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The 2016 Moto3™ World Championship opener in Qatar didn’t disappoint as 8 riders battled for victory, now the battle continues in Argentina.
In true Moto3™ style it came down to the slipstream in Qatar, Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) playing his cards perfectly to snatch victory by 0.007s from Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo). The Italian was able to grab the win, his third in the class, even though he was battling illness and a still healing collarbone, but he’s now had a week off and heads to Argentina in a much better physical condition.
Brad Binder looked one of the most consistent riders throughout the race in Qatar, the KTM rider able to lead the race with ease and always seemed to be in control. Despite having taken part in every Moto3™ World Championship since the class began, the South African is yet to take his first win. Qatar saw him come tantalisingly close and post-race he showed few signs of disappointment, putting it down to being ‘just one of those things’. Binder will be able to head to Argentina with confidence having finished fifth there in 2015 while his closest rival, Antonelli, has never scored points at the Termas de Rio Hondo.
Adding to the South African’s confidence will be the fact that the four riders who finished ahead of him in Argentina in 2015 have now moved up to the Moto2™ World Championship. The 2015 race saw Danny Kent dominate and run away to win by ten seconds, it’s set to be a much closer affair in 2016 with the Honda and KTM machines evenly matched and Mahindra continuing to take steps forward with their bike.
A gaggle of Italians were in the mix for third in Qatar with Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) coming out on top to hand Mahindra their first podium since Le Mans 2015, which was also Bagnaia’s last podium. During the weekend Bagnaia and Mahindra used a set of winglets on the MGP3O, the Grand Prix Commission announcing after the race that from 2017 onwards these would be banned in the lightweight class.
Right behind Bagnaia in the race were Sky Racing Team VR46 teammates Romano Fenati and rookie Nicolo Bulega, in fourth and sixth respectively. Bulega impressed on his fulltime World Championship debut, fighting with the much more experienced riders around him and giving no quarter. The Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina will be another new challenge for Bulega and all his fellow rookies, in Qatar they had the advantage of three days of testing to learn the track, now they will have just three Free Practice sessions.
Eyes will also be on Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV), who set the pace in practice but was unable to battle for the podium come race day in Qatar due to an early mistake, ending eighth. In 2014 Loi achieved one of his most notable World Championship results when he charged to fourth.
Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) will be out to re-assert himself as a title contender, the Italian having gone largely unnoticed throughout testing and Qualifying with mid-pack pace. In the Qatar GP ‘The Beast’ awoke and was able to eventually work his way up to the leading group.
As the lone Argentinian rider in the World Championship, Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team) heads home with nervous anticipation. He finished 19th in Qatar, matching his second best race result as he continues to look for his first points on the world stage.
Action at the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina begins at 09:00 Local Time on Friday the first of April.
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