Luis Salom wins a session-long fight with Maverick Vinales to take the first pole position of the 2013 Moto3 season, in Qatar. Alex Rins makes it an all Spanish top three, while KTM dominate to close out the front row of the grid.
On Saturday, Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Salom had achieved a career-first pole position as he prepared to launch his title attack in the best possible way. As the red lights went out, it was Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Rins who stole the top spot as GO&FUN Gresini Moto3’s Niccolò Antonelli lost control and became the first retirement of the season.
As the top five began to break away from the chasing pack, a blanket could have been thrown over Salom, Rins, Team Calvo’s Maverick Viñales, Rins’ teammate Álex Márquez and Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger. The lead would change on numerous occasions across the 18 laps of the Losail International Circuit, but on the seventh tour came a critical moment for Folger, who lost ground on the top four as he ran out wide and onto the dusty off-line surface; a late-race charge saw him catch and challenge those in front, although the German would be forced to settle for fifth place.
Rins having was in front by the halfway point, as Márquez – younger brother of MotoGP rookie Marc Márquez – shot ahead for the first time on Lap 13. Over the remaining five laps, the Estrella Galicia duo would go head-to-head but it was Viñales, having waited patiently, who looked to have seized the show at the start of the penultimate tour, only for Rins and Márquez to slide through once again as Viñales (on painkillers) continued to suffer from a hand injury sustained in testing.
Persistence paid off for pole-sitter Salom at the start of the final lap, confidently taking the lead before opening out a gap. He would cross the line four tenths of a second ahead of Viñales who was involved in a photo finish with Rins, as Márquez completed the top four. Some 16 seconds behind Folger, Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin beat Mahindra Racing’s Miguel Oliveira to seventh as Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Arthur Sissis, Avant Tecno’s Niklas Ajo and Efrén Vázquez rounded out the top ten. In 20th spot, female rider Ana Carrasco impressed on the second Team Calvo bike, passing several rivals despite a distinct lack of track time this weekend.
After Antonelli, a further three riders would fall but also walked away: these were CIP Moto3’s Alan Techer, Ognetta-Centro Seta’s Isaac Viñales and Caretta Technology – RTG’s John McPhee, whose retirement came on the final lap of the race.
The Moto3 World Championship will continue at the brand-new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas in a two weeks’ time