In the all-Honda-powered Moto2 class, Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Esteve “Tito” Rabat claimed the narrowest of victories after a typically close and exciting race - with all entries powered by identical race-tuned CBR600 engines supplied by the organisers, the margins are reliably small.
The Spaniard, third overall in last year’s championship, was a nail-biting 0.040 seconds
ahead of early race leader Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), with second Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Mika Kallio just one second adrift.
With last year’s top two riders gone to MotoGP, Rabat’s first-race win (his fourth in the Moto2
class) reinforces his position as pre-season favourite. The narrowness of the win however
bodes well for a tense season to come. After the race, a shock: technical inspection found an infringement concerning the air filter on Nakagami’s bike, and he was disqualified. The team appealed, without success.
Not far behind, former 125cc champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter) had come through to fourth on track, barely half-a-second clear of class rookie Maverick Vinales (Pons HP 40 Kalex), winner of last year’s Moto3 World Championship. Both were promoted one position by the disqualification.
The pair had caught and passed long-time fourth-place rider Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing Forward-KLX), more than one second behind at the flag.
The second high-placed rookie was grand prix first-timer Sam Lowes (Speed Up), in an excellent sixth. Lowes moved into MotoGP as reigning World Supersport Champion.
Sandro Cortese was a brave seventh at the head of a close group. The Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex rider suffered a fracture in his leg after qualifying on the front row, missed morning warm-up, but returned for the race. Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) was inches behind in eighth, with Anthony West (QMMF Racing Team Speed Up) almost alongside. Another second down, French SAG team rider Louis Rossi completed the top ten.
Honda Moto2 Rider Quotes
Tito Rabat, Marc VDS Racing Team, 1st
“I’m happy to have come here to Qatar and taken the first win of the season on my debut for the Marc VDS team. I got a good start, but then Taka Nakagami braked really late into turn one and I made a mistake and ran wide. It took me a good few laps to work my way back to the front, but I was pushed all the way by Taka and Mika. In the end I managed to defend the lead to take the win, but I need to think about the early laps and also how to manage better the end of the race. It was a great way to start the season and now we need to look ahead to the next race in Austin.”
Mika Kallio, Marc VDS Racing Team, 2nd
“I got a good start, making up places off the line and managed to slot into second behind Taka Nakagami, who’d already pulled a gap at the front. It took me two laps to catch him, and I had the pace to pass, but I decided to sit in behind, stay as smooth as possible and save my tyres for the last few laps. The lap times were quick, but I felt comfortable, until Taka upped the pace again with about eight laps to go. Then Tito came past me and I started to struggle for grip in the right hand turns. I was making up ground in the left corners only to lose it again in the right corners. I lost contact with them on the final lap and decided to settle for third and the points. Unfortunately for Nakagami but luckily for me, it then became second. Although we could have won tonight, I’m happy to finish on the podium after such a big crash yesterday. Thanks to my crew, who put in long hours to rebuild the bike last night. Thanks also to Petronas Raceline Malaysia for the loan of a frame.”
Thomas Luthi, Interwetten Paddock Moto2, 3rd
“I lost my chance to fight for victory in the first five laps. I had problems with the front on right-handers and it kept pushing me wide. After a few laps the rear grip went down, and that helped me. I was able to get a good rhythm, and from t en it was a good race. What pleases me I’m fit, feel very good, even now after the race. This is nice, especially when I think back to my njury a year ago. I was not able to cross the line in third, but my lap times in the second half of the race would have been good enough for such a position. For the season, therefore I already believe that much is possible.”