Of the 18 riders on the permanent 2009 MotoGP entry list, 17 have won races at world championship level and eleven already have world championship titles to their credit - in MotoGP, 250cc, 125cc, Superbike or Supersport.

Between them, those 17 race winners have scored 335 victories in grand prix, World Superbike or World Supersport. But, after two seasons of strung-out racing, all most MotoGP fans want to know is if such impressive statistics can signal closer racing.

There hasn't been a last-lap victory pass in MotoGP since Toni Elias at Estoril 2006, and the average race-winning margin during the first two years of 800cc competition has been 5.748sec (2007) and 5.428sec (2008).

The closest race victory last season was a 1.817sec margin by Jorge Lorenzo at Estoril, with Valentino Rossi's 15.004sec victory at Brno the biggest.

Stoner won the inaugural MotoGP night race by 5.323sec from Lorenzo at Qatar last year.

Rookie Niccolo Canepa is the only rider not to have won a world championship race prior to this season, but the Pramac Ducati rider did win the 2007 FIM Superstock 1000 championship.

Canepa is also the youngest rider on the 2009 grid, with his debut in this weekend's Qatar night race coming one month before his 21st birthday.

Nevertheless, the average age of a MotoGP rider has increased slightly this year - from 26 years and 19 weeks at the start of 2008 to 27 years and 32 weeks.

The oldest rider on the grid will be Sete Gibernau at 36 years old, who is 15 weeks older than the most experienced rider on the grid, Loris Capirossi.