Tetsuta Nagashima has bagged his first Moto2 win this afternoon in Qatar, taking the lead with a handful of laps to go and not looking back.
The Japanese rider took a one-second lead into the final lap and held on for the win a decade on from when close friend, the late Shoya Tomizawa, claimed the first-ever Moto2 victory at Losail.
Lorenzo Baldassarri and Enea Bastianini completed the podium.
Luca Marini (SKY VR46) got off to a flyer as the lights went out for Moto2 in 2020 from the middle of the front row, with both the Italian and compatriot Bastianini getting the better of polesitter Joe Roberts (American Racing) into Turn 1.
Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) launched very well from P8 on the grid to tuck himself onto the tailpipes of Roberts, with Bastianini getting the better of Marini on Lap 1 to lead the intermediate class race over the line.
As the pack settled, Marini managed to get back past Bastianini to hold P1 again, but it wasn’t such a successful start for a pre-Championship start favourite.
Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) crashed out at Turn 6 after contact with Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) on Lap 3, leaving the reigning World Champion team with zero points from Round 1.
Back at the front, Marini and Roberts were now one and two, with Martin sitting in close pursuit. Lap 6 saw Roberts go for an overtake at Turn 1 but the American ran wide, handing the position back to Marini as 1.5 seconds split the top eight heading onto Lap 8, with Bastianini, Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40), Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Warm Up pacesetter Nagashima setting similar lap times.
However, Marini then started to stretch the field, taking just under half a second out of second place Roberts on Lap 9 and 10 and on Lap 11, the gap was up to 0.9 seconds as another personal best lap was slammed in by the SKY VR46 rider.
On Lap 12, the gap was back down to six tenths. An important thing to start remembering was Roberts’ front tyre choice – the American on the harder option than the riders around him, with Nagashima starting to look a serious threat in P5 having gone over half a second quicker than Marini on Lap 12.
With eight to go the Japanese man was up to P4 past Bastianini and sat just over a second behind race leader Marini, the Moto2 race in Qatar was shaping up incredibly nicely as the battle entered the final seven laps.
A certain man on a Beta Tools Speed Up bike was starting to reel the leaders in too. Jorge Navarro – just as he did for much of 2019 – was coming into his own on used tyres and with little over five laps remaining, a mistake from Marini allowed the leading six to bunch up and Roberts led, before Bastianini snatched the baton with five laps remaining.
It looked like it was game over for Marini, his pace dropped off a cliff and with four to go, the leading four were Baldassarri, Bastianini, Roberts and Nagashima. With four laps remaining, Nagashima was looking ominous in his pursuit to the front. The Ajo-backed rider picked off Roberts for P3 before taking control of the race at Turn 2 with three to go – and immediately Nagashima was creeping away.
The number 45 grabbed a 0.3 lead as the race entered the final two laps, with the battle for the remaining podium places bubbling up nicely. Remy Gardner (Onexox TKKR SAG Team) was latching onto the back of Navarro as five riders scrapped it out behind Nagashima, who – by the time he’d clocked onto the final lap – was over a second clear.
Simply stunning latter race pace for the Japanese man and Nagashima would make no mistake on the final lap to take an emotional first Grand Prix victory, 10 years since Tomizawa, who was “like a brother” to Nagashima, made history in 2010.
Baldassarri and Bastianini held off the challenge to pick up podiums at the opening round, with Roberts claiming his career-best finish in P4 – a fantastic weekend for the American despite missing out on a podium by a tenth.
Gardner showed mighty late-race pace to earn P5, the Australian got the better of Navarro in the latter stages as the Spaniard finished P6.
Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) crossed the line in P7 having also picked up the pace on worn tyres, with rookie Aron Canet (Aspar Team) impressing to finish eighth on his first Moto2™ outing. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) faded after a good start, the Spaniard finishing a lonely ninth as Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) recovered from P18 on the grid to take a top 10 home from Qatar.
The race would end in disaster for Marini, a tangle with Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) at the final corner saw the Italian score a DNF having led for half the race – the incident was under investigation after the race.
Completing the points was 11th placed Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP), Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up), Dixon and Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing).