The Moto3 World Championship kicked off the season with a classically close race, Antonelli emerging victorious from Brad Binder and Francesco Bagnaia.
The 2016 Moto3 World Championship officially began at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, a thrilling racing unfolding under the floodlights as 33 riders hunted a strong result to start their 2016 campaigns with. All riders opted for the medium front and medium rear tyre options.
Starting from pole position, Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) charged off the line to lead during the opening corners with Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) hot on his tail. Loi attempted to take the lead with 17 laps to go before running wide at Turn 1, dropping outside the top five.
Brad Binder and Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) tried to break away but the great impact of the slipstream in Qatar saw all of the top 20 riders running together. Positions constantly changed as the top five slowly began to ease out an advantage with 15 laps remaining. The straight continued to see dramatic changes in position, the rider leading out of the final corner frequently finding themselves sucked back to fifth.
Throughout the race Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) was the strongest Mahindra, the Italian a stalwart of the top five. The Mahindra rider was able to dice with the likes of Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold), repeating his superb ride from the 2015 race.
As the laps ticked down, rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) hunted the riders ahead, his aggressive style from the Moto3‰ã¢ Junior World Championship going nowhere since stepping up. With 11 laps remaining the Italian cut the gap down to under three tenths, able to finally benefit from the leader‰Ûªs slipstream.
With half race distance complete, Binder once again took the lead, benefiting from the frantic fighting behind. Try as he might, the South African was caught by Fenati on the straight and the brawl resumed once more. The leading six continued to tussle, Binder able to stretch a small lead through the corners but caught each time down the straight.
Behind the leading six a large eight-rider battle rumbled along for tenth position, Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) controlling the second group for much of the race.
With four laps to go rookie Bulega struck and took the lead, Binder responding immediately as the two KTM men sparred for supremacy. Bulega was able to retake the lead as his teammate Romano Fenati put in several hard moves to wrestle his way into second; meanwhile Enea ‰Û÷The Beast‰Ûª Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) cut the gap with each lap.
In true Moto3 style it all came down to the last lap, Binder beginning it in the lead as Romano Fenati ran wide at the first corner and dropped to sixth. The corners ticked down as Antonelli tucked in behind the South African, waiting for his chance to strike.
The drag to the line was where it all happened as Antonelli played the race to perfection, pulling out of Binder‰Ûªs slipstream to steal the race by 0.007s. Binder was second with Bagnaia putting his Mahindra on the podium. This is Antonelli‰Ûªs third career victory and his best ever start to a season. In similar fashion, Binder‰Ûªs seventh career podium is by far the South Africans best opening round.
Fenati secured a solid fourth from pole while Bastianini rounded out the top five.
Bulega‰Ûªs heroic charge saw him end sixth on his full time World Championship debut ahead of Jorge Navarro, Livio Loi, Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) and Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) completing the top ten.
Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team) fell on the penultimate lap but was able to remount.
The fastest lap of the race was a 2‰Ûª06.171 from Livio Loi on lap 8.
Antonelli leaves the opening race leading the championship with 25 points. The Moto3‰ã¢ World Championship are back on track on the first of April for Free Practice 1 of the Gran Premio Motul de la RepÌ¼blica Argentina.
Results: Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar - Moto3
1 NiccolÌ_ ANTONELLI ITA Ongetta-Rivacold Honda 152.0 38'12.161
2 Brad BINDER RSA Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM 152.0 +0.007
3 Francesco BAGNAIA ITA ASPAR Mahindra Team Moto3 Mahindra 152.0 +0.148
4 Romano FENATI ITA SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM 152.0 +0.435
5 Enea BASTIANINI ITA Gresini Racing Moto3 Honda 152.0 +0.606
6 Nicolo BULEGA ITA SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM 152.0 +0.625
7 Jorge NAVARRO SPA Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda 152.0 +0.674
8 Livio LOI BEL RW Racing GP BV Honda 151.9 +1.710
9 Philipp OETTL GER Schedl GP Racing KTM 151.5 +8.611
10 Jakub KORNFEIL CZE Drive M7 SIC Racing Team Honda 151.3 +10.947
11 Jules DANILO FRA Ongetta-Rivacold Honda 151.2 +12.379
12 Joan MIR SPA Leopard Racing KTM 151.2 +12.380
13 Fabio QUARTARARO FRA Leopard Racing KTM 151.2 +12.401
14 Bo BENDSNEYDER NED Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM 151.2 +12.726
15 Aron CANET SPA Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda 151.2 +12.784
16 Maria HERRERA SPA MH6 Laglisse KTM 151.2 +12.939
17 Andrea MIGNO ITA SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM 150.9 +17.152
18 Hiroki ONO JPN Honda Team Asia Honda 150.9 +17.367
19 Gabriel RODRIGO ARG RBA Racing Team KTM 150.9 +17.451
20 Adam NORRODIN MAL Drive M7 SIC Racing Team Honda 150.9 +17.519
21 Andrea LOCATELLI ITA Leopard Racing KTM 150.9 +17.566
22 Khairul Idham PAWI MAL Honda Team Asia Honda 150.9 +17.608
23 Darryn BINDER RSA Platinum Bay Real Estate Mahindra 150.0 +31.939
24 Alexis MASBOU FRA Peugeot MC Saxoprint Peugeot 150.0 +31.949
25 Juanfran GUEVARA SPA RBA Racing Team KTM 149.9 +32.120
26 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO ITA Gresini Racing Moto3 Honda 149.9 +32.333
27 John MCPHEE GBR Peugeot MC Saxoprint Peugeot 149.9 +32.547
28 Tatsuki SUZUKI JPN CIP-Unicom Starker Mahindra 149.9 +32.812
29 Stefano VALTULINI ITA 3570 Team Italia Mahindra 149.8 +34.584
30 Karel HANIKA CZE Platinum Bay Real Estate Mahindra 148.2 +59.105
31 Lorenzo PETRARCA ITA 3570 Team Italia Mahindra 148.2 +59.109
32 Fabio SPIRANELLI ITA CIP-Unicom Starker Mahindra 146.0 +1'34.948
Jorge MARTIN SPA ASPAR Mahindra Team Moto3 Mahindra 150.9 1 Lap