Marc Marquez and Thomas Luthi have both been issued a formal warning by Race Direction after the Moto2 race at Qatar. Marquez was warned over his pass on Luthi at the start of the last lap, while Luthi received the warning for the hard slap he gave on Marquez' throttle arm on the cooldown lap, when the Swiss rider went to remonstrate with the Spaniard over the pass.
The night schedule at Qatar means that writers and journalists end the weekend in a state of utter exhaustion. To bed at dawn for a few hours fitful sleep, up around noon, off the to the track for a full day's - or night's - work, then do the same thing over again. Race day is worse, the schedule is tougher, the adrenaline rush greater, the comedown even bigger. And there's usually about twice as much work to do as well. It is still the greatest job in the world, of course, but it makes you long for sleep a couple of times a year. Qatar race-night round ups tend to be terse, and given my usual verbosity, this is no bad thing.
The races. The Moto3 race looked a lot like a 125cc race with a different soundtrack. The great thing about Moto3 is that with a level playing field, we get a slighly different cast of characters, but the best riders remain at the top. The winner's name had been pencilled in since the preseason, Maverick Vinales clearly the cream of the crop in the most junior Grand Prix class. Third man Sandro Cortese was another podium regular, but sandwiched in between was Romano Fenati, a rookie to the class and a name few people who had not been following the preseason testing or the European 125cc championship will have heard of. Fenati is the real deal, giving a sterling account of himself and only wilting under the relentless pressure from Vinales at the very end.
Press releases from the teams after the Moto2 and Moto3 races on Sunday at Qatar:
Results and summary of a thrilling Moto2 race at Qatar:
On the evidence of qualifying at Qatar, we're in for a cracking MotoGP season. A very tight battle for pole settled in the final minutes, a surprise front row sitter, and plenty of on-track action are the ingredients for a great QP session, and the changes the sport have undergone are overwhelmingly positive. The same was true in Moto2, where a smart strategy outwitted a late last lap, and Moto3 saw another battle that went down to the wire.
In the Moto3 class, the leveling effect that the new rev- and price-limited bikes have had is plain, just as it was when the Moto2 class replaced the 250s back in 2010. To see the names of Sandro Cortese and Maverick Vinales in 1st and 2nd on the grid is no surprise, but Louis Rossi in 3rd is a bit of a shocker. The Frenchman has spent most of his career on third-rate 125s, and qualified mainly between 10th and 20th in 2011. Since climbing aboard a Moto3 bike, he has been a top 10 regular throughout testing and featured prominently at Qatar. A front row start is richly deserved, and with the front three close, and the top 10 all having been somewhere near the front at some point in the weekend, the inaugural Moto3 race promises to be as good as the 125s it replaces, despite the fact that the times are over a second slower than last year.
Press releases after qualifying from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams at Qatar:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Qatar:
After the euphoria of the first day at Qatar, it was back to work on Friday, with riders, teams and even journalists turning their focus back to the task at hand. While most of the attention was focused on MotoGP, the premier class seeing fascinating stories start to develop in the two sessions of free practice the class had in the irregular and rather confusing schedule which the night race at Qatar forces on the paddock, a pattern is also starting to emerge in both Moto2 and Moto3.
Thomas Luthi has the intermediate class in a vice-like grip. The Interwetten Paddock rider has topped all three sessions of free practice, and the rider has looked calm and in control throughout. Add to that the fact that Luthi is on a Suter amid a sea of Kalexes, the only other Suter anywhere near him the Repsol wunderkind Marc Marquez, and you get an idea of just how impressive Luthi's performance is. The Swiss rider has a sound and strong rhythm, can respond when he needs to and has the measure of everyone on a Kalex. It would be foolish to bet against him in either QP or the race, and even if he should miss out on pole, a front row start would be good enough for him to wrap up the first race of the season. The Kalex hordes behind him are all pretty close, with little to choose between Claudio Corti, Tito Rabat and Scott Redding, and Pol Espargaro possibly the pick of the bunch. With Marquez still easing his way back into the season after missing so much pre-season testing, and concentrating on being consistent and scoring points, Luthi should be able to build a decent start to the season at Qatar.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the second day of practice at Qatar:
Thomas Luthi has completed a clean sweep of free practice at Qatar, the Interwetten Paddock rider taking the top spot in all three sessions so far. Luthi held a sizable advantage for most of the session, but Pons Kalex rider Pol Espargaro cut his lead to just four hundredths of a second in the final moments. Espargaro's teammate Tito Rabat took third, ahead of Marc VDS Racing's Scott Redding and Claudio Corti of the Italtrans team.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Qatar: