Fermin Aldeguer gave a timely demonstration of why MotoGP teams have begun a bidding war over his services for the 2024 season with a superb third straight Moto2 victory in Qatar.
The Spaniard recovered from a mistake at the start of lap two that dropped him as low as ninth to quickly pick his way back up the order over the first-half of the race.
Going on to relieve Aron Canet of the lead on lap nine, from here Aldeguer was untouchable as he streamed away to another dominant victory to follow on from similarly formidable consecutive successes in Thailand and Malaysia.
Indeed, despite his scintillating pace in Friday practice, you’d have been forgiven for thinking Aldeguer wouldn’t be in contention for victory when a poor start from fourth was followed by him running out very wide at Turn 1 at the start of lap two.
Up at the front, Joe Roberts held his form from pole position to lead over the line for the first time but wouldn’t stay there for long as Canet - still eyeing his first Moto2 victory - lunged through at Turn 10.
Building up a gap over Roberts, who had Jake Dixon for company after the Briton got the better of Celestino Vietti for third, the move triggering a steady slide down the order for the Fantic Racing rider.
Behind them though Aldeguer was quickly making up ground, picking off his rivals one-by-one to find himself on the fringes of the leading five riders by lap six.
Up to fourth by lap seven of 18 at the expense of Manuel Gonzalez, himself running impressive pace, Aldeguer needed fewer than two laps to pick off each of the top three, beginning with Roberts for third - a pass initiating a loss of momentum for the American that dropped him to the bottom half of the top ten - on lap eight, before Dixon was given the same treatment at the penultimate corner.
Latching onto Canet coming into Lap 9, Alderguer wasted no time in dispatching of the Pons Wegow Racing rider to grab the lead for the first time at Turn 4.
From here, Aldeguer switched into the same devastatingly dominant form that saw him win at a canter in Buriram and Sepang, reeling off a series of fastest laps to make victory a formality, the Spaniard crossing line more than two seconds clear of the chasing pack.
Coming at a time when it is rumoured that VR46 Racing and Pramac Racing are mounting a bidding war for Aldeguer’s services, though the result doesn’t lift him higher than the fourth place he already held coming into the race - having been outside the overall top ten just five events earlier - he heads to his home round in Valencia just seven points shy of Dixon in third.
Behind him, Gonzalez won a sprint to the line with Canet, the VR46 Racing MasterCamp rider fending off a determined late charge from his fellow Spaniard that saw them swapping position repeatedly on the final lap.
In the end, the dash to the line was decided in the former WorldSSP rider’s favour, Gonzalez securing a long-awaited first podium for both himself and the Avintia-run team.
Canet’s third place, meanwhile, means he is still in with a shout of third in the standings, some 19 points behind Dixon heading to Pons Racing’s Moto2 swansong.
Similar to the riders ahead, Ai Ogura and Dixon fought it out hard on the final lap for fourth with the Japanese rider getting the nod by less than a tenth over Dixon in fifth.
Having been bullied down the order early on, Vietti fought back to sixth at the flag from Somkiat Chantra in seventh, while Pedro Acosta - on an unusually low key weekend for the new Moto2 World Champion - had a poor start that dropped him from seventh to 14th to thank for his eventual eighth place.
Alonso Lopez crossed the line in ninth place, the Spaniard suffering even more from an identical wide moment at the same time as team-mate Aldeguer on lap two, while Tony Arbolino - already confirmed as runner-up in this year’s title battle - made an error mid-race that dropped him to tenth.
Early leader Roberts laboured to an eventual 11th, ahead of Sam Lowes, who was the fastest rider on circuit for much of the race but could manage no better than 12th when an early mistake dropped him to the back of the field.
Unable to demonstrate the pace that had him on the podium in Sepang last weekend, Marcos Ramirez nonetheless notched up more useful points for American Racing in 13th, with the crocked Darryn Binder and Jeremy Alcoba picking up the final points’ paying positions.
Qatar Moto2, Lusail International Circuit - Race Results
|2023 Qatar Moto2 - Lusail International Circuit - Race Results - Round 19 of 20|
|1||Fermin Aldeguer||🇪🇦||SpeedUp Racing||Boscoscuro||18 Laps|
|2||Manuel Gonzalez||🇪🇦||Yamaha VR46 MasterCamp||Kalex||+2.643|
|3||Aron Canet||🇪🇦||Pons Wegow Los40||Kalex||+2.652|
|4||Ai Ogura||🇯🇵||IDEMITSU Honda Asia||Kalex||+4.585|
|5||Jake Dixon||🇬🇧||GasGas Aspar||Kalex||+4.645|
|6||Celestino Vietti||🇮🇹||Fantic Racing||Kalex||+5.936|
|7||Somkiat Chantra||🇹🇭||IDEMITSU Honda Asia||Kalex||+6.212|
|8||Pedro Acosta||🇪🇦||Red Bull KTM Ajo||Kalex||+6.598|
|9||Alonso Lopez||🇪🇦||SpeedUp Racing||Boscoscuro||+7.269|
|10||Tony Arbolino||🇮🇹||Elf Marc VDS Racing||Kalex||+11.302|
|11||Joe Roberts||🇺🇸||Italtrans Racing Team||Kalex||+11.565|
|12||Sam Lowes||🇬🇧||Elf Marc VDS Racing||Kalex||+11.663|
|13||Marcos Ramirez||🇪🇦||American Racing||Kalex||+16.105|
|14||Darryn Binder||🇿🇦||Husqvarna IntactGP||Kalex||+16.306|
|15||Jeremy Alcoba||🇪🇦||QJMOTOR Gresini||Kalex||+19.293|
|16||Dennis Foggia||🇮🇹||Italtrans Racing Team||Kalex||+19.513|
|17||Sergio Garcia||🇪🇦||Pons Wegow Los40||Kalex||+19.602|
|18||Barry Baltus||🇧🇪||Fieten Olie Racing GP||Kalex||+19.968|
|19||Zonta van den Goorbergh||🇳🇱||Fieten Olie Racing GP||Kalex||+23.303|
|20||Alex Escrig||🇮🇹||Forward Team||Forward||+25.075|
|21||Albert Arenas||🇪🇦||Red Bull KTM Ajo||Kalex||+28.571|
|22||Bo Bendsneyder||🇳🇱||Pertamina SAG Team||Kalex||+28.636|
|23||Izan Guevara||🇪🇦||GasGas Aspar||Kalex||+30.571|
|24||Rory Skinner||🇬🇧||American Racing||Kalex||+32.413|
|25||Taiga Hada||🇯🇵||Pertamina SAG Team||Kalex||+35.127|
|26||Mattia Casadei||🇮🇹||Forward Team||Forward||+36.741|
|DNF||Kohta Nozane||🇯🇵||Yamaha VR46 MasterCamp||Kalex|
|DNF||Lukas Tulovic||🇩🇪||Husqvarna IntactGP||Kalex|
|DNF||Sean Dylan Kelly||🇺🇸||Fantic Racing||Kalex|
|DNS||Filip Salac||🇨🇿||QJMOTOR Gresini||Kalex|