All of the talking is over. All of the testing has come to this. The 2018 MotoGP season has started.
The first of 19 Moto2 rounds of 2018 took place at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, where Alex Marquez has been earmarked as the early title favourite. Indeed, he looked to put out a marker by being the fastest in every single session before the race on Sunday, an early warning shot to the rivals who also want to show they are ready to move up to the main class. Qualifying went very smoothly for the Estrella Galicia Marc VDS 0’0 team rider, as he set a 2.02.299m lap to set a blistering pole time, being over 0.3s faster than Lorenzo Baldassarri, on his new Pons HP40 Kalex machine. Francesco Bagnaia rounded out the top three on his Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex. Many people’s favourites for the title alongside Marquez, Sam Lowes and Miguel Olivera, could only qualify 10th & 4th on their KTM machines respectively.
When the lights went out on the 20 lap race on Sunday evening, it was Bagnaia who raced into an early lead, grabbing the holeshot from Baldassarri and Marquez. Olivera gave himself a lot of work to do by clipping the rear wheel of Marquez into the first corner, sending himself wide and dropping back to 12th place, just behind his Red Bull KTM team mate Brad Binder. The top three would soon clear away from the chasing pack with Baldassarri and Marquez stalking the leader, each rider seeing who would blink first. On lap 13, Marquez made his move, diving up the inside of the Pons Kalex rider to take second place.
However the joy was short lived, as on lap 15 Marquez developed a rear brake problem, the brake seeming to stick on which caused the disc to glow red hot under the Qatari floodlights, and Baldassarri regained the position. The now two horse race continued until the final lap of the race, when Baldassarri attempted to make a move up the inside of the final corner, however he ran wide and that allowed Bagnaia to regain the position to the flag, winning by 0.112s at the line. It was the first Moto2 win for Bagnaia, who will ride for Pramac Ducati next season. Marquez rounded out the podium ahead of ItalTrans Kalex rider Mattia Pasini, who rode a lonely race to finish 4th. The Red Bull KTM duo of Olivera and Binder finished 5th and 6th, the former unable to recover any higher from that first lap incident. The Intact GP Kalex duo of Marcel Schrotter and Xavi Vierge had a solid run to 7th and 8th, with Bagnaia’s Sky VR46 team mate Luca Marini and the lone Gresini racing Kalex of Jorge Navarro rounding out the top 10.
The Moto3 graduates had differing fortunes, with Joan Mir on the sister Estrella Galicia 0’0 Marc VDS Kalex climbing from an anonymous qualifying session where he started 24th to finish 11th, and Romano Fenati on the Rivacold Snipers Kalex qualifying a very impressive 5th, but fading to 24th by the end of the race. Sam Lowes and team mate Iker Lecuona both failed to finish on their SII Investors KTM machines, the only riders to do so.
- Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46- Kalex) 40’19.802
- Lorenzo Baldassarri (HP 40 Pons- Kalex) +0.112
- Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0’0 Marc VDS- Kalex) +5.625
- Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team- Kalex) +6.657
- Miguel Olivera (Red Bull KTM) +10.296
- Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +10.344
- Marcel Schrotter (Intact GP- Kalex) +11.419
- Xavi Vierge (Intact GP- Kalex) +11.516
- Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46- Kalex) +20.690
- Jorge Navarro (Gresini Racing- Kalex) +20.961
- Joan Mir (Estrella Galicia 0’0 Marc VDS- Kalex) +23.025
- Remy Gardner (Tech 3- Mistral) +30.292
- Hector Barbera (HP40 Pons- Kalex) +30.299
- Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) +30.732
- Dominque Aegerter (Kiefer Racing- KTM) +30.870
- Isaac Vinales (SAG Team- Kalex) +31.052
- Danny Kent (Beta Tools Speed Up Racing- Speed Up) + 31.958
- Bo Bendsneyder (Tech 3- Mistral) +32.382
- Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team- Kalex) +35.228
- Fabio Quartararo (Beta Tools Speed Up Racing- Speed Up) +35.357
- Tetsuta Nagashima (Indemitsu Honda Team Asia- Kalex) +35.969
- Steven Odendaal (NTS RW Racing GP- NTS) +42.545
- Khairul Idham Pawi (Indemitsu Honda Team Asia- Kalex) +42.776
- Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers- Kalex) +44.562
- Joe Roberts (NTS RW Racing GP- NTS) +56.077
- Stefano Manzi (Forward Racing- Suter) +1’01.581
- Jules Danilo (SAG Team- Kalex) +1’01.853
- Zulfahmi Khairuddin (SIC Racing Team- Kalex) +1’11.618
- Federico Fuligni (Tasco Racing Scuderia Moto2- Kalex) +1’20.148
- Eric Granado (Forward Racing- Suter) +1’26.192
Sam Lowes (SII Investors- KTM) +10 Laps
Iker Lecuona (SII Investors- KTM) +13 laps