Pol Espargaro was made to fight for the opening Moto2 win of the season after a race long battle with Scott Redding. The title favourites duked it out throughout the 20 lap race with the Spaniard eventually getting to the front with four laps remaining.
The start of the race however saw Takaaki Nakagami get the holeshot and open a lead over his pursuers. The Japanese rider is fancied by many as a darkhorse for the title but a daring move by Redding on the eighth lap saw him fall behind the Englishman and Espargaro.
Unable to maintain his early pace Nakagami went on to have an uneventful race and finished in a lonely third place 12 seconds behind the leaders but six seconds ahead of the rest of the field. It was the first podium finish of his career for the Italtrans rider however so he still had lots of reason for optimism following the season opener.
With Redding leading the way the battle at the front was hard fought with the Englishman eventually having to give way to Espargaro with four laps remaining. Redding would remain in close company to the race leader but ultimately he settled for second and a safe 20 points.
Speaking after the race Scott was clearly pleased with his podium but he has his sights set firmly on claiming his first Moto2 victory as soon as possible:
“I wasn’t expecting to lead here,” commented the Marc VDS rider. “I didn’t really have a plan once I got to the front, other than to keep a good rhythm and maintain my pace. It was a good battle with Pol; I thought I had him on the last lap, but he’s a tough rider and I couldn’t quite make it through. Next time I know to try that little bit harder to push him into a mistake.”
It was a strong opening race of the season for the Marc VDS squad with Mika Kallio finishing fifth after a strong weekend. The Finn, a front row qualifier, fell as low as 11th during the race but he showed the determination that marked him as a 125cc and 250cc title contender in his KTM days.
The 30 year old was pushed wide in the early laps and fell down the field but a series of strong laps put him back into contention before losing a slipstream battle with Dominique Aegerther. Speaking afterwards Kallio said:
“The chance of a podium for me was gone in the first few laps, unfortunately,” commented the Finn. “I got pushed wide in one turn and, in Moto2, it’s not just one rider than goes up your inside when that happens. After that it took a while for me to find my rhythm and start moving back up through the field. It was hard to overtake, because our engine doesn’t seem to have the push we need out of the turns, but I eventually fought my way through to fourth, only to be pushed wide in the final turn by Aegerter.”
Given that Kallio struggled for large portions of last season this was a heartening season opener for him and having been strong throughout the weekend he can hopefully look forward to a stronger season than last year.
While Kallio and Aegerter can feel pleased with their work at the start of the season Nico Terol will be looking to forget Qatar in a hurry. The Spaniard, a former 125cc champion, showed good pace in testing but was inconsistent in the desert. The dusty track conditions could have played a role in this but finishing 14th was obviously a major disappointment after finishing last season on the rostrum in Valencia.
Terol ran off track twice during the race and as we have seen in Moto2 before once a rider is in the midfield pack it can be exceptionally difficult to make progress.
“I arrived very prepared mentally for this first race of the year, and was ready to fight for the top spots,” commented Terol. “I set off from seventh, and at the end of the straight I tried to pass Kallio in order to not lose any places. However, the bike wobbled and I almost flew off it. I am a little annoyed, because I could have finished higher up the order, but I am satisfied with the work done by the team and myself this weekend. I took a risk at the start of the race that didn’t turn out well for me, but I have learnt that on the opening laps you have to push, but also do so with calm.”
Forward Racing has four riders in the intermediate class and Simone Corsi and Alex de Angeles both finished in the top ten but with both Mattia Pasini and Ricky Cardus crashing. Cardus was taken to the medical centre but was cleared without any fractures and doctors saying that he should be fully fit within a couple of days after a nasty highside.
Tech3 has two rookies this season, Danny Kent and Louis Rossi, and the Englishman had a solid debut in the class in finishing 18th having started near the back of the field. Speaking afterwards Kent said that “I’m pretty satisfied, my pace was consistent and around the group that finished around 13th and 14th.” His teammate fared worse with Rossi crashing out of proceedings in the early stages.
While the action in the midfield was as hard as ever in Moto2 the serene progress of Pol Espargaro will have left a lot of riders feeling nervous. The pole sitter crashed in qualifying and still remounted to take the win and while Redding was very impressive throughout the calmness of Espargaro in the final laps showed that he is rightly the title favourite. The Pons rider was able to set times at the end of the race that were consistently a couple of tenths quicker than Redding could manage.
Afterwards Espargaro admitted that he didn’t have the best setup for the race but that, “We improved at the end and the team did a good job. All riders are strong [in Moto2] so we will go to Texas to enjoy and look for another 25 points.”
Given his speed last season it could be ominous for the rest of Moto2 if the Spaniard can find improvement ahead of the next race. But with Redding having shadowed him home it is clear that the Englishman will be much stronger with the major handicap of his size being reduced by the introduction of the minimum weight in the class.