Moto3 was a really tough act to follow but the intermediate class acquitted themselves honourably with a tense chase at the end of which Sam Lowes made the double in Qatar. The Elf Marc VDS rider leaves Losail with a perfect scoreboard but the second race told a different story to the first, Remy Gardner pushing Lowes right up to the finish line, when he admitted defeat and settled for second. There were still plenty of reasons to celebrate for the Red Bull KTM Ajo squad, as Gardner was joined on the podium by rookie teammate Raul Fernandez, who scored his first podium on only his second race in the class.
Gardner had made good start off the line but fellow front row starter Marco Bezzecchi made an even better one and grabbed the lead into turn one, with poleman Lowes on his tail, followed by Gardner and Fernandez. The top four men had already stretched a one second gap by the end of lap two, while Aron Canet was leading a sizeable chasing pack including the likes of Joe Roberts, Ai Ogura and Fabio Di Giannantonio.
Lowes made what proved to be his decisive move for the lead going into turn one as lap four got underway, while rookie Fernandez and teammate Gardner were eager to find a way past Bezzecchi as well and stop Lowes from escaping at the front. Gardner made a bit of a risky move on his teammate to pick up the task of reeling in the leaders and through the divine power of slipstream, both Red Bull KTMs slipped past Bezzecchi on lap six. Lowes’ gap never got over the half second mark and Gardner quickly brought it back to barely anything. Over two seconds behind the four leading men, Roberts and rookie Ogura were battling for fifth position until the American crashed out at the end of lap 7 and the distraction dropped Ogura to 7th spot, behind Di Giannantonio and Canet.
Lowes held onto the lead past the halfway mark of the race but the British rider did not look quite as strong as last Sunday and could not shake off his rivals. Bezzecchi soon started to very slowly fade, dropping half a second behind the podium positions but with no challenge from behind, where ten riders still had (more or less realistic) hopes for fifth place. Manzi, Ogura and Di Giannantonio seemed like the favourites, while two of the contenders, Marcel Schrotter and Jake Dixon, dropped out of the race with 7 laps remaining after an incident at turn 14 and Canet left of his own accord two laps later at turn 16.
Lowes’ gap rarely got over half a second but the KTMs were not making any moves behind him, Fernandez eventually losing ground on the men ahead for the final three laps. Lowes then went on to post the fastest lap of the race and Gardner pushed to beat it on the very next lap, the duo starting the final lap separated by two tenths of a second. Gardner hounded his rival but Lowes left no gaps open and took the win, while setting the fastest lap on the very last lap of the race. Fernandez crossed the finish line three seconds later, while Bezzecchi had a very lonely ride to fourth. Ogura managed to win the battle for fifth, ahead of Augusto Fernandez, Celestino Vietti and Stefano Manzi, while Xavi Vierge and Di Giannantonio rounded out the top ten.
Lowes’ double in Qatar puts him firmly in charge of the world championship standings, 10 points ahead of Gardner and 23 ahead of Fernandez, with Bezzecchi another point back.
|10||21||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Kalex||+18.167|
|14||19||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Kalex||+22.043|
|20||7||Lorenzo Baldassarri||MV Agusta||+44.961|
|44||Aron Canet||Boscoscuro||6 Laps|
|96||Jake Dixon||Kalex||8 Laps|
|23||Marcel Schrotter||Kalex||8 Laps|
|12||Thomas Luthi||Kalex||8 Laps|
|6||Cameron Beaubier||Kalex||12 Laps|
|10||Tommaso Marcon||MV Agusta||12 Laps|
|16||Joe Roberts||Kalex||14 Laps|