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MotoGP Qatar I: Masia and KTM dominate Moto3

Celebrations abound for KTM in Qatar this afternoon after Jaume Masia took victory in the first race of the year, sharing the podium with his rookie teammate Pedro Acosta.

Pole man Darryn Binder started his Petronas career in dominant style having challenged throughout the 18-lap race to claim third at the flag, just 0.05 separating the battling trio. Opposing fortunes befell teammate John McPhee after the dejected Scot was taken out on the third lap through no fault of his own.

Extreme conditions greeted the opening race of 2021 as the Moto3 bikes made their way to the grid. A confident Binder lined up in pole after an impressive performance on his new Petronas machine in Saturday’s qualifying, with rookie standout Izan Guevara separating him from fellow SRT rider McPhee on the front row. The 26-year-old, one of only four current riders with podium experience at the desert location.


As the lights went out, a strong start allowed Binder to take the holeshot as the pack behind squabbled for position. Gabriel Rodrigo claimed second from Guevara and McPhee, Dennis Foggia and Deniz Öncü crashing out in separate incidents as the first lap unfolded.

The drama continued as the front group repeatedly swapped positions, Guevara initially taking the lead across the line before being swamped by the riders around him. McPhee briefly took second before Pedro Acosta and Rodrigo advanced to the front with Jaume Masia joining them moments later but it was Binder who was back in the fight as he regained control for the start of lap four. There was heartbreak for his teammate shortly after as the Scot went down in a four-rider-melee at turn six, Xavier Artigas also skittling out Andrea Migno and Jeremy Alcoba in the process.

Back at the front and it was Masia now in charge, his KTM teammate itching to challenge on the straight but it was Binder who mastered the slipstream to retake control, Niccolò Antonelli holding fast in fourth from Rodrigo and Garcia.

The first long lap penalties of the weekend came for Carlos Tatay, irresponsible riding the charge, Foggia the victim, while Romano Fenati completed a double penalty care of his jump start.

Lap eight saw Kaito Toba lead across the line before Masia was back out in front, this time from Ayumu Sasaki. Binder bit back for second as Toba looked to challenge once again, the CIP rider succeeding and holding court as the next two laps unfurled.

A full KTM battle got going with nine laps remaining as both Ajo riders fought GasGas and Tech3 men, with Masia maintaining his dominance from Acosta, Garcia, Sasaki and Guevara. Binder looked to be biding his time before hitting back, again on the straight, as he dived back to fourth then advanced to third on the corner.

Acosta made his move on the lead with Binder sliding through for second, Masia dropped to third from the remaining Orange brigade with Toba sitting behind in seventh.

A 12-rider-train now dominated the front with seven laps to go. Binder continued to battle with the Ajo duo before finding clear air as lap 14 began but it wouldn’t last long, Masia leading Acosta through, halfway round.

Five laps left and Sasaki was now in charge, Acosta fighting back almost immediately with Masia, Garcia and Binder following suit, and the Tech3 rider found himself promptly relegated to fifth.


Three to go and Binder was back in contention, battling hard with a regrouped Sasaki into the first corner before settling, for now, for second. His strength on the straight again giving him the advantage next time around before Masia, once again stole the lead on the slipstream. Antonelli was the next rider to fight his way through, a seven-rider-wide group looking menacing as the race wound its way towards the conclusion.

Contact on the final lap saw a devastated Sasaki down at turn two as Masia and Acosta regained the lead, Binder holding fast in third from Garcia and Antonelli as the final straight approached. Working together, the KTM duo denied the hard-fighting South African the spoils of a slipstream, with Masia maintaining the lead from Acosta as Binder claimed third.

Garcia came home best of the rest for the first race of the year, from Rodrigo and Antonelli with Guevara, Toba, Tatsuki Suzuki and Jason Dupasquier closing out the top-10. Tatay took 11th from Fenati, Filip Salac, Ryusei Yamanaka and Max Kofler in the final points positions with Yuki Kunii, Adrian Fernandez, Stefano Nepa, Lorenzo Fellon, Öncü with Andi Farid Izdihar the final finishers.

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