The 2020 Moto3 World Championship got underway under the Losail floodlights today with Honda riders in the midst of the battle for victory and filling eight of the first nine positions.
John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) rode superbly to finish second, just 0.053 seconds behind winner Albert Arenas. A further two tenths behind McPhee came Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW), scoring the second Grand Prix podium of his career.
Just 0.834 seconds covered the top ten at the checkered flag, with Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) taking a close fourth in his first race on a Honda; then Tatsuki Suzuki (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), Gabriel Rodrigo (Kommerling Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW), Jeremy Alcoba (Kommerling Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW), Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW) and Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW).
McPhee spent much of the race in the middle of the lead pack, which had the top 15 separated by just 1.3 seconds at half-distance. The 25-year-old Briton's plan was to save his tires for the all-important final laps when he began moving forward and making some excellent passes. On the last lap he worked his way into second place, right behind Arenas, aiming to slipstream past the Spaniard on the long run to the finish line. Only one thing spoiled this plan. As McPhee attacked the final corner he took a defensive line in case anyone tried to take second place from him. This spoiled his exit speed and he wasn't quite close enough to draft Arenas.
Ogura crossed the line in fourth place, but was promoted to third when Masia was penalized one position for exceeding track limits during the frantic final lap. The 19-year-old from Saitama, contesting his second GP campaign, had an excellent preseason, which suggested he will be a contender for the 2020 Moto3 crown. He started from the second row today, but lost to rivals using different tire compounds in the early stages of the race. In the later laps he made an impressive comeback, maintaining a rapid pace, even though his tires were past their best, and passing several rivals. At the finish he was just 0.344 seconds behind Arenas.
Masia wasn't happy about losing the podium, but nevertheless he can be happy about his first race aboard an NSF250RW. The 19-year-old Spaniard fought at the front throughout, with enough race pace to challenge for victory. He was one five riders handed a one-position penalty for running too wide on the last lap. The others included fifth-placed Suzuki, sixth-placed Rodrigo and seventh-placed rookie Alcoba.
Suzuki started the race from pole position, hoping to repeat his pole-to-victory performance at last September's San Marino GP. He led during the first lap and was back in the hunt during the later stages, finally missing the podium by four tenths of a second.
Tony Arbolino (Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW) also starred in the lead group, making some stunning passes, but lost out in the last-lap brawl, when he went to fourth to 15th. after a collision with South African rider Darryn Binder.
Ogura's new team-mate Yuki Kunii (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) commenced his first World Championship season with a respectable 18th-place finish, less than four seconds outside the points. The 17-year-old rookie from Tokyo started from 15th on the grid and learned plenty while battling with rivals.
The opening Moto2 Grand Prix of the year went to first-time winner Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex), who rode a brilliantly judged race, fighting his way through from 14th on the grid to take the lead for the first time on lap 18 of 20 and quickly escape from the lead pack. The 27-year-old father of three from Kanagawa took the flag 1.347 seconds ahead of last year's Losail Moto2 winner Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex).
Nagashima was understandably emotional after not only his first victory but his first podium, which came ten years after his friend Shoya Tomizawa won the first race of the inaugural Moto2 season, here at Losail in April 2010. Tomizawa tragically lost his life at Misano five months later.
Former Moto3 winner Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex) completed the podium, scoring his second Moto2 top-three finish and his first since last August's Czech GP.
Joe Roberts (American Racing Kalex) started the race from pole position – the first American to do so in a decade – and was in the lead group throughout, taking the flag in fourth place, 0.131 seconds off the podium. The 22-year-old, whose previous best finish was a tenth-place finish at the 2017 Czech GP, was the only rider in the lead group to choose a harder-compound front tire.
Also in the podium hunt were Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team Kalex) and Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up Speed Up), who finished fifth and sixth.
Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) led much of the race after starting from the front row but ran out of grip before the finish, slipping outside the top ten, then crashing on the final lap after tangling with a rival.
Team-mates Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) and Andi Farid Izdihar (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) learned a lot during the first weekend of their 2020 Moto2 campaigns.
Rookie Farid Izdihar enjoyed his race to 22nd place, despite losing a lot of time in the first lap, when he ran very wide into the first corner. The 22-year-old Indonesian ran a consistent pace after that, giving him a good basis from which to work for the rest of the season.
Chantra, starting his second Moto2 season, was hoping for a points-scoring result, but he slid off during the first lap. The 21-year-old Thai remounted in last place and doggedly kept going to the finish.
Today's season-opening Qatar Grand Prix went ahead without the premier MotoGP class due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Moto2 and Moto3 classes were already in Qatar, completing their preseason testing at Losail, when Qatari authorities introduced stricter travel restrictions last Sunday, so riders and teams remained in the country, awaiting the race weekend.
However, the MotoGP class had tested at Losail the previous week, so most riders and team staff had returned home. The travel restrictions prevented Italian paddock members returning to Qatar. This affected a significant proportion of the MotoGP grid – both riders and staff – so the decision was taken to cancel the race.
Earlier this weekend a revised 2020 World Championship calendar was published, rescheduling the postponed Thailand Grand Prix to October. The MotoGP category is currently due to go racing alongside the Moto2 and Moto3 classes at the Grand Prix of the Americas on April 5.
|1||Tetsuta NAGASHIMA (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|2||Lorenzo BALDASSARRI (Flexbox HP 40)|
|3||Enea BASTIANINI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|4||Joe ROBERTS (American Racing)|
|5||Remy GARDNER (Onexox TKKR SAG Team)|
|6||Jorge NAVARRO (Beta Tools Speed Up)|
|7||Marcel SCHROTTER (Liqui Moly Intact GP)|
|8||Aron CANET (Aspar Team)|
|9||Xavi VIERGE (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|10||Thomas LUTHI (Liqui Moly Intact GP)|
|11||Bo BENDSNEYDER (NTS RW Racing GP)|
|12||Marco BEZZECCHI (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|13||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO (Beta Tools Speed Up)|
|14||Jake DIXON (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|15||Stefano MANZI (MV Agusta Forward Racing)|
|16||Edgar PONS (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|17||Hector GARZO (Flexbox HP 40)|
|18||Nicolo BULEGA (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|19||Hafizh SYAHRIN (Aspar Team)|
|20||Jorge MARTIN (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|21||Simone CORSI (MV Agusta Forward Racing)|
|22||Andi IZDIHAR (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|23||Jesko RAFFIN (NTS RW Racing GP)|
|24||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|25||Somkiat CHANTRA (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|RT||Luca MARINI (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|RT||Kasma Daniel (Onexox TKKR SAG Team)|
|RT||Augusto FERNANDEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|RT||Marcos RAMIREZ (American Racing)|
|1||Albert ARENAS (Aspar Team Gaviota)|
|2||John MCPHEE (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|3||Ai OGURA (Honda Team Asia)|
|4||Jaume MASIA (Leopard Racing)|
|5||Tatsuki SUZUKI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)|
|6||Gabriel RODRIGO (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3)|
|7||Jeremy ALCOBA (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3)|
|8||Filip SALAC (Rivacold Snipers Team)|
|9||Dennis FOGGIA (Leopard Racing)|
|10||Raul FERNANDEZ (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|11||Sergio GARCIA (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|12||Deniz ONCU (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|13||Alonso LOPEZ (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team)|
|14||Kaito TOBA (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|15||Tony ARBOLINO (Rivacold Snipers Team)|
|16||Andrea MIGNO (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|17||Romano FENATI (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team)|
|18||Yuki KUNII (Honda Team Asia)|
|19||Ayumu SASAKI (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)|
|20||Ryusei YAMANAKA (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|21||Carlos TATAY (Reale Avintia Racing)|
|22||Stefano NEPA (Aspar Team Gaviota)|
|23||Davide PIZZOLI (BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy)|
|24||Riccardo ROSSI (BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy)|
|25||Jason DUPASQUIER (CarXpert PruestelGP)|
|26||Khairul Idham Pawi (Petronas Sprinta Racing)|
|27||Maximilian KOFLER (CIP Green Power)|
|28||Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|29||Dirk GEIGER (CarXpert PruestelGP)|
|RT||Darryn BINDER (CIP Green Power)|
|RT||Jose Julian GARCIA (SIC58 Squadra Corse)|