Lorenzo Baldassarri returned to the top of the podium by the skin of his teeth as Moto2 returnee Tom Lüthi missed out on the win by 0.026 seconds. Poleman Marcel Schrotter surpassed Remy Gardner to steal third in a photo finish result.
Baldassarri displayed nothing but strength as the Italian took the lead by lap 2 and went on to take the win in the opening round of the 2019 championship in a race that proved dramatic from the get go.
The very first lap kicked off with a wipe-out crash at Turn 1 involving Nicolo Bulega, Iker Lecuona and Jorge Navarro, with the Sky VR46 rider being the cause. All three failed to rejoin the race, and so ended their season opener early. A shame for rookie Bulega as the Italian showed promise throughout the weekend. Others who failed to finish were Jake Dixon, Somkiat Chantra and Tetsuta Nagashima.
Despite being absorbed by the pack at the start of the race, Moto2 returnee Tom Lüthi soon appeared back to his old ways by climbing his way up the board and being in podium contention by lap 13. The Swiss made light work of Gardner as within only a couple of laps had caught up to the Aussie, overtaken him, and had then began to break away from him and towards Schrotter and Balda’s battle for first. With 4 laps to go, the somewhat inevitable happened as Lüthi overtook his teammate on the start/finish straight and began his charge for the win. Heading into the final lap, Lüthi looked the stronger of the two as the as he swarmed the Italian; however, Balda displayed great a defence in the final sector as Lüthi attempted to attack, with even a slip-stream overtake failing to change up the positions as Baldassarri managed to hold onto his win.
Continuing as strong as he had ended last season is SAG Racing team’s Remy Gardner. The 21-year-old fought admirably throughout the race to not only maintain the position he started from, but to take a stab at the podium as well. Leading the battle for third from the start of the last lap, the podium appeared in the bag for the Aussie. However, the inevitable slip-stream allowed Schrotter to catapult himself enough to take third place, with Gardner losing third by a mere 0.002 seconds. But, regardless, a very commendable start to Gardner’s season.
One rider’s efforts worth noting is that of Pons Racing’s Augusto Fernandez, who has stepped up his game after joining the team halfway through last season as Hector Barbera’s replacement. With Fernandez’s Qatar test showing much promise for the coming season, and with him taking fifth today, it is with anticipation that we continue to see such results from the Spaniard. Maybe a podium too?
Title favourite Alex Marquez finished 7th, a two-place improvement from his grid position, behind Briton Sam Lowes. While some fans may show disappointment towards the Marc VDS rider, as he has shown better results in previous years, Marquez shouldn’t be discounted yet. There are numerous strong tracks for the Spaniard across the calendar, can he be the title underdog of 2019?
For sure, the Losail 2019 Moto2 round was an eye opener, and I for one am very excited for what’s still to come.
Photo credit: MotoGP.com