The 2012 season is underway, and there could be no better way to kickstart it than under the floodlights of Qatar in a great MotoGP race. Experiencing an almost polar opposite turnaround in fortunes, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner both placed on the podium at Losail. Pedrosa took second place and was in with a chance of victory before he ran out of laps, ending the race less than a second behind the winner. Teammate Casey Stoner had dominated for most of the Grand Prix, but was hampered by an arm-pump issue in his right forearm and eventually dropped down to third.

After months of preparation and three days of hard work at the Losail International Circuit, the first MotoGP race of the year finally got underway at 10pm local time. The Repsol Honda Team were amongst the favourites for the win, with Casey Stoner second on the grid and Dani Pedrosa capable of making a great start from the right of the third row. Both had caught up with Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies at the first corner.

The Hondas took the inside line, before Lorenzo moved in front on turn two. Pedrosa and Stoner followed him through, and it was the latter who pushed in front of his teammate before the end of lap one. He did the same on the straight one lap later to Lorenzo, taking the lead and signaling that this could be another runaway win for the Australian. Lorenzo and Pedrosa stuck behind him as he looked to establish a gap.

The final third of the contest saw the reigning World Champion drop his pace and his rivals catch up with five laps to go. Both Repsol riders were trying to preserve their tyres, but Pedrosa made the first move to get past Lorenzo and attempt to catch his teammate. Just a few corners later, Lorenzo returned the favour and was this time able to overtake Stoner as well. Pedrosa forced his way past the man with the number 1 plate as well on the penultimate lap, but it was just too late for him to reach Lorenzo. He finished the race eight tenths of a second down on the winner. Second and third place, respectively, for Pedrosa and Stoner opens up another season on the podium for the Repsol riders.

Dani Pedrosa (2nd at 0.852 sec.)

“I’m very happy with this result because we have been able to turn around all the problems we had during the weekend. After a good pre season we got here and everything went wrong: I had flu and a fever, I crashed on Friday, then the qualifying practice was a disaster… So, it’s very good to leave here with this podium, even if I feel little bit sad because I thought I could win this race, I had it in my hands for a while.

The team did a fantastic job and we saw things very different after warm up; then I managed a perfect start which was a key moment in the race, and I was able to stay with Casey [Stoner] and Jorge [Lorenzo]. In the end, with 4 laps to go I tried to take the lead, but Lorenzo was cleverer than me this time and choose a better strategy. I passed him but he overtook me immediately and also Casey, then I was behind Casey for 1 lap and lost contact with Jorge. Anyway, it’s a good start to the season and we will try to do better in Jerez.”

Casey Stoner (3rd at 2.908 sec.)

“It wasn’t really the way we wanted to finish the race weekend here, after FP3 and Qualifying it was always going to be a tough race for us but in the end it came in the wrong areas. The bike was working well for us, I definitely had the package and the pace to lead the field which was really positive. However, I suffered from really bad arm pump.

After three or four laps I felt it but it gradually got worse, I tried to pull a little gap from Jorge [Lorenzo] and Dani [Pedrosa] and put in the minimal effort possible to retain the gap and try and win, but as the race continued it got worse and worse and eventually the muscles had nothing more to give. I couldn’t hold onto the handle bars properly and it made things really difficult so it was a disappointing race for this reason, but for many other technical reasons it was very promising.”