2020 Qatar MotoGP Results And News

Neil Morrison | March 8, 2020

The floodlights that illuminate the Losail International Circuit, for the opening round of the 2020 FIM MotoGP Championship, March 6-8, have always provided a unique backdrop to MotoGP since the series’ first night race here in 2008. But the latest running of Grand Prix racing’s curtain-raiser took this to new levels as, in MotoGP’s absence, the support classes took center stage for the first time in the modern era.

2020 Qatar MotoGP Results And News
Tetsuta Nagashima scored his first-career Moto2 victory at Qatar. Photo: Gold & Goose

The ever-growing outbreak of the coronavirus placed immense travel restrictions on Italy, keeping key premier class personnel grounded in Europe. Here was a unique test of sorts: could the support acts rock the main stage with the headliners AWOL?

On this evidence, there was little doubting they could. In what the paddock lacked in premier class riders, full media presence and spectators, Moto2 and Moto3 made up for in drama, intrigue and all-out surprise. The former threw up a result that tugged on the heartstrings and an American revival while the latter was as close as ever.

MotoGP-light this may have been, but the 2020 season opener delivered on all fronts elsewhere. Just as well, as not one person left the circuit on Sunday night knowing when the next track action would be.

Moto2

No one saw this coming. Yes, Qatar has a habit of throwing up a surprise or two. There’s history here, of course. Going all the way back to the inaugural running of the Moto2 class that ran in 2010, and then an unknown teenager by the name of Shoya Tomizawa ran away with the spoils.

But this year’s event was big on the shock factor from start to end. The previously outgunned American Joe Roberts (American Racing Kalex) carried a wave of newfound confidence from Friday’s FP2, a session in which he broke the outright circuit record, through to this action-packed opener.

For 12 laps here the 22-year old Californian, who grabbed a sensational debut pole position on Saturday, clung on to preseason favorite Luca Marini (Sky Racing VR46 Kalex) like a man possessed, running with the sport’s heavyweights with whom he had only fought in his wildest dreams before now.

There was never much in it. And a fierce supporting cast bit at their heels—namely Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Kalex) and the ultra-aggressive Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex)—in a lead group that at one point stretched to 10 riders.

Then the surprises really came. Sole tire supplier Dunlop had planned for the race to start at 16:20 local time. MotoGP’s cancellation led organizers Dorna to slot Moto2 where the premier class should have been at 18:00, a time when the sun has gone down, temperatures have dropped and humidity is on the rise.

Now Dunlop’s super-soft front—the compound of choice for all riders bar five—was graining for some, who hadn’t perfected set-up for these very specific conditions. From lap 15, Marini’s performance began to plummet. Martin’s too.

And others sensed a chance, most notably Nagashima. Sixth on lap 15, the Japanese rider took just three laps to move ahead, completing an expert two-in-one swoop on Baldassarri and Bastianini to lead into turn one. As the Italians battled behind, he edged clear, coming home 1.3 seconds ahead for his debut grand prix victory, a success made all the sweeter by its echoes of old friend Tomizawa’s success here in 2010.

“Shoya was like my hero,” Nagashima, who qualified just 14th, later explained. “When I was three years old, I started racing with him. I knew him and his family very well, and I always followed him, from pocket bikes to the All-Japan Championship. Today, I was very comfortable in the last two laps. I saw that when Shoya won the race here he [celebrated] like this. I did the same.”

With the Japanese rider gone, Baldassarri edged a four-way fight for second ahead of Bastianini, and the all-action Roberts missing the drag to the line in fourth, just 0.2 seconds back of second. The American, who was one of the five riders to choose the harder of the front tire option, explained, “We gambled and went with the harder front and I had a couple of moments on the left side. I was losing the front and had to save it. Then I had to play it safe in the left corners. But honestly, to be pole position and come away with fourth position, this is the best result I’ve ever had in my career so I can’t be upset about that.”

Roberts just staved off the late-charging Remy Gardner, who staged a fine recovery from early contact with Nagashima. Navarro was sixth while Marcel Schrotter (Intact GP Kalex) and Aron Canet (Aspar Speed Up) completed a top eight covered by just 4.7 seconds.

Moto3 Race

If history could be used as a guide, this was always going to be close. Only one of the past five encounters here was decided by more than a tenth of a second. Even then, when Joan Mir won out in 2017, it was by the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it margin of 0.135.

Albert Arenas’ (Aspar Team KTM) coolly executed triumph was as much a testament to the prowess of KTM’s all-new 2020 RC4 as it was to the Spaniard’s recently found coolness under pressure. This bout may well come to be remembered for KTM’s 100th victory across all grand prix classes. But it just might mark the beginning of Arenas’ push for the title.

This was a typical Moto3 affair, with as little as 1.4 seconds covering the top 14 with a lap to go. Before then Arenas had done the majority of the heavy lifting, storming into an early lead and dictating the pace from the front for twelve of the 14 laps.

But even then he needed to stage a recovery. Contact with pole man Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Honda) on lap 15 dropped him to seventh, behind the Japanese rider, John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Honda), Darryn Binder (CIP KTM), Tony Arbolino (Snipers Racing Honda), Dennis Foggia (Leopard Honda) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Gresini Honda). “Tatsuki pushed me wide at turn one, but I tried to stay calm and keep my pace,” Arenas said soon after.

An all-out braking duel at turn one on the final lap saw Arbolino take out Binder, setting up a face-off between Arenas and McPhee as the others scrambled behind. The Scot thought it wise to avoid a braking duel into the final corner, instead setting up a slipstream to the line. But Arenas’ KTM held him off to win by 0.053 seconds, an early marker in the sand.

“I think this was the best race of my life,” Arenas said. “The last lap was so tense, but amazing in the end.” McPhee was magnanimous in second. “I thought about taking a lunge on the last corner but I thought I could draft on the straight after a good exit. Anyway, P2 is a really good way to start the season.”

Jaume Masia (Leopard Honda) originally crossed the line in third, 0.1 seconds back but was hauled out of parc fermé when the FIM Stewards judged him to have gained an unfair advantage by exceeding track limits on the final lap. He was docked a position, which promoted Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) to the final podium slot.

Suzuki eventually came home fifth, ahead of Rodrigo in a top 13 covered by just 1.6 seconds.

FIM MotoGP Road Race Championship

Round 1

QNB Grand Prix of Qatar

Losail International Circuit

RESULTS: March 8, 2020

Moto2

1. Tetsuta Nagashima (Kal)
2. Lorenzo Baldassarri (Kal)
3. Enea Bastianini (Kal)
4. Joe Roberts (Kal)
5. Remy Gardner (Kal)

Moto3

1. Albert Arenas (KTM)
2. John McPhee (Hon)
3. Ai Ogura (Hon)
4. Jaume Masia (Hon)
5. Tatsuki Suzuki (Hon)

Click here for complete results.

SATURDAY QUALIFYING

Joe Roberts (American Racing Kalex) maintained his tremendous early-season form by storming to a brilliant debut pole position in the Moto2 class in Qatar, the first for any American rider in a grand prix category since 2010.

2020 Qatar MotoGP Results And News
American Joe Roberts sits on pole for tomorrow’s Moto2 opener. Photos: Gold & Goose

Fresh from smashing the Moto2 lap record in Friday’s second free practice session, Roberts was on the front foot from the off in Saturday’s 15-minute Q2. A 1:58.136 was a full three-tenths under his own sterling effort from Friday

Not that Roberts had it all his own way. Luca Marini (Sky Racing VR46 Kalex) posted the exact same lap time as the Californian, only to lose out as his second fastest effort was inferior to that of his rival. There was barely anything in the entire session, with just 1.148s covering all 18 riders in the session.

“To have my pole position is amazing,” said a delighted Roberts. “To be doing it for the team and for America is awesome. We put a great lap together and I’m looking forward to tomorrow, for sure. What’s going on in the box is a dream and we’re all living it. I definitely won’t sleep well tonight!”

John Hopkins, American Racing’s newly appointed Rider Coach, was made up for the 22-year old. “It’s like fairytale,” he said. “I’m feeling better about now that I did at any point in my grand prix career. Eitan [Butbul]—the team owner—wanted to put everything into this racing program. He needed a rider coach, and I hadn’t had the pleasure of getting to know Joe until this winter. The second I saw him out on track h had no shortage of talent.”

Roberts arrived in Qatar with high hopes after a solid offseason of winter testing. But no one expected this after a troubled 2019, a season in which he scored points on just two occasions. This pole is America’s first in any grand prix class since Ben Spies’ lone qualifying success at Indianapolis 10 years ago.

Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Kalex) was a strong third, making it a Kalex lockout of the front row. Jorge Navarro (Speed Up) recovered from a worrying Friday when nothing worked to grab fourth ahead of the impressive Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing), who achieved his best result in the Moto2 class. Remy Gardner (Onexox SAG Kalex) brushed off a huge Friday spill and a crash earlier in the day to qualify sixth.

In the Moto3 category, Tatsuki Suzuki claimed only the second pole position of his grand prix career thanks to an inspired early run in Q2. The Japanese rider was left to sweat in the closing minutes as he pitted with a fuel pump issue, ruling him out of bettering his time of 2:4.815.

But despite the best efforts of Friday pacesetter Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who was just eight-thousandths of a second slower come the checkered flag, Suzuki hung on for a famous pole. The omens are good for the Japanese rider; the last (and only) occasion he ended Saturday on top, he went on to claim his lone grand prix victory the following day.

Albert Arenas (Aspar Team KTM) and Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power KTM) proved the potential of KTM’s all-new Moto3 racer, ensuring there were three Austrian bikes in the top four. Promising Japanese racer Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) was fifth.

FIM MotoGP Road Race Championship

Round 1

QNB Grand Prix of Qatar

Losail International Circuit

RESULTS: March 6, 2020

Day 2 (Saturday)

Saturday Qualifying

Moto2

1. Joe Roberts (Kal) 1:58.136
2. Luca Marini (Kal) 1:58.136
3. Enea Bastianini (Kal) 1:58.243
4. Jorge Navarro (SU) 1:58.316
5. Bo Bendsneyde (NTS) 1:58.410
6. Remy Gardner (Kal) 1:58.457
7. Marco Bezzercchi (Kal) 1:58.513
8. Jorge Makrtin (Kal) 1:58.532
9. Lorenzo Baldassarri (Kal) 1:58.582
10. Xavi Vierge (Kal) 1:58.626

 

Moto3

1. Tatsuki Suzuki (Hon) 2:04.815
2. Raul Fernandes (KTM) 2:04.823
3. Albert Arenas (KTM) 2:04.925
4. Darryn Binder (KTM) 2:05.026
5. Ai Ogura (Hon) 2:05.065
6. Jaume Masia (Hon) 2:05.086
7. Andrea Migno (KTM) 2:05.129
8. Deniz Oncu (KTM) 2:05.176
9. John McPhee (Hon) 2:05.242
10. Tony Arbolino (Hon) 2:05.327

Click here for complete results.

FRIDAY QUALIFYING

Californian Joe Roberts (American Racing Kalex) sensationally broke the Moto2 lap record on his way to posting the fastest time of the first day of running of the Qatar Grand Prix which opens the 2020 grand prix season, March 6-8.

2020 Qatar MotoGP Results And News
California Joel Roberts topped the first day of free practice at Qatar in Moto2. Photo: MotoGP.com

In light of the MotoGP race’s cancellation from the first round due to the Corona Virus outbreak, the Losail International Circuit has been eerily quiet, with close to half of the pit building featuring nothing more than boxes and packed up containers. But the Moto2 class, which has now taken center stage, offered up drama and surprise in equal measure.

The latter came in the form of 22-year-old Roberts, who was ebullient after topping a grand prix session for the first time thanks to a late lap of 1m 58.421s—a tenth under the year-old circuit record and 0.248s faster than second-best Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex).

Roberts arrived at the season opener on the back of “the best test of my life” held here a week ago. Boosted by the switch to the smooth-handling Kalex chassis that offers up plenty of front-end feel, better in-garage communication and John Hopkins’ appointment as American Racing’s Rider Coach, the 22-year old appears a rider transformed.

Indeed his fifth-fastest time in FP1 represented a huge improvement for a rider, whose best result in a deeply troubled 2019 was 14th place. But Roberts showed pace that puts his name in the mix for podium contention on Sunday.

“I’ve been fast since testing, but to be first and break the lap record is a whole different thing,” Roberts said. “After two bad years, we brought a bunch of new people into the team this year. I’m a rider that relies on the feedback from the front tire. If I don’t have that it’s a fricken’ disaster. Now the bike actually turns when I release the brake, and I can do that earlier and not have to force it. I’ve just got something I feel I can work with.”

Moto2 was typically frenetic and action-packed, while just 0.8 seconds covered the top 16 riders. Fastest in FP1, Thomas Luthi had a desperate second session, crashing first at turn four before launching his Kalex chassis into the turn two gravel trap 30 minutes later.

There were also crashes for title hopefuls Jorge Navarro (Speed Up), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) and Remy Gardner (Onexox SAG Team Kalex) throughout the day.

Behind Bezzecchi, Sky Racing Team VR46 teammate Luca Marini was a strong third, while Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Fernandez all impressed in their new teams in fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Dutchman Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing) was a promising seventh aboard the much-improved NTS chassis, while Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Kalex), Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Kalex) and Jorge Martin (Red Bull Ajo KTM) completed the top 10.

Spanish teenager Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) topped the Moto3 running on the first day after a late charge. The former FIM Junior Moto3 World Champion led South African Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power KTM) by 0.121 in what was a promising day for KTM’s all-new 2020 Moto3 challenger.

Sixteen-year-old Sergio Garcia was never far away, however. After topping FP1, the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider was third in the second session of the day, just 0.146s off the fastest time. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) made good on the considerable promise shown through preseason with the fourth-fastest time while Japanese countryman Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was fifth, a place ahead of preseason favorite Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team).

The action continues on Saturday with Moto3 qualifying getting underway at 17:05 local time.

Neil Morrison

FIM MotoGP Road Race Championship

Round 1

QNB Grand Prix of Qatar

Losail International Circuit

RESULTS: March 6, 2020

Day 1 (Friday)

Combined Free Practice Times

Moto2

1. Joe Roberts (Kal) 1:58.421
2. Marco Bezzecchi (Kal) 1:58.669
3. Luca Marini (Kal) 1:58.759
4. Tetsuta Nagashima (Kal) 1:58.921
5. Xavi Vierge (Kal) 1:58.059
6. Augusto Fernandez (Kal) 1:59.074
7. Bo Bendsneyder (NTS) 1:59.089
8. Enea Bastianini (Kal) 1:59.114
9. Nicolo Bulega (Kal) 1:59.136
10. Jorge Martin (Kal) 1:59.148

Moto3

1. Raul Fernandes (KTM) 2:04.577
2. Darryn Binder (KTM) 2:04.698
3. Sergio Garcia (Hon) 2:04.723
4. Al Ogura (Hon) 2:04.922
5. Kaito Toba (KTM) 2:04.988
6. Tony Arbolino (Hon) 2:05.227
7. Andrea Migno (KTM) 2:05.287
8. Jaume Masia (Hon) 2:05.332
9. Romano Fenati (Hus) 2:05.335
10. Denitz Oncu (KTM) 2:05.355

Click here for complete results.

Click here for all the latest MotoGP news.

2020 FIM MotoGP Championship Schedule

Round 1 March 8 Qatar Losail International Circuit
Round 2 April 5 Austin, Texas Circuit of the Americas
Round 3 April 19 Argentina Termas de Rio Hondo
Round 4 May 3 Spain Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto
Round 5 May 17 France Le Mans
Round 6 May 31 Italy Autodromo Internationale del Mugello
Round 7 June 7 Spain Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Round 8 June 21 Germany Sachsenring
Round 9 June 28 Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
Round 10 July 12 Finland KymiRing
Round 11 August 9 Czech Republic Automotodrom Brno
Round 12 August 16 Austria Red Bull Ring – Spielberg
Round 13 August 30 Great Britain Silverstone Circuit
Round 14 September 13 Italy Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
Round 15 September 27 Spain MotorLand Aragon
Round 16 October 4 Thailand Chang International Circuit
Round 17 October 18 Japan Twin Ring Motegi
Round 18 October 25 Australia Phillip Island
Round 19 November 1 Malaysia Sepang International Circuit
Round 20 November 15 Spain Circuit Ricardo Tormo

 

 

 

 

Neil Morrison

Comments