Having been caught and passed and by Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi's hopes of a first ever Qatar night race victory looked over for another year - but the Australian's lap six mistake put the reigning world champion into the lead of what turned out to be a thrilling race.

"I got a fantastic start but I wasn't quite fast enough and was suffering on the straight," explained Rossi. "I lost some time passing Pedrosa and by then Stoner was quite far from me, I thought then that it was going to be hard to catch him! Then he made a mistake and crashed, which was bad luck for him but crucial for us."

With Stoner out, Rossi could have been forgiven for thinking victory was in the bag - but the Fiat Yamaha star was hounded by the second factory Ducati of Nicky Hayden and Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso right until the closing stages.

The Doctor even lost the lead to Dovizioso along the home straight on lap 16, but got the advantage back on the brakes. The scare seemed to spur Rossi into action and he finally began to build a buffer in the following laps.

But by then team-mate and 2009 title rival Jorge Lorenzo had joined the fight and the Spaniard, riding with an injured right hand, burst past both Hayden and Dovizioso to finish just one second from Rossi at the chequered flag.

"After [Stoner's crash] I expected it would be easier but in fact it was very hard to stay in front of Dovizioso, who was very strong. We had a good battle and then I did three or four laps at the maximum and was able to stay in front, but it wasn't easy!" he admitted.

The victory margin may have been far closer than anyone had expected, without the dominant Stoner, but the end result was that Rossi finally ended his four-year run of first-race defeats.

"I haven't won at the first race since 2005 and these 25 points at this stage are like gold dust, it's a fantastic result for the team to make a one-two at race one," he said.

"It's especially good to win here because it doesn't suit our bike, we worked very cleverly throughout the practices and this is the reward, so thanks to all my guys. We definitely have some work to do but this is a good base to start from."

After the race, Rossi ran out of petrol on the slow down lap and had to get a lift back to the pits on a scooter.

"I ran out of fuel on the slow down lap, I think I used more than expected early on because I was sliding quite a lot, but it was very funny to come to Parc Ferme riding a scooter!" he said.

All riders had complimented the strength of the latest M1 engine during pre-season testing, but Rossi's team manager Davide Brivio confirmed work will need to be done to try and improve top speed - not an easy task with a six engine limit for the 2010 season.

"This isn't a good track for us and we know we're suffering a bit in terms of top speed, this is something we need to work on, but to win here shows that we've got a good overall package," he said.

Rossi set his best top speed of the weekend in second free practice, but it was only 16th best out of the 17 riders and 10km/h behind the Ducati of Casey Stoner. The other M1 riders were ranked ninth (Colin Edwards), 13th (Jorge Lorenzo) and 17th (Ben Spies).

That suggests Yamaha's rivals are being less conservative with engine output than they had been in testing, but will reliability suffer?



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