Flexbox HP 40’s Lorenzo Baldassarri had to fight off huge last lap pressure from the returning Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) to take Moto2™ victory at the VisitQatar Grand Prix, with the duel going down to the line. The Italian led from Lap 2 but had to withstand some serious pressure in the final sector of the last lap to hold off a swarming Lüthi, eventually taking the chequered flag just 0.026 clear of the Swiss rider. Dynavolt Intact GP’s Marcel Schrötter completed the podium from pole.
As the lights went out it was Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) who took the holeshot from the middle of the front row of the grid, but a big crash behind drew focus early on Lap 1. Debutant Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), Iker Lecuona (American Racing KTM) and Jorge Navarro (+Ego Speed Up) all crashed, before Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Marco Bezzechi then fell out of contention on his debut ride.
Back at the front, Baldassarri had blasted his way past Vierge on Lap Two before slowly but surely beginning to build up an advantage over the chasing pack. Despite taking the holeshot, Vierge then started to slip backwards, dropping from second to fifth inside four corners. Schrötter, Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) and Vierge’s EG 0,0 Marc VDS teammate Alex Marquez all made their way past.
Lüthi then got in on the act, fighting his way through to fifth place before setting back-to-back lap records around the Losail International Circuit to close in on Marquez and then get past him. The Kalex rider then sliced into third place past Australian Gardner with six laps to go, soon after setting up a grandstand finish by catching and passing teammate Schrötter with four laps on the clock.
The former MotoGP™ rider had 0.821 to pull in to catch Baldassarri at the front and with just a lap left, he had managed to cut that advantage down to nothing and was all over the rear of the Italian’s Kalex. Baldassarri was able to hold off off Lüthi’s charge for three quarters of the lap but the Swiss rider looked the favourite going into the final sector, applying huge pressure. It wasn’t enough, however, as Baldassarri’s defensive riding was enough to keep him at bay despite the fact the pair exited the final corner side-by-side – with Baldassarri holding on by just 0.026 to take the win.
Gardner initially stole third place from Schrötter on the final lap, but the German slipstreamed his way past the Australian to take the final step on the rostrum by two thousandths and complete a Dynovolt Intact GP double podium finish. Flexbox HP 40’s Augusto Fernandez came from row four of the grid to take fifth place, hugely impressive as he ended the race narrowly ahead of Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2).
Marquez eventually had to settle for seventh but was over two seconds clear of Sky Racing Team VR46’s Luca Marini in a lonely eighth place. Italtrans Racing Team’s Enea Bastianini was one of the rides of the day to take ninth on his Moto2™ debut, fighting off Vierge, who eventually slipped down to tenth. Fabio Di Giannantonio (+Ego Speed Up) took P11 as second rookie, ahead of a tougher race for Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder.
A nail-biting start to a new era in Moto2™ saw Baldassarri collect a commemorative first Triumph-powered race win trophy alongside his VisitQatar Grand Prix race winner prize. With a plethora of riders showing their potential this weekend, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll collect 25 points in Argentina.
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