner's Ducati and - despite initially gaining on the Australian - couldn't maintain the pace and finished a massive 7.7sec behind the 2007 champion.

    “Today the conditions of the track were quite different to before and this evening in warm-up we encountered a couple of small problems related to tyres, so our strategy had to change slightly tonight,” said Rossi. “It's a pity because I think last night we could have put up more of a fight, but anyway this is a good result to start the season, much better than last year. 

    “I knew I needed a good start in order to go with Stoner but unfortunately I didn't get one and I lost some time fighting with Lorenzo and Capirossi and by then Stoner had already gone! 

    “The middle part of the race was great fun and I made six or seven good laps to come much closer, but I knew I wouldn't be able to continue in that rhythm, it was too risky for the tyres and I decided it was more important to take the 20 points.”

    Nevertheless, Rossi's second position is significantly better than his fifth place at Qatar last year, and he was closer to Stoner during practice and qualifying than most expected after being over one-second slower than the Australian in last month's test. 

    Stoner is also something of a Qatar specialist - winning the last three races at Losail, in both day and night - but last season he went on to struggle at the following rounds.

    “Casey was very strong today but he is always fast here and I believe that our potential is very good; I think that we can be back fighting again in Motegi,” confirmed Rossi. “I am so glad we could race today after yesterday and I am satisfied to be leaving here having made a good start to the season - it is long!”

    “We didn't win but we can consider this a good start to the season, certainly much better than in 2008. Now we need to work to fix one or two small problems that we have,” added team manager Davide Brivio. “The middle part of the race was good, we were gaining on Stoner but in the latter stages he was in a better condition to push and Valentino was right to settle for second. It's a long championship and the points are important. We are confident that we will be able to battle with Stoner in Motegi.”

Any copying and use the material without coordination with administration of the site is strictly forbidden.