Qatar in the bag

The first race of the 2008 Moto GP season was last night, and it didn't disappoint. The first ever night race in GP history was held at the Losail track at 2230 local time (and aired at 1900 on Speed TV here in North America).

From the start, Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa showed incredible speed, grabbing the hole-shot and leading for the first 4 laps, before settling into a 3rd place finish. Rossi worked his way to the front of the pack, and looked solid for a few laps, before being passed and eventually falling back into a 4th place finish. Casey Stoner once again showed the dominance of last season, finishing in 1st place with an incredible 5.323 second gap over 2nd place Lorenzo, and a full 10.600 seconds faster than Pedrosa.

While Dani Pedrosa opted for the '08 version of the Honda RC212V (with pneumatic valves & a new chassis), while Nicky Hayden, 2006's World Champion, stuck with the '07 bike and finished in a disappointing 10th position (nearly 13 seconds behind Pedrosa). One has to think that Hayden (whose contract expires in 2008) may have a difficult time convincing Honda to keep him on as a factory rider after a disappointing 2007 season, and this dreadful start. That being said, with only 1 race in the bag of 2008, it may be too early to count out the Kentucky Kid.

Jorge Lorenzo was the other big story of the night, sticking right on the tail of Stoner for the majority of the race, but losing time every lap (especially on the long home straight). Lorenzo decided to stick with the Michelin tyres, while Rossi (on the same Fiat Yamaha factory ride) decided that Michelin couldn't be competitive against Stoner's Bridgestones, and switched tyre sponsors. It's interesting to note that 3 of the top 4 riders (the exception being the winner, Stoner) were on Michelin tyres, so one could question Rossi's decision to drop the French manufacturer from his sponsor roster.

Finally, James Toseland (the only Brit in the race), former World Superbike champion, made his GP debut in Qatar, and proved himself quite capable on a spring-valved, Tech3 Yamaha YZR-M1 (while the factory riders were provided with the 2008-spec pneumatic valved model). Toseland is said to have the '08 model bike by race #3 in Portugal, which should allow him to be very competitive, considering he finished only 0.74 seconds behind Rossi.

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