Franco Morbidelli eased to his first ever Grand Prix victory during Sunday’s Qatari Grand Prix at Losail. He beat last year’s winner – Swiss rider Tom Luthi – and Japanese sensation, Takaaki Nakagami. 4th went to Miguel Oliveira while Marc VDS’ 2nd rider – Alex Marquez – rounded out the top five.
In a race was that was more technical than energetic, Morbidelli cruised off in the opening lap. Luthi momentarily took the lead from him on lap two, attempting to disrupt the Italian’s weapon-like rhythm. However, Morbidelli took the lead back at turn 12 and stayed there until the chequered flag. Luthi also remained in 2nd, meaning that the battle was for the final podium position.
There was a crash on the first lap for Australian, Remy Gardner. He was furious as he threw is gloves on the floor in disbelief that his first race of the season had been curtailed. Mattia Pasini was also involved in the accident, along with Malaysian rider Hafizh Syahrin – he remounted along with Pasini.
Meanwhile, 3rd place belonged to Alex Marquez. The Spaniard doing what everyone said he needed to do in 2017 and prove that he is a rider at the top of his game. However, a few moments allowed for Nakagami to get through, swiftly followed by Portuguese rider, Miguel Oliveira, making his debut on the new KTM.
There was also a scrap brewing further down the field, with Moto2 rookie Fabio Quartararo in a battle with Lorenzo Baldassarri and his teammate Luca Marini. Both Forward Racing bikes having a heroic start to the season, especially compared to 2016, when Baldassarri dislocated both shoulders and Marini only managed 10th.
Unfortunately the Kiefer Racing team didn’t endure the start to the season they had hoped for, with Danny Kent and Dominique Aegerter finishing outside the top 10. Aegerter finished 11th with 2015 Moto3 champion Danny Kent 13th.
Valentino Rossi’s Sky VR46 team endured a tricky start, suffering from the massive lack in track time. Number one rider Bagnaia took a respectable 12th place with Stefano Manzi finishing 29th and last, more than a minute down on Franco Morbidelli.
Back to the battle for 6th and it was Luca Marini who held off Fabio Quartararo and Lorenzo Baldassarri to equal his best ever result in Moto2.
But the day belonged to Morbidelli. A perfect performance for the super cool Italian. Morbidelli beat Luthi and Nakagami, who held on to this 3rd place despite a late threat from Miguel Oliveria – a stunning start to KTM’s return to the intermediate class. Alex Marquez survived for 5th.
The next round of the championship comes from the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, north of Cordoba in Argentina. Morbidelli crashed their last season and Tom Luthi is yet to get a top five at the track, whilst Nakagami is yet to beat 9th place. Of the riders still on the grid from last year’s race, Aegerter is the highest finisher with 5th – although outright, it is Xavier Simeon with a 2nd place in 2014.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko