While the COVID-19 coronavirus put the brakes on the opening MotoGP round, Moto2 and Moto3 continued in Qatar as scheduled, delivering at least some of the excitement fans were looking for in the opening race of the season.
In Moto2, Tetsuta Nagashima, racing for Red Bull KTM Ajo, pulled out all the stops in the final stages of the race to claim his first Grand Prix victory. 2019 Qatar GP winner, Lorenzo Baldassarri, (FlexBox HP 40) finishing second, followed Italtrans Racing Team’s Enea Bastianini claiming the final podium spot.
Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) got off to a flying start, only to be robbed of it by compatriot Bastianini, but as the pack settled Marini was able to get back into the lead.
Lap 6 saw Roberts go for an overtake at Turn 1, but ran wide, handing the position back to Marini. By lap 11, Marini had stretched the gap to 0.9 seconds, seemingly dominant in the lead position.
However, with five laps to go, a mistake from Marini allowed the leading six to bunch, while Nagashima was looking very determined in his pursuit to the front. The Japanese rider finally took control of the race with three laps to go and immediately started stretching his lead. Behind him, the battle for the remaining podium places was on, but Baldassarri and Bastianini held off the contenders to ensure their positions on the podium.
Opening his account
Spaniard Albert Arenas took the opening win of the 2020 Moto3 World Championship after holding off a very determined John McPhee, taking the chequered flag and handing KTM their 100th Grand Prix victory.
After a perfect start for SIC58 Squadra Corse’s Tatsuki Suzuki in Moto 3, the excitement soon picked up, with ten different riders leading throughout the race. First to steal the lead away from Suzuki was Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who slipstreamed his way to the front at the start of lap two, only to run wide at Turn 6 and allow Rivacold Snipers Team’s Tony Arbolino to the front of the pack. South Africa’s Darryn Binder began to muscle his way into the fight and eventually the lead, but the rest of the pack soon got into the thick of things with 19 riders tussling for the lead at one point.
With five laps to go, the lead riders began to break clear. Arenas was still at the front, with Arbolino, Suzuki, Binder, and Sergio Garcia lined up behind him. One lap later, Arenas was shuffled backward as Arbolino hit the front. Suzuki pounced seconds later, though, retaking the lead at Turn 2. McPhee was starting to make his move too, diving under Binder to take third place before swooping past Arbolino to move to second moments later.
Braking into Turn 1 for the final time, Arbolino clipped Binder’s front wheel, causing the South African to fall and taking him out of contention. With half a lap remaining, Arenas was leading but under pressure from McPhee. The Scotsman seemed to wait to make his move down the start-finish straight, but exiting the final corner, Arenas was able to hold McPhee off, earning him the first victory of 2020.
Moto2 Top 10:
1. Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2. Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40) + 1.347
3. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) + 1.428
4. Joe Roberts (American Racing) + 1.559
5. Remy Gardner (Onexox TKKR SAG Team) + 1.901
6. Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) + 2.381
7. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 4.490
8. Aron Canet (Aspar Team) + 4.703
9. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 7.118
10. Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 8.904
Moto3 Top 10:
1. Albert Arenas (Aspar Team Gaviota)
2. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 0.053
3. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) + 0.344
4. Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing)* + 0.247
5. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) + 0.789
6. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3)* + 0.426
7. Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3)* + 0.559
8. Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team) + 0.823
9. Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) + 0.964
10. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo)* + 0.834
*one place penalty for exceeding track limits