Marc Marquez outdragged Andrea Iannone in the final few metres of the Qatar Grand Prix to take a thrilling victory in this evening's Moto2 season opener. Four different riders led at various stages of the race and a controversial move from Marquez at the start of the final lap left one of his rivals fuming.
Polesitter Thomas Luthi was the man enraged but he had no issues at the start of the first lap and led Pol Espargaro, Marquez and Iannone around turn one. Bradley Smith was hot on their heels after a superb start but the Briton was hung out to dry at the first corner and dropped back to eighth behind Esteve Rabat, Mike Di Meglio and Simone Corsi.
The lead changed for the first time at the start of lap two as Espargaro dived past Luthi. The Spaniard was on the ragged edge and was forced to fend off Marquez on the exit while Luthi dropped all the way down to seventh.
Marquez decided to make his move at the start of lap seven but a botched braking manoeuvre ran him and Espargaro out of road, allowing Iannone through into the lead. The Speed Master rider only held the advantage for three laps before Marquez bounced back but yet again, Marc couldn't slow his Suter down for turn one and Espargaro inherited the lead for the second time.
Thomas Luthi was making steady progress back through the order after his early troubles, keeping his head as chaos reigned in front of him. The Interwetten rider coolly disposed of Espargaro at turn one with four laps to go and his intentions of escaping alerted Marquez who followed him through a lap later. Iannone also had his eyes on victory and pushed Espargaro down to fourth at turn six.
Luthi led over the line with a lap to go and it was here that the controversy kicked off. Marquez, looking to get the victory wrapped up without a last corner dice drew alongside the leader and as they approached the braking zone, edged Luthi onto the kerb. Luthi couldn't slow his Suter down and ran off the track which reduced the front battle to a head-to-head.
Iannone's Speed Up was clearly lacking straight line performance and the Italian knew he had to make his move before the start/finish straight. Turn 13 was the chosen destination for a move in a typically aggressive move but Marquez wouldn't be denied and slipstreamed his way past within metres of the finish line, beating Iannone to the chequered flag by six hundredths of a second.
Espargaro's effort was rewarded with a podium finish although he came under pressure from his teammate Rabat on the final lap. Luthi came home a furious fifth and showed his displeasure by punching Marquez on the arm as he passed him on the slow-down lap.
Scott Redding put in a terrific ride to come through from 13th on the grid. The Marc VDS rider chased Bradley Smith in the early stages before braking clear and he secured sixth by passing Di Meglio and Corsi on the penultimate lap.
Smith was next up in ninth while Johann Zarco produced a standout performance with 12th place, beating former champion Toni Elias. Gino Rea couldn't mark his Moto2 debut with points but the Briton did make it home in 26th.