Esteve Rabat kept Takaaki Nakagami waiting for his maiden Moto2 victory by resisting the Japanese rider in a tense Qatar Grand Prix. The pair fought at the front throughout along with Mika Kallio with just a second covering the podium finishers, the front two being split by a mere four hundredths after twenty laps of racing.
Nakagami signalled his intentions right from the off with a blistering start from the outside of the front row and after leaving his braking later than Rabat, Takaaki swept around the outside into turn one to take the lead, forcing Esteve to back out in order to avoid an accident. The hesitation allowed Kallio to steal second but Rabat was still in a solid position with the leading trio distancing themselves from the pack.
Nakagami’s best chance of making a break at the front was a tangle between the Marc VDS teammates and his dream scenario almost came true as Rabat dived up the inside of Kallio into turn two on lap eleven. Unfortunately for Tadayuki Okada’s IDEMITSU Team Asia squad, Rabat wasn’t held up for long and within a lap and a half, Esteve was locked into the slipstream of Nakagami’s Kalex and breezed past down the start/finish straight.
Unlike on several occasions, Takaaki wouldn’t be dropped after losing the lead and instead mounted a counter attack but the Japanese rider perhaps got his tactics wrong, going for the outside line at turn one when an inside move may have been more successful, and Rabat would hold on for victory. Kallio was close but never close enough to challenge the front two but given his accident at the end of qualifying, third must feel like a win for the Finn.
Thomas Luthi rode a typically consistent ride to finish fourth ahead of the outstanding Maverick Vinales who set the fastest lap on his way to fifth, overtaking Simone Corsi two laps from home. Sam Lowes also impressed on his Moto2 debut, taking seventh ahead of the pain-stricken Sandro Cortese while Jordi Torres and Anthony West completed the top ten.
Dominique Aegerter’s 33 race points-scoring streak was finally snapped when his Suter started billowing smoke five laps from the finish, wiping him out of seventh, while the all-new Caterham team encountered similar disappointment as both of their riders were eliminated in a four-bike first lap pile-up.