Casey Stoner has won the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, run on Monday night after Sunday's rain cancellation, for the third year in a row.
The Australian star led from start to finish, keeping his Ducati out of reigning world champion Valentino Rossi's reach for almost the entire 22 laps. Rossi's hopes were hit when he dropped from second to third at turn one, then fell victim to Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo shortly after.
Realising the risk of giving Stoner space up front, the Italian swiftly retaliated, re-passing Lorenzo before the end of the first lap, then prizing second position from a fast-starting Loris Capirossi on lap three - but Stoner was already three seconds ahead.
Rossi nibbled into the #27's lead, but was never able to get closer than 1.9sec and Stoner - who led every single track session from Rossi this weekend - smashed the Italian's challenge in the closing stages.
Stoner crowned a dominant 7.771sec win, his first since bone graft surgery on his wrist, with a huge wheelie, while Rossi gave his team a conciliatory wave as he collected second.
Lorenzo, second to Stoner on his MotoGP debut at Qatar last season, matched the Australian's wheelie display as he took a podium finish on his Bridgestone debut, albeit over eight-seconds from Rossi.
Stoner later said that Monday evening's extra warm-up session had allowed him to improve his GP9 further and that his only concern during the race had been fuel consumption.
After being passed by Rossi, Capirossi fell victim to Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, but worse was to follow when - on the ninth lap - he lost the front of his GSV-R and went down in a shower of sparks whilst trying to stay ahead of Colin Edwards.
Dovizioso, making his factory Honda debut, had faded out of contention for third by the halfway stage, then lost fourth place to Edwards on lap 14. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider ran out of time to challenge Lorenzo, having paid the price for a bad start from the second row.