American Racing’s Joe Roberts set a new Losail International Circuit lap record in FP2 at the QNB Grand Prix of Qatar to end Friday top of the timesheets in the Moto2™ class. Roberts' 1:58.421 was 0.248 clear of intermediate class sophomore Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) and his teammate Luca Marini closed out the top three on Day 1.
After topping Free Practice 1 earlier in the day, Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) had a tricky start to his FP2 after crashing at Turn 14 while on a session best lap – rider ok. There were no such troubles for Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) though as the Japanese rider, who finished P11 in FP1, shot to the top of the times with the fastest lap of the weekend. In the early stages, plenty of riders were beating their FP1 times, with Marini and Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP) going well in the opening exchanges.
Having finished P4 in FP1, Augusto Fernandez (FlexBox HP 40) then took over the P1 baton with around 25 minutes remaining. However, the Spaniard then suffered a crash at Turn 5 which ended his session early – rider ok. There was plenty of movement on the times to come as Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) climbed to P3, with Marini then going P1 as he and Bezzecchi continued to work together under the floodlights, just as they did in the opening session. But the Italian stranglehold wouldn’t last long as there was an American express turning up the wick. Roberts was setting the timing screens alight and the number 16 went P1 with a new lap record in FP2, beating Marini by over three tenths. It was a phenomenal day for Roberts having picked up P5 in FP1, and the same can be said for SKY Racing Team VR46. On the last lap, Bezzecchi would leapfrog ahead of Marini for P2 on the timesheets as the riders in P7 and P8 in FP1 claimed P2 and P3 in FP2.
Exactly half a second off Roberts’ time in P4 was Nagashima, a good improvement for the new Red Bull KTM Ajo recruit from FP1 to FP2, with Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) having a better afternoon to finish P5 overall, the Spaniard crashing in FP1 and finishing P16. Fernandez slipped to P6 after his FP2 tumble to end 0.653 off the pace, with Bendsneyder having a great FP2 to finish P7 overall on Day 1, the Dutchman claimed P18 after the opening session of 2020.
Now into his second year of Moto2™ action, Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) ended the day in P8, edging out both Bulega and second place FP1 finisher Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as the Spaniard slipped to P10, despite improving his time.
Remy Gardner (Onexox TKKR SAG Team) suffered a spectacular highside on the exit of Turn 1 in FP2, the Australian headed to the medical centre for a checkup, with Lüthi crashing for the second time late in FP2. Turn 2 caught out the Swiss man this time as the FP1 pacesetter settled for P11 on the combined times.
Moto2™ is set to light up Qatar again on Saturday as Roberts heads a top 18 split by less than a second. What a way to start the year in the intermediate class as qualifying starts to rear its head on the Doha horizon. Tune in for Moto2™ FP3 at 13:50 local time (GMT+3), with Q1 getting underway at 18:00.
Top 10 combined:
1. Joe Roberts (American Racing Team) – 1:58.421
2. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.248
3. Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.338
4. Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.500
5. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 0.638
6. Augusto Fernandez (FlexBox HP40) + 0.653
7. Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP) + 0.668
8. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) + 0.693
9. Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) + 0.715
10. Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.727
Click here for the full results!