Nobody had the speed to catch Casey Stoner
in Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix - but they didn't have to...
The Ducati Marlboro star was two-seconds clear of the field, and had just set a fastest race lap half a second quicker than any other rider would manage, when he lost the front of his Desmosedici at turn four on lap 6 of 22.
It was a disastrous end for a rider who came into the 2010 season-opener - which he had won for the last three seasons - saying 'solid points' was his only objective. Instead he handed Fiat Yamaha title rivals Valentino Rossi
and Jorge Lorenzo
a 25 and 20 point title head start.
“The bike bogged at the start so I didn't get away well but I felt good and I was able to pass the other guys,” began Stoner, who slipped from pole to fourth at turn one. “Once I got to the front I started to get into my rhythm but I lost the front end a couple of times in long corners so I made the decision to try to ride a bit smoother and not put so much pressure on the front tyre with the full tank.
“Unfortunately that is what led to the crash because looking at the telemetry I didn't have enough load on the front, so I guess in hindsight I should have stuck to the way I'd been riding all weekend.
“It's my mistake and I apologise to the team because we'd done a great job this weekend and we leave empty handed.
“Having said that it's not a complete disaster because we've found this weekend that the bike has improved in areas where we have struggled in the past - for example the rear grip was unbelievable - and we have a long, long way to go.”
After Stoner's exit, team-mate Nicky Hayden
- one of the riders to pass Stoner into turn one - battled for a podium place for the remainder of the race, only losing out on a rostrum at the line.
“I'm pleased for Nicky because he had a great race and I think we can both be confident and optimistic about the rest of the season with this bike,” said Casey.
Stoner has now crashed from the lead of a MotoGP race three times - twice in 2008, at Brno and Misano, and then on Sunday in Qatar.