Stefan Bradl produced a dominant display to win the first round of the 2011 Moto2 World Championship in Qatar. After leading the way in the final pre-season test in Jerez, Bradl came into this weekend as the favourite. The Viessman Kiefer Racing rider justified that status by taking pole position and leading each of the 20 laps.
Sparks were flying further back as Marc Marquez looked to recover from a disastrous start which dropped him from second to eleventh. After passing Bradley Smith and Julian Simon in the space of three corners, the 125cc World Champion created sparks of a different kind as he suffered a spectacular accident, denying him the chance of challenging for a debut Moto2 victory.
As with the earlier 125cc race, the battle for second place took centre stage, with Thomas Luthi leading early on from Yuki Takahashi and Jules Cluzel.
The trio just ahead were soon joined by a rampant Andrea Iannone. The Italian had stormed through from 16th on the grid and had transformed the battle into a four-way scrap for second.
Jules Cluzel was soon dropped after Alex de Angelis had made his way past the Frenchman, and the JIR Moto2 man kept a watching brief on the three ahead of him.
On lap nine, Iannone made his move, diving up the inside of Luthi into turn one. The Swiss rider was forced wide as a result and Takahashi capitalised to take third. The Japanese former race-winner soon engaged in wheel-to-wheel combat with Iannone and briefly held second, before the no.29 repaid the compliment.
Iannone made the decisive move four laps from home and pulled the tiniest of gaps over Luthi, who had sneaked past the Gresini Racing machine.
De Angelis soon joined in the fun, and after a failed attempt to take third on the last lap, the no.15 was through into fourth. Behind them, Simone Corsi outdragged Cluzel on the run to the line to take sixth, with Cluzel seventh and Michele Pirro in eighth.
Bradley Smith had reason to be satisfied with his Moto2 debut. The 20 year-old from Oxford made a lightning start and was fifth as they rounded turn one. The Moto2 debutant claimed the scalp of 2010 series runner-up Julian Simon to take ninth. Scott Redding, meanwhile, had a weekend to forget. After showing promising pace in practice, the Brit qualified a disappointing tenth and crashed out on lap two. Kev Coghlan did likewise five laps later.
Of course, with this race being the first of the 2011 season, the Riders Championship standings reflect the result of the first Grand Prix. As a result, Bradl leads by five points from Iannone.