Niccolo Antonelli made a winning start to the 2016 Moto3 season at Losail after beating Brad Binder in a drag race to the finish line. Binder led for large periods of a fascinating race but Antonelli demonstrated the value of a slipstream on the long run to the chequered flag, pipping the South African by seven thousandths of a second.
Having taken pole position, Romano Fenati was among the pre-race favourites and the Italian would regularly lead into turn one with his Sky VR46 KTM looking the strongest down the start/finish straight. The no.5 was eased aside by Binder at the start of the penultimate lap but at this stage, Antonelli was lurking towards the back of the seven-rider leading group.
The Ongetta-Rivacold rider climbed from sixth to fifth with a dive up the inside of Nicolo Bulega at turn six before a sensational move around the outside of turn twelve saw Jorge Navarro and Francesco Bagnaia brushed aside. Just Fenati and Binder stood between Antonelli and the lead but Fenati took himself out of contention by outbraking himself into turn one on the last lap, costing him four places.
With no way through around the rest of the final lap, Antonelli’s last chance was a slipstreaming duel out of the final corner and the Italian judged it to perfection, edging ahead of Binder’s KTM within metres of the line to claim his third career victory, denying Binder his first. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider was forced to settle for second ahead of the impressive Bagnaia who gave Mahindra an unlikely podium finish in third.
Fenati benefitted from a final corner clash between Navarro and Bulega to salvage fourth with Enea Bastianini taking fifth in the drag race to the chequered flag. Bulega fell to sixth but impressed many by leading his debut GP while Navarro will be disappointed with seventh. Livio Loi’s practice pace didn’t quite materialise in the race as he finished down in eighth while Philipp Oettl and Jakub Kornfeil rounded out the top ten.
Moto3 Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar (Race Result)
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