Masia beats Acosta and Binder to opening night victory

0.094s split the podium trio in an enthralling maiden Moto3™ encounter of 2021

It was a dream start to 2021 for Red Bull KTM Ajo and Jamue Masia as the Spaniard secured his fourth career victory in a stunning Moto3™ encounter at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar. Masia’s rookie teammate Pedro Acosta followed home to pick up P2 in his first Grand Prix race with polesitter Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) completing a podium split by just 0.094s at the chequered flag.

Binder got the perfect launch from P1 and shot down into Turn 1 with a clear path to the holeshot, with fellow front row starters Izan Guevara (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) losing a bit of ground as Moto3™ racing roared into life in 2021. Binder did hold onto his advantage with Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) making good ground to grab P2. Immediate drama unfolded as Dennis Foggia’s (Leopard Racing) race ended with a crash at Turn 3 after contact with Carlos Tatay (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3), with Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) then going down at Turn 6.

Up the road, Binder led but the insane slipstream effect was seen on the front straight as five riders shot past the South African before Turn 1, with Rodrigo taking the lead. A gaggle of 10 riders had formed at the front but Lap 3 would host a huge talking point. At Turn 6, rookie Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) was a bit too greedy on the brakes and, unfortunately, three other riders fell foul of the Spaniard's mistake. McPhee, Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) were all down and out of the race, with Artigas managing to pick his Honda up off the floor and continue. Immediate drama in the 2021 Moto3™ World Championship.

Back on track, a typical Moto3™ freight train was squabbling for the lead. 14 riders were covered by just two seconds and the lead, mostly on the run into Turn 1, was changing every single lap. Friday pacesetter Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) was one of the riders who had a go at holding the race lead baton as he and Binder had a nice little scrap on Lap 9. Rookie sensational Guevara and Acosta were battling it out in the 14-rider strong group, with the likes of Masia, Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar), Rodrigo, Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) – from the back of the grid – getting busy.

With eight laps to go, Aki Ajo would have been a very happy – but nervous – Team Manager. Masia and Acosta were leading the way but the ever-present Binder was getting his elbows out, the Honda rider and Rodrigo came into slight contact a couple of times – rubbing is racing as they say. With seven to go, a potentially costly mistake from Rodrigo saw the Argentine run wide at Turn 2, with replays showing he rubbed wheels with Masia – a close call.

Lap 13 saw Binder return to P1 for the first time in a good handful of laps, but Masia bit back at Turn 6 on the same lap. Then, Acosta followed his teammate through to shove Binder back to P3. 13 riders, with six to go, were racing just 1.6 seconds apart. Sasaki was now leading heading into the last four laps but yet again, the slipstream effect was insane and Acosta was back up in P1, with teammate Masia tucked in behind.

The lightweight class leaders flashed across the line and all of a sudden, there was just three laps left. Sasaki, Binder, Masia was your top three but any one of 13 riders could win this, with Rodrigo back up into fourth after his earlier error. Sasaki enjoyed a lap a the front but the Japanese star was swamped at the end of the straight, he was shuffled to P7 and Masia now led from Binder and Rodrigo.

Out of nowhere, Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3) was now the race leader coming onto the final lap. But, it didn’t last for the experienced Italian. It was slipstream city again and Masia capitalised to lead into Turn 1, followed by Acosta as Sasaki’s race ended with a heart-breaking crash at Turn 2. A gap then formed between the leading three riders and the chasing pack, it was seemingly Masia vs Acosta vs Binder for victory. And so it played out. Masia was untroubled heading into the final corner with Acosta and Binder right up his tailpipes, as we prepared ourselves for the run to the line.

Binder, slightly deep into the last corner, had a two bike slipstream but a swerving Masia was able to keep both Acosta and Binder behind him to take the first 25 points of 2021. A brilliant ride from the Spaniard and an equally outstanding effort from reigning Red Bull Rookies Cup winner Acosta, a maiden Grand Prix podium in his World Championship debut – bravo. Binder was satisfied with P3, a fantastic way to open his account with Petronas Sprinta Racing.

Garcia claimed P4 after just losing touch on the podium battle on the final lap, the Spaniard finished 0.435s from the win, with Rodrigo recovering well to salvage P5. Antonelli takes away a P6 despite leading onto the last lap, a good ride nonetheless, with Guevara finishing under a second from the victory in P7 – a terrific job by the current Junior World Champion. After missing the pre-season test with Covid-19, Suzuki’s P8 finish deserves plenty of plaudits.

Toba and Jason Dupasquier (CarXpert PrüstelGP) completed the top 10 as the latter picks up his best Grand Prix finish. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) jumped the start and was handed a double Long Lap penalty, so P11 for the Italian is a job well done all things considered. Tatay, Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team), Ryusei Yamanaka (CarXpert PrüstelGP) and Maximilian Kofler (CIP Green Power) were the remaining point scorers in Qatar.

Drama, scintillating racing, and a ridiculously tight finish. Moto3™ delivered at the Qatar GP as Red Bull KTM Ajo take home maximum points, with Masia the first victor of the season. The best thing? We get to do it all over again next weekend at the Losail International Circuit.  

Top 10:
1. Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2. Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.042
3. Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 0.094
4. Sergio Garca (GasGas Gaviota Aspar) + 0.435
5. Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesia Gresini Racing Moto3) + 0.880
6. Niccolo Antonelli (Reale Avintia Moto3) + 0.899
7. Izan Guevara (GasGas Gaviota Aspar) + 0.965
8. Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) + 1.950
9. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) +2.214
10. Jason Dupasquier (CarXpert PrüestelGP) + 2.219


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