The first grand prix weekend of the year was a fiery one in the junior classes with a seven-way fight being won at the line by Nico Antonelli in Moto3, Moto2 was hot on it’s heels and though Tom Luthi scored an excellent victory the race was marred by a series of controversial ride through penalties.
The Moto3 Grand Prix of Qatar was lap after lap of position swapping among the lead group from the start to the very last lap with Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder the dominant force at the front, batting hard against the super cornering of Romano Fenati on his Sky Racing VR46 machine.
It was however to be Nico Antonelli who rallied against illness and injury to join the lead group and force his was towards the front on the last lap to place his Ongetta-Rivacold Honda on top after pulling to the side and using his momentum to pull t the line in front.
This left Binder still searching for a win in second, with Francesco Bagnaia securing third for Aspar Mahindra behind the Honda and KTM.
Fenati took his only poor corner on the final lap, running wide before recovering for fourth, not far in front of his team-mate, top rookie Nicolo Bulega in sixth.
The pair were split by Gresini’s Enea Bastianini who also did well to join the lead group late on for fifth at the flag.
Seventh went to Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) with Livio Loi (RW Racing GP) taking too long to catch the leaders in eighth.
Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) slipped back on the first lap the ground his way back for ninth, Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7SIC) completed the top ten.
Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) needed a photo finish to finish 11th ahead of rookie Joan Mir (Leopard Racing). The remaining points went to Estrella Galicia’s Fabio Quartararo in 13th, and rookies Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) in 14th and 15th respectively.
With a bike only guaranteed just ahead of the final test Maria Herrera fought hard to finish 16th for Laglisse. The Peugeot MC Saxoprint team’s struggles continue – 2015 Qatar winner Alexis Masbou was 24th and Briton John McPhee 27th.
The only faller was Juanfran Guevara on the penultimate lap.
The start line jump start incident changed the shape of the race from the off, where a clean start and oodles of experience rewarded Tom Luthi with a win for Interwetten after needlessly keeping the penalty bound Franco Morbidelli’s EG 0,0 Marc VDS at bay.
The Swiss rider expertly kept the Italian in his sights, unaware of the penalty situation until after the race and a smooth passed guaranteed a clean win in a very messy race.
The race result was immediately altered to add the penalty promoting both Luis Salom (SAG Team), who qualified 18th and Speed Up’s Simone Corsi to the remaining podium positions, second and third respectively.
The problems started as the lights went out to start the race with many riders on the grid unusually and very obviously jump starting.
Reigning Moto2 champion Johann Zarco, Sam Lowes, Alex Rins and Marcel Schrotter were all pulled in first with Robin Mulhauser and Taka Nakagami next to be forced to ride through the pit.
Between those call-ins Jonas Folger, leading by more than a second flew off into the gravel and out of the race.
Morbidelli, perhaps the most obvious of all the jumpers, was left to push Luthi up front until, with seven laps to go it was announced that both he and Dynavolt Intact GP rider Sandro Cortese were to also be penalised, but with a trip through the pit no longer an option so late in the race, twenty second would be removed from their final times instead.
Those changes saw Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) move up to fourth, Interwetten’s Dominique Aegerter fifth and Leopard Racing’s Danny Kent take an excellent sixth on his return to the class.
Franco Morbidelli then slotted into seventh with Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) making the best comeback from the first pool of riders sent in in eighth, just ahead of a determined performance from Sam Lowes on his Kalex Gresini début.
Luca Marini impressed as the top rookie in difficult conditions racing to a top ten finish for the Forward team.
The remaining points on offer went to fellow rookie Miguel Oliveira (Leopard Racing) in eleventh, Ajo Motorsports Johan Zarco recovering to twelfth, with Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia)13th his colleague Nakagami came back for 14th and Cortsese who’s penalty left him 15th.
There were falls for both Pons brothers, Xavi Vierge, Xavier Simeon, Alex Marquez and Julian Simon.
For the full Moto3 result click here.
For the full Moto2 result click here.