The 2015 Moto2 Championship officially got underway beneath the floodlights this past weekend at Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
All eyes were on the reigning Moto2 Champion Esteve “Tito” Rabat and the man who earned pole for the 2015 Moto2 season opener, Marc VDS Racing’s Sam Lowes. But both of these riders crashed, giving Jonas Folger the opportunity to earn his debut Moto2 career victory.
Folger took the win by 5.051 seconds ahead of Federal Oil Greini Moto2’s Xavier Simeon and Derendginger Racing Interwetten’s Thomas Luthi.
Complications began early for Rabat. He first experienced a false neutral, and several corners later was forced wide by Italtrans Racing Team’s Franco Morbidelli. His troubles continued as he collided with Athinia Forward Racing’s Simone Corsi after Turn 1 when the Italian closed on Rabat’s line, taking out his front end.
Rabat was uninjured but disappointed saying, “When I passed Corsi up the inside he cut across my line and took out my front wheel. It was impossible to avoid a crash and that was the end of my race. Sorry to the team.”
This left Ajo Motorsports Johann Zarco and Speed Up Racing Sam Lowes to run away at the front, as they gained a significant advantage over the rest of the field. Zarco, harkening back to his 125cc days, tapped on the rear of his bike in an attempt to get Lowes to follow him so they could increase their lead.
A false neutral struck again, this time causing Lowes to crash after running off line as he chased Zarco. The British rider managed to get the bike back to the pits and attempted repairs in his garage, but his race was unfortunately over. “I hit a false neutral and tucked the front. I hold my hands up, I made the mistake. I want to improve and fight for this championship,” he said after the race.
This left Zarco lapping in the low 2’00s and with a comfortable five-second lead over Folger, now in second. The French rider managed the gap perfectly and looked set for a comfortable first Moto2™ victory. However on lap 17 disaster struck as the gear shifter broke, leaving the Ajo Motorsport rider stuck in third gear.
Coming out of the final corner Zarco examined the problem, attempting to change gear with his hand, resulting in an incredibly close run in with pit wall. “It was important to finish the race even with this problem. Championship points are impossible. I was very strong with a good pace before the problem and the bike was easy to ride. That’s why I keep my smile,” said an optimistic Zarco after nursing his Kalex home to eighth.
This gave Folger, who had been lapping in the mid 2:00s and matching Zarco’s pace, a solid lead over Simeon. The German AGR Team rider claimed his first Moto2 victory by over 5 seconds. “I can’t believe I just won the race. I’m so happy, I can’t describe it. I don’t know what happened to Zarco but we had a good rhythm,” he beamed in Parc Ferme.
An emotional Xavier Simeon dedicated his second place to his family and girlfriend’s mother. “The target was to be more consistent this year, and we’ve done that this weekend. The potential of the Kalex is very high and I thought we could fight for a podium. I tried to stick with Folger but I made several small mistakes so dropped back. I’m very happy as we’ve started in the best way possible,” said the Belgium. This is a much better start to the season for Simeon, who last year was penalised for an incident in a gravel trap, after a collision with another rider.
It was a close fight for third with Thomas Luthi narrowly beating Alex Rins in a drag to the line. The Moto2™ rookie Rins had an excellent end to the race as he charged up from eighth position, impressing many by how quickly he has adapted to the class. “This podium is a big motivation for us after a tough off season with the weather. We were just in front of Rins on the line so I am,” said Luthi.
While Rins was impressing on his debut, teammate Luis Salom had a difficult start to his second year in Moto2™. A collision with Axel Pons ended Salom’s race early and sent him to the medical centre with a wrist injury. Salom will be fit for the next round in Texas. There were also crashes for Anthony West and Ricky Cardus, the latter challenging for a top ten on his Tech 3 machine amongst Kalex riders.
Round of the Moto2 World Championship takes place on April 12 at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.