Casey Stoner completed a perfect extended weekend in Qatar by winning the delayed MotoGP season-opener in commanding fashion on Monday evening, taking his third consecutive victory at Losail.
The Ducati Marlboro rider, who also topped every session of the night event, beat reigning champion Valentino Rossi thanks to a perfect start from pole and a blistering pace that forced the Italian to give up the chase midway through the 22-lap race.
Behind Stoner's perfect start, Loris Capirossi made a fine getaway from fifth with his Rizla Suzuki to slot into second, ahead of the Fiat Yamahas of Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, with the two teammates exchanging position twice during the first lap.
In the space of two laps Stoner's lead over Capirossi was close to three seconds already, but by that time the Italian veteran was being caught by Rossi, who passed him on the third lap.
While Capirossi started dropping back, with Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso and Lorenzo overtaking him before the former Ducati rider crashed on lap eight, Rossi began his chase of Stoner.
The gap between the two decreased to just under two seconds, before Rossi's pace started faltering on lap 11. By the end of the race Stoner had almost eight seconds on Rossi, who could however manage a sizeable lead on third-placed Lorenzo, who took the final podium place.
Colin Edwards classified his Tech-3 Yamaha in fourth place, ahead of Dovizioso in fifth and Alex de Angelis in sixth. The Gresini rider, however, is under investigation for banging his satellite Honda into Dani Pedrosa's factory entry while taking seventh place.
The Spaniard managed to keep the bike up straight despite the strong collision, just after he was overtaken by Chris Vermeulen's Suzuki for sixth place. Up until then, Pedrosa was having a strong race from 14th on the grid, despite still recovering from a wrist injury.
Vermeulen classified seventh, ahead of an impressive showing by Pramac Ducati rookie Mika Kallio and Toni Elias on the Honda Gresini. LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet completed the top ten.
Behind Pedrosa, who finished 11th, Nicky Hayden took 12th place in his debut race for Ducati Marlboro, with MotoGP returnee Sete Gibernau 13th with his Hernando Ducati.
Marco Melandri managed to salvage two points with his Hayate Kawasaki after he lost plenty of time in the gravel because of an off at the beginning of lap two.
Pos Rider Bike Time 1. Casey Stoner Ducati 42m53.984s 2. Valentino Rossi Yamaha + 7.771s 3. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha + 16.244s 4. Colin Edwards Yamaha + 24.410s 5. Andrea Dovizioso Honda + 27.263s 6. Alex de Angelis Honda + 29.883s 7. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki + 33.627s 8. Mika Kallio Ducati + 34.755s 9. Toni Elias Honda + 39.481s 10. Randy de Puniet Honda + 42.284s 11. Dani Pedrosa Honda + 48.526s 12. Nicky Hayden Ducati + 48.883s 13. Sete Gibernau Ducati + 52.215s 14. Marco Melandri Kawasaki + 56.379s 15. Yuki Takahashi Honda +1m00.286s 16. James Toseland Yamaha +1m14.978s 17. Niccolo Canepa Ducati +1m15.028s Retirements: Rider Bike Laps Loris Capirossi Suzuki 7