At the end of a long long winter riders lined up on the grid for the first battle of the season in the scenic sunset of Qatar. 18 frantic laps later, the Losail circuit crowned the first Japanese rider to win in the Moto3 class, Kaito Toba recovering from a poor start to take the checkered flag in prime position. The Asia Talent Cup recruit snatched the win from Lorenzo Dalla Porta by five hundredths of a second, with poleman Canet completing the podium.
Canet had an excellent launch to show the way on lap one but it was Dalla Porta who started lap two in the lead courtesy of a generous slipstream. Another winner on lap one was Toni Arbolino, who joined top three positions after a second row start. On the other hand, front row starter Toba got swamped by the pack at the start and could not take advantage of his excellent grid position. Another star of practice, Romano Fenati, had to make do with an already poor starting position and an even poorer start that dropped him to 17th place by the end of lap one. But the Italian quickly got into the groove with fastest laps to recover ground on the leaders and was up into the top ten by lap four.
Back at the front, the early shenanigans between Dalla Porta, Canet, Arbolino and Albert Arenas allowed a pack of 15 pursuers to tag along and threaten for the lead. The group included resurgent Toba, who had slipped out of the limelight on lap one but ended up leading the way by lap six. With Arenas and Arbolino fading from the spotlight, it was Toba and Antonelli’s turn to challenge Canet and Dalla Porta but Fenati started feeling left out and made his way to the front by the end of lap nine.
Despite 15 men still hanging onto the lead group, the only riders showing their speed at the mid point of the race were Toba, Fentati, Canet and Dalla Porta, with the likes of Vietti, Antonelli, Arenas, McPhee or Ramirez biding their time a couple tenths of a second behind. The lead repeatedly changed hands between the four keen men up front, Fenati dazzling with his corner speed but slipstream toning down every intention to escape.
In the final five laps, some other faces wanted airtime, Ramirez in particular snatching the lead having started 20th on the grid. Meanwhile, Fenati got a track limits warning which he appeared to misread and unnecessarily took the long penalty line, which brought him out in 13th position, at the end of the lead group with four laps remaining.
With Fenati on a mission to fight through the heart of the pack, Dalla Porta resumed the lead and fought to keep Toba, Canet and Ramirez at a safe distance. The Italian led as the pack was starting the final lap but Toba flew past and held firm until the final sector, when Dalla Porta had another go and gambled on leading out of the final turn. However, Toba let him pass and patiently slipstreamed his way to the line for the record breaking win. With Dalla Porta and Canet filling in the podium, Ramirez had to settle for fourth, ahead of an excellent fifth for Vietti. Arenas, Raul Fernandez, Antonelli, Fenati and Jakub Kornfeil rounded out the top ten but would have been disappointed with being so close yet so far from the podium.
Toba’s victory makes him the first leader in the championship standings, with Dalla Porta and Canet getting their campaigns to a decent start as well.
|2||48||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Honda||+0.053|
|24||69||Tom BOOTH-AMOS||KTM||3 Laps|
|24||Tatsuki SUZUKI||Honda||14 Laps|
|7||Dennis FOGGIA||KTM||14 Laps|
|40||Darryn BINDER||KTM||17 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|71||Ayumu SASAKI||Honda||0 Lap|
|5||Jaume MASIA||KTM||0 Lap|