Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) starts 2021 where he’ll want to go on: at the top. The Australian put in a 1:59.074 to go fastest on Friday at the Official Moto2™ and Moto3™ Qatar test, pipping Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) to the post as he took over late on. Canet ends the day second and 0.269 down, with Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) starting his new season in P3, 0.211 off Canet.
They say it’s hot in the city but it was also hot just outside it on Friday, with the conditions in Doha a marked improvement on those that greeted the final day of MotoGP™ testing a week ago. By the end of the day that was more than apparent, with the laptimes dropping from 2:02s to Gardner’s 1:59 dead. Roberts’ pole lap last year was a 1:58.136, so it’s far from a slouchy beginning to proceedings.
Gardner moves to the Red Bull KTM Ajo team this season, one of the biggest names in the class, and the landmark year has certainly started well. So too has it for Canet, as the 2020 standout rookie came screeching out the blocks. Roberts was another who moved up later in the day, and another who’ll be wanting to take a key step forward this season; glad of the good start.
In fourth, Elf Marc VDS Racing Team’s Sam Lowes was up at the sharp end and only a tiny 0.020 off Roberts despite a crash for the Brit in the afternoon, rider ok – as was Hafizh Syahrin (NTS RW Racing GP) as the Malaysian also took a tumble. Fifth went the way of Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) by an even smaller 0.009, with Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) taking sixth and only another 0.051 in arrears. In short, it was extremely close in the mid top ten…
Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) took P7 a couple of tenths back, with Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) hot on his heels to the tune of 0.045. Just two thousandths back came Jake Dixon in ninth, the Petronas Sprinta Racing rider coming back from injury and off to a good start.
Tenth was an impressive rookie showing from Raul Fernandez. The winner of the final Moto3™ race of 2020 blasted out the blocks in Moto2™ to put in a 1:59.990 on his new, bigger Red Bull KTM Ajo machine, within less than a tenth of Dixon ahead of him and beating Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) to it by just 0.008. 'Diggia' changes chassis this year and was nevertheless off to a solid start.
Veteran Tom Lüthi (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) was P12 on Friday, ahead of Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing). Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was 14th but set the same best lap as Corsi, with that contest decided by their second best efforts.
Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), another who changes teams and, in his case, chassis, started the year in 15th and edged out Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) by half a tenth.
With so many rookies in Moto2™ this season – most making the leap from the Moto3™ class – Raul Fernandez shone, but many did themselves proud. Tony Arbolino (Liqui Moly Intact GP) was P17 only 0.010 off Bezzecchi – a race-winning benchmark – and Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) only another 0.069 back. Reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Inde Aspar Team) headed up another gaggle of rookies in P23, ahead of Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Cameron Beaubier (American Racing). Reigning Moto2™ European Champion Yari Montella (MB Conveyors Speed Up) was two tenths off the American.
That’s a wrap on Day 1, there’s more to come on Saturday so make sure to stay tuned on motogp.com!