Lorenzo Baldassarri held off a late charge from Thomas Luthi to win the opening race of the 2019 Moto2 Championship in Qatar.
Baldassarri had led from the first corner and was comfortable for the majority of the race. Luthi left it late but was all over the back of Baldassarri on the final two laps, eventually losing out by just +0.026s. This was Baldassarri’s third win of his career.
They were joined on the podium by Marcel Schrotter, who had started the race from pole. The German made a last lap move on Remy Gardner to earn his place on the podium.
Augusto Fernandez was next in fifth, with Sam Lowes having to settle for sixth spot. The Brit was unable to challenge for the podium places and finished the race in the position he started it.
Alex Marquez and Luca Marini finished in seventh and eighth places respectively, with Enea Bastianini and Xavi Vierge completing the top 10.
Jake Dixon crashed out of his Moto2 debut after losing the front end going into turn four.
At the start of the race, Schrotter got off the line well but it was Vierge who dived down the inside at turn one. Behind them there was chaos as Nicolo Bulega went in too hot and hit Iker Lecuona. Jorge Navarro also got caught out in the melee.
Midway through the opening lap Marco Bezzecchi also hit the deck at turn six, although he was able to re-join the circuit.
By the end of the opening lap Brad Binder had moved up into fourth from eighth on the grid. Meanwhile, Dixon had gained 10 places and was now in 20th.
Baldassarri would take the lead of the race away from Vierge on the second lap and tried to pull away from the field. On lap three Tetsuta Nagashima and Dixon both crashed out of the race, in separate incidents.
After a few quiet laps throughout the field, the action picked up again on lap seven. Schrotter made his move on Vierge for second, with Gardner and Marquez also following him through. At the front, Baldassarri had gone over half-a-second clear.
Over the next two laps, Binder would lose sixth place to Lowes and then seventh place to Luthi. Moments later, Lowes tried to overtake Vierge but went wide, allowing Luthi to get the better of them both.
Luthi was getting into his rhythm and he soon set the quickest lap of the race. On the 11th lap he was all over the back of Marquez, making his move down the inside of the final turn and taking fourth.
Back at the front, Schrotter and Gardner were doing their best to catch Baldassarri. Gardner made his first attempt at getting by the German going into turn one at the start of lap 12, but he was unable to make the move.
Luthi joined the party the following lap and made an attempted move on Gardner down at turn one. The Australian pushed him wide however and kept the position. Moments later, Gardner ran wide and Luthi moved into third.
Luthi wasted little time in catching and passing Schrotter for second. The Swiss now had four laps to close the gap to Baldassarri.
Behind the leading quartet, Lowes had caught Marquez and made his move for sixth on lap 16. Meanwhile Gardner took third at the beginning of the final lap, but he would eventually lose out to Schrotter.
Back at the front Luthi had closed to within 0.3s of Baldassarri and was all over his rival at the beginning of the final lap. Luthi tried to dive down the inside at the final corner but was blocked by his rival. Luthi got a great slipstream coming down the home straight and pulled out alongside Baldassarri, crossing the line just +0.026s behind the race winner.