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Another nail biting Moto3™ race saw the top three split by under 0.150s, with Alexis Masbou claiming victory.
Moto3™ provided an exhilarating start to the 2015 season under the floodlights at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar as a group of ten riders battled for the victory. All riders opted for medium front and rear tyres, apart from Hiroki Ono who went with the harder rear Dunlop.
There was drama from the start as Francesco Bagnaia went up the inside of Miguel Oliveira at Turn 1 with the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider, and race favourite, crashing out. A strong recovery saw the Portuguese rider battle back to 16th, but he did not dwell on this, saying “I sincerely believe that I could have been fighting for victory today, if everything had gone well, but racing is like this. We have to forget this result and take only the positives away from this race."
With the departure of Oliveira a frantic battle ensued that saw a multitude of riders, including Brad Binder and Moto3™ rookie Fabio Quartararo, briefly lead. Turn 1 was a popular overtaking spot with riders able to take advantage of a slipstream down the straight to gain several positions. The top 12 riders were all together during the opening stages before Danny Kent, Enea Bastianini, Francesco Bagnaia and Efren Vazquez made a brief break.
Bagnaia and his Mahindra were one of the surprises of the race, able to fight with the top riders and compete for the win. The young Italian overtaking Vazquez around the outside and able to maintain his lead in the race despite a small mistake. He eventually finished in ninth, within a second of Masbou. No doubt he will be a podium contender as the season progresses. “I did my best, but in the last lap Quartararo touched me, and I went wide. We could have made the podium today,” he said.
Third on the podium was Danny Kent, the British rider attempting to lead and break up the front pack at several points during the race. “I’m happy with the result, coming out of the last corner it’s anyone’s race with a big group like that,” commented Kent. The Leopard Racing rider has often struggled during the early races so begins 2015 on strong ground.
Perhaps the most impressive ride of the weekend went to Enea Bastianini in second, recovering from a disastrous 21st position on the grid. His Gresini Racing Team switched from KTM to Honda machinery and a lack of dry testing seriously hindered the Italian. The end of the first lap had him already challenging the top ten, he then went on to lead for much of the last lap before Masbou gained better drive out of the final corner. An excited Bastianini said, “I’m very happy because we had a difficult weekend. Today was perfect. The last corner was tough because I couldn’t get a better drive. Next week the win is possible.” Bastianini finished 13th at COTA last year.
Masbou was able to show his vast experience in the class, sitting in the pack and waiting for an opportunity during the race. It was not easy for the SAXOPRINT RTG rider, who found himself outside the top five on the final lap. A strong final two sectors saw him tuck behind Bastianini and wait for the final corner, going on to win by just 0.027s. Masbou previously took victory in Brno last year, where the podium was identical to the one at Qatar today. “I was scared on the last lap because I wasn’t in the top five. In T3 and T4 I was very strong. At the end I didn’t think I could do it! I stuck behind Efren and Enea and waited for the straight. Perfect!” commented a relieved Masbou.
Whilst several Italians shone in the race, it was a different matter for Romano Fenati. The SKY Racing Team VR46 rider was a title favourite coming into the season and had previously had strong results at Qatar, claiming a podium in his first Moto3 race. The Italian was only able to manage 17th in Qualifying and had a tough start to the race, battling with Darryn Binder in 19th for the majority of the race. The Italians efforts ended in a DNF.
There were crashes for Niklas Ajo, Remy Gardner, Hiroki Ono and Livio Loi who were all unable to remount.
The next race in the Moto2™ World Championship will take place at the Circuit of the Americas on 12 April.
Click here for the full Moto3™ race results form the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar.
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