Hector Barbera has taken victory in Sunday night's season-opening 250cc Qatar Grand Prix, at Losail.

The heavy rain that forced the previous 125cc race to be abandoned fortunately passed, but with no sun the track was slow to dry and the 250cc race was delayed and shorted to 13 laps as a result.

2008 winner Mattia Pasini was then eliminated at the very first turn after tangling with another rider, while Barbera grabbed the early advantage from fourth on the grid.

Fellow Spaniard Alex Debon snatched the lead on lap two, but a bobble put Barbera's Pepe World Aprilia back in front, with Frenchman Jules Cluzel into second soon after.

Those two then broke away and the last lap began with Barbera just a few tenths ahead of the surprising (and sponsor-less) Cluzel, but the Matteoni Aprilia rider signalled he was more than happy to settle for a debut podium by shaking his fist with delight as he approached the finish line.

Cluzel's previous best finish was tenth position, while Barbera celebrated only his second 250cc grand prix victory - and first since suffering a serious back injury at Indianapolis last season.

The final podium position went to reigning 125cc world champion Mike di Meglio, who rode a clever race after a slow start for a fine debut podium.

Aspar Aprilia team-mate and pre-race favourite Alvaro Bautista, who had qualified on pole ahead of Scot Honda's Hiroshi Aoyama, also got a poor start and was only eleventh at the end of the opening lap.

The Spaniard then charged hard to reach fifth by the halfway stage, but was bumped back by di Meglio as the Frenchman made a tight pass in the hectic closing stages. Bautista went on to finish a disappointing seventh.

Aoyama had been bravest on the brakes into turn one, but plummeted to seventh after the opening corners and spent much of the race at the tail end of the top ten, before finding a second wind in the closing stages. The Japanese snatched fourth place by slipstreaming ahead of both Raffaele de Rosa and Thomas Luthi on the dash to the line.

Debon plummeted down the order in the closing stages and crossed the line in 14th.

Injured reigning 250cc world champion Marco Simoncelli withdrew from the event on Saturday. The Italian, who scored no points at the first two rounds of last season, broke the scaphoid bone in his right wrist while riding a motocross bike last weekend.

Race results - Qatar:

1. Barbera (Aprilia)
2. Cluzel (Aprilia) +0.826sec
3. di Meglio (Aprilia) +6.181sec
4. Aoyama (Honda) +6.609sec
5. de Rosa (Honda) +6.656sec
6. Luthi (Aprilia) +6.672sec
7. Bautista (Aprilia) +7.608sec
8. Wilairot (Honda) +8.349sec
9. Locatelli (Gilera) +15.032sec
10. Talmacsi (Aprilia) +20.348sec


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