Mika Kallio backed up his winter testing form by going fastest in the first practice session of the new Moto2 season in Qatar. The Finn has been competitive throughout pre-season and produced a 2:01.146 in the dying seconds of FP1 to outpace another of the title favourites, Switzerland’s Thomas Luthi.
Takaaki Nakagami wasted no time getting up to speed with a 2:01.565 after just ten minutes of official running but Esteve Rabat, the favourite among many for this season’s championship, took over at the halfway mark at the end of a consistent run of laps. Typically for Moto2, the times remained close and Nakagami regained top spot with four minutes remaining, shaving a mere four thousandths of a second off of Luthi’s benchmark time, but the Interwetten rider struck straight back with a 2:01.262.
But the last word would go to Kallio whose final lap of the session proved half a tenth quicker than Luthi could manage, earning him the first psychological advantage of the season. Luthi, Nakagami and Rabat completed the top four with just a tenth covering them. Xavier Simeon was another rider to improve late on, claiming fifth ahead of Forward Racing duo Mattia Pasini and Simone Corsi while rookies Maverick Vinales and Jonas Folger impressed to finish eighth and ninth respectively.