Loris Capirossi's record 300th grand prix start ended with a disappointing ninth place finish at Qatar on Sunday, while rookie Rizla Suzuki team-mate Alvaro Bautista recorded his third crash in two days.
Lining up for the race with his bike sporting the number 300, instead of his usual 65, as well as a gold-plated helmet. Capirossi got a solid start from fifth, but was boxed in early on and relegated to eighth by the end of the first lap.
He was then involved in a long battle with Colin Edwards, before finally crossing the line just behind the Texan in ninth.
“I am a bit upset about the result because we thought we would go better than that. We have worked hard all weekend, but we struggled with the conditions today, because it was so different to yesterday with a lot more humidity tonight. I struggled in the third section of the track and was not very fast there, but in other sections I was quite strong. My rhythm was not too good and in the end I was just trying to defend my position. We don't need results like this; we need to be nearer the front, especially for all the effort that everybody is putting in. It was not easy, but we need to keep working well and feeling well. I feel sorry for Alvaro because he has had a tough weekend, but we will continue to work hard together and makes things happen.”
Bautista's weekend actually began brilliantly, with seventh in first free practice, but he had crashed on his way to 13th in qualifying, then suffered further falls in Sunday morning warm-up and while battling fellow rookie Marco Simoncelli for eleventh on the last lap of the race.
“I had a bad start and Barbera pushed me out on lap two and I lost everything. I used the next part of the race like a practice because I had no other riders to fight with. In the middle of the race I got a better rhythm and it was not so bad,” he said.
I caught two riders, but in the last corner I crashed. I feel like I cannot say that I have done my first MotoGP race because I never finished. The positive thing is that my rhythm was not too bad and for the next race we can only improve. We must continue to work hard and to try to make things better.”
“The Qatar Grand Prix has never been particularly kind to Suzuki and today was not really a lot different!” reflected team manager Paul Denning. “Loris rode as hard as ever in his 300th grand prix, but did not have the confidence to push the bike especially hard in the fast corners. He felt that his pace was terrible, but in fact over race distance it averaged out at less than a second a lap from the winner. So I am sure we can make significant improvements over the next couple of races and see Loris a lot closer to the sharp end.
“For Alvaro it was certainly an interesting debut grand prix, but overall the whole team was very encouraged with his potential and his commitment. We are not at all worried by the result and neither should he be. I am pretty sure that if he had not been closing down a certain Mr Simoncelli by over a second a lap, with the chance of getting him on the final corner, then he would have finished!
“Alvaro won the 250cc Grand Prix at Motegi last year and it is a great track for Loris as well. So, we are looking for a much better weekend in Japan.”