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Nagashima breaks through for maiden win in round one of the Moto2 World Championship in Qatar

Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex) has won the opening race of the 2020 Moto2 World Championship, pulling away convincingly from Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex) and Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Kalex) in the closing stages to steal victory by over a second after qualifying in 14th.

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, and for twelve laps the 22-year old Californian, who also grabbed a sensational debut pole position on Saturday, clung to preseason favourite 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, Enea Bastianini and the ultra-aggressive Tetsuta Nagashima  – in a lead group that at one point stretched to ten riders.

Sole tyre supplier Dunlop had planned for the race to start at 16:20 local time. MotoGP’s cancellation led organisers 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 was on the rise. 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.

Lorenzo Baldassarri, Tetsuta Nagashima, Qatar Moto2 race, 8 March 2020

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 into turn one to lead. As the Italians battled behind, he edged clear, coming home 1.3s clear for his debut grand prix victory, a success made all the sweeter with its echoes of old friend Tomizawa’s success here in 2010.

“The team pushed me, as last year I was close to the podium but I never got there. So I forgot everything and pushed to win or crash,” he said after shedding tears in parc fermé.

Baldassarri edged into second ahead of Bastianini, Roberts his Kalex home in forth with late-charging Remy Gardner, who staged a fine recovery from a horrendous highside in Friday’s FP2 crossing the line in fifth. 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. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) took ninth with Thomas Luthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) rounding out the top ten.

Tetsuta Nagashima Qatar Moto2, 6 March 2020

Lorenzo Baldassarri, Tetsuta Nagashima, Enea Bastianini, Qatar Moto2 race 8 March 2020

Words Neil Morrison

Pics GnG