Red Bull KTM Ajo factory rider Luis Salom of Spain rode a masterly last two laps to break away from a hard fought pack of five KTM-driven Moto3 bikes to steal victory in the opening GP of the season fought under lights on the Losail Circuit in in Qatar.
Salom’s move was a copybook performance in the closing stages of the race reminiscent of last year’s World Champion Sandro Cortese of the same factory team. Cortese has now moved up to Moto2 and Salom has slipped very comfortably into his place with teammates Fahmi Khairuddin of Malaysia and Australian teenager Arthur Sissis.
Spanish talent Maverick Vinales was second, riding a great race having to deal with the pain of a yet to heal hand injury. He lost the top of his finger in a training crash recently and had to have corrective surgery. He only had the stitches removed in Qatar. Alex Rins and Alex Marquez completed the four way, all Spanish, all KTM sweep, underlining that this year’s Moto3 series is set to deliver the same thrilling racing action as the debut series did in 2012.
It was clear from the moment that the riders accelerated off the start grid that this was going to be a battle between a handful of riders who quickly made their presence felt. Salom started on pole, the first of his career but right alongside him was Vinales, who this year is also riding a KTM. Rins, also on a KTM, joined the battle at the front in the opening phase along with Jonas Folger of Germany on the very competitive Kalex-KTM.
These riders jockeyed for position swapping the lead back and forth during the middle phase of the race and while Folger lost a little ground, running wide into the dusty part of the track, Marquez, brother of Marc and Rins’ Spanish teammate joined the action at the front of the pack.
While Marquez and Rins battled for the lead in the final laps it was clear that it was going to go down to the wire and that a good slipstream action in the closing stage could decide the winner. Salom made the break in the closing stages of the second last lap and immediately put enough distance between him and the others to make it stick.
Salom’s victory meant that the Red Bull KTM Ajo Factory Team has begun the season with the same winning ways as it closed 2012. Khairuddin finished sixth and Sissis was eighth to underline the team’s strength.
Pit Beirer, Head of KTM Motorsports was in Qatar to watch the opener. “This year we made another big step with the bike and clearly this has paid off. There has been a tremendous amount of work by the mechanics and engineers both at the Mattighofen factory and with the teams and I have to thank them for that. It looks like this year KTM has really arrived back in the road racing scene.” He said all indications are that there will be a lot of competition between the teams running the KTM Moto3 bike and KTM-drive Kalex. “Competition is going to be tough and it’s going to be a very exciting year,” he added.
Image courtesy KTM