Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team
Japanese rider stuns field to win season opener for new team Red Bull KTM Ajo.
Tetsuta Nagashima produced a brilliant late charge to claim his maiden win at the opening race of the 2020 Moto2 season in Qatar. Here is all you need to know:
– The Japanese star has been riding Moto2 since 2013 with the 27-year-old’s best before Sunday coming with fifth place in the Netherlands and Great Britain last year.
– He moved from Kalex to Red Bull KTM Ajo in the off season and, despite struggling in qualifying at the Losail track, he steadily made his way through the race field.
– Early leader Luca Marini’s fast pace backfired when he destroyed his tyres giving Nagashima hope behind in his 70th Moto2 start as the race got to the business end.
– The Kanagawa native chose his moment superbly with three laps left to move ahead of Marini’s Italian compatriots Enea Bastianini and Lorenzo Baldassarri, then eased clear on the final lap to claim his maiden victory before breaking into tears on the cooldown lap.
– He becomes the first Japanese rider to win in the intermediate class at Losail since his late friend Shoya Tomizawa when he won the first Moto2 race in 2010.
– Flexbox HP40’s Baldassarri finished 1.3s behind in second with Bastianini third on the Italtrans Racing machine and American pole-sitter Joe Roberts fourth.
– Nagashima, who grew up racing alongside Tomizawa, revealed: “I am in a dream. In qualifying, I made a small mistake and my grid position was not perfect. I had to overtake a lot of riders. The last three or four laps I don’t remember very well! I felt like I didn’t know where to brake, but the last two laps were amazing.”
– He was a surprise pick by team boss Aki Ajo to replace MotoGP-bound Brad Binder for 2020 and he added: “I’ve known Aki since 2016. Last year we were so close to the podium and I was quite happy with the team, but finally I decided I wanted to win and do more.”
– Nagashima follows Tomizawa as the first non-European rider to lead the Moto2 standings since the Japanese rider achieved the same feat in 2010.
– With the next round in Thailand postponed because of coronavirus, the fate of the next scheduled round in the USA at Austin on April 5 also hangs in the balance.