Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Sandro Cortese of Germany rode his way from pole position to podium third in the historic first ever Moto3 GP in Qatar on Sunday night after a massive battle for the minor place. Riders on KTM-driven bikes soaked up five of the top 10 places.
Cortese said at the finish line that it had been a hugely difficult race as the group that followed the two leaders, Maverick Vinales of Spain and Italian Romano Fenati, engaged in a no-holds bar battle for third. “Today was very hard,” Cortese said. “ I expected it to be, but I didn’t think it was going to be this tough. I didn’t expect (Rd Bull KTM Ajo teammate) Arthur Sissis to be that fast. Generally it’s been a good day but now we have to work hard to catch Vinales.”
Close behind Cortese and always in the hunt for third was Spanish rider Luis Salom on the Kalex-KTM for the Dutch team RW Racing GP who finished fourth. Malaysia’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Airasia Sic Ajo) and Australian Arthur Sissis put in great rides to finish 6-7 followed by Briton Danny Kent (Rd Bull KTM Ajo) in eighth. Sissis, the junior member of the Red Bull KTM Ajo trio rode a very strong race in only his second GP. He has moved up from the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies where he finished overall second last season. Twice in the second half of the 19-lap outing he was well in the running for third but made two small mistakes, clipped the Astroturf lining this Middle East circuit and lost the advantage.
The battle for third came down to a tight exchange between Cortese and Salom as the following group made a mad dash for the finish in the second half of the last lap. Again and again both riders used the slipstream to their advantage but Cortese managed the final tactical maneuver and went on for a well-deserved third place.
Other riders on KTM-driven bikes were Hector Faubel of the Aspar Team who finished twelfth on the Kalex-KTM, Niklas Ajo on the KTM in thirteenth and Aspar rider Alberto Moncayo in fourteenth. Salom’s teammate Brad Binder of South Africa, was the only KTM-driven rider not to finish and all others finished in the points.
The first Moto3 GP ever was run on the Losail Circuit near Doha and all riders compete on 250cc single cylinder four-stroke machines. The new class replaces the now defunct 125 cc class. The Qatar GP has been held since 2004 and since 2008 under 3700 floodlights.
photo: KTM Racing