With the MotoGP grid reluctantly still on holiday, the intermediate class had to step up as the main event in Qatar and it did not disappoint in the slightest. At the end of an animated Moto2 race, a beautifully emotional Tetsuta Nagashima lifted the biggest trophy in Qatar, after fighting his way from 14th on the grid and leaving his rivals in the distance as he took the checkered flag on his first victory in the class and the championship lead. Lorenzo Baldassarri was back on a favourite playground of his but had to settle for second, while Enea Bastianini converted his first front row start in Moto2 into a podium.
Going back to when the lights went out, fellow front row starter Luca Marini looked like the lead actor as he claimed the lead off the line, while poleman Joe Roberts lost another position to Bastianini in turn one. Jorge Martin, having started 8th, was soon demoting Roberts from third position, with Jorge Navarro on the prowl as well. Bastianini briefly challenged Marini at the front but the Italian was back ahead at the start of lap 2, while Roberts was keeping busy with Martin in the early battle for third. The four riders were one tiny step ahead of the chasing pack, three tenths of a second keeping them ahead of the likes of Baldassarri, Remy Gardner, Xavi Vierge, Marco Bezzecchi, Navarro and Nagashima. Rookie Aron Canet climbed from 16th to 11th and was riding one second behind the chasing pack but getting an experienced tour guide in Tom Luthi, who was fighting through from 18th on the grid. Meanwhile, Augusto Fernandez abandoned ship at turn six after a tangle with Stefano Manzi on lap 3.
By the fifth lap, Marini, Roberts, Martin and Bastianini got company from Baldassarri, Vierge and Bezzecchi, while Navarro was left in charge of the pursuers, which included Nagashima and Gardner. Marini was calmly fending off Roberts’s advances but didn’t have the speed to attempt an escape just yet. Martin and Baldassarri were still in contention but appeared to go back towards the chasers rather than challenge the leaders.
Marini picked up the pace on lap 10 and squeezed a few tenths off of Roberts – which turned into an eight tenths gap one lap later. Roberts’ mission was getting harder by the second but not as hard as Martin’s, whose mid-race mistakes dropped him to the bottom of the top ten. That left the Italian duo of Baldassarri and Bastianini to engage in a feisty battle for the final podium spot but Nagashima and Vierge were biding their time for an attack as well. Navarro was still fighting to join the action in the chasing pack and taking Bezzecchi with him. Canet was enjoying a lonely ride over a second down the road but suddenly found Gardner on his tail after a mistake pushed the Australian back significantly. Luthi, Schrotter and Martin were left out of the limelight outside of the top ten.
Back at the front, the tale had another twist, Marini getting pulled back by the pack still led by Roberts and the poleman was under serious threat himself from Baldasarri, Nagashima and Bastianini. In very Navarro fashion, the Spaniard got faster as the race progressed and tagged along to the podium fight for the final seven laps but wasn’t a big feature in it.
With six laps to go, Roberts saw clear air ahead for the first time since lining up on pole, when Marini began struggling with tyre wear. However, with Marini dropping places at a rapid rate, his compatriots picked up the reins and battled for the lead, Baldassaarri and Bastianini pushing Roberts back and under threat from Nagashima. Quickly past the poleman and the Italians, the Japanese rider led the race for the first time going into the final three laps and seemed to enjoy the limelight, swiftly stretching a one second gap with a fantastic few laps at the front. Baldasarri, Bastianini, Roberts, Navarro and a fast advancing Gardner were left to fight for podium leftovers.
Nagashima took the checkered flag with a 1.3 seconds advantage over Baldassarri, with Bastianini never getting another attack in. Roberts missed out on the podium by a tenth of a second and was followed across the line by Gardner and Navarro. Schrotter eventually overtook Canet for seventh place but the rookie finished his first Moto2 race in a solid eighth position. Vierge and Luthi completed the top ten, while Bo Bendsneyder could not quite replicate his qualifying performance but still snatched a few points. Marini’s day went from the lead to the gravel trap in the final few laps, with a last lap incident with Jake Dixon robbing him of a couple points.
|6||9||Jorge NAVARRO||Speed Up||+2.381|
|8||44||Aron CANET||Speed Up||+4.703|
|13||21||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Speed Up||+12.701|
|15||62||Stefano MANZI||MV Agusta||+16.208|
|19||55||Hafizh SYAHRIN||Speed Up||+19.639|
|21||24||Simone CORSI||MV Agusta||+27.291|
|22||27||Andi Farid IZDIHAR||Kalex||+34.514|
|24||19||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Kalex||+45.850|
|25||35||Somkiat CHANTRA||Kalex||1 Lap|
|10||Luca MARINI||Kalex||1 Lap|
|99||Kasma DANIEL||Kalex||12 Laps|
|37||Augusto FERNANDEZ||Kalex||18 Laps|
|42||Marcos RAMIREZ||Kalex||19 Laps|