Belgian youngster Livio Loi led the way under the Qatar floodlights as the 2016 Moto3 World Championship got underway with Jorge Navarro and Nicolo Bulega in close promimity.
Under a clear night sky the 2016 Moto3™ World Championship began, Free Practice 1 marking the official start of the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. Testing had given the riders and teams a preview of what to expect, but nothing can truly emulate the tension, pressure and excitement of a race weekend.
The lightweight class took to the 5.38 kilometre long Losail International Circuit for 40 minutes of practice. As is common in Qatar, the track was quite dirty and much of the session was spent cleaning it and laying down new rubber after a heavy rain the night before.
With a 2’06.456 it was Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) who topped the first session of the year. Niccolo Antonelli’s (Ongetta-Rivacold) best time from the test was a 2’05.444, demonstrating that there is still time to be found as the track improves.
“I felt good from the beginning and I knew I could be fastest again, like in the test. The gaps are close, with 18 riders within a second, but the difference between me and number two is three tenths of a second, and that is what satisfies me the most. I did it on my own, without a tow or someone in front of me as a target,” said Loi.
“And I did two laps of 2.05 like that. We’ve done a good job for this first day. It’s a great start and we surely want to continue like this. There may be even a bit more in it, I feel there still is room for improvement, but it depends on the conditions of the day and of the track.”
0.082s back on the Belgian was Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) the Spaniard setting a 2’06.538 after leading the way for much of the session.
Carrying on from his strong form during the test at Qatar before the weekend was Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), ending FP1 in third. The rookie has adapted well to life on the world stage and looks set to be a contender from the first round. Bulega was unable to match the pace of the leading two, over half a second back on Navarro.
Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) followed their teammate to complete the top five. In both the Jerez Test and the Qatar Test, the Sky Racing Team VR46 have appeared as one of the strongest in the lightweight class.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Maria Herrera (MH6 Laglisse), Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia), Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Niccolo Antonelli completed the top ten.
Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team) had the unfortunate honour of being the first faller of the year, tumbling at Turn 2 with Niccolo Antonelli quickly following at the same corner. The final ten minutes saw Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing) fall as well. All were unharmed.
Scotland’s John McPhee, who is running under Peugeot colours this year, was 24th.