Kaito Toba takes historic maiden win
Kaito Toba took a historic maiden victory in the Moto3 Qatar Grand Prix, after snatching the win from Lorenzo Dalla Porta on the run to the line by 0.053 seconds.
Toba was a factor in the lead battle for the entirety of the opening race of the season, and becomes the first Japanese rider to win a Moto3 race and the first in the lightweight class since Tomoyoshi Koyama in 2007.
Poleman Aron Canet grabbed the holeshot on his Max Racing KTM, leading Leopard's Dalla Porta and Tony Arbolino, while his Team O stablemate Romano Fenati slumped to 17th having had to avoid a collision at Turn 2.
Canet was swamped by Dalla Porta across the line to start the second tour, the pair swapping the lead twice across the next two laps.
Fenati made stead progress in the opening stages and was soon inside the top 10, while Toba muscled his Team Asia Honda ahead of Dalla Porta to take the lead on lap six.
Toba retaliated an attack from the Leopard rider on the following tour, before Niccolo Antonelli took a turn at leading the field on his SIC58 Honda on the ninth lap.
By now, Fenati had worked his way up to fifth, and sliced through into the lead for the first time on lap 11.
His stint at the front lasted briefly, as he was slipstreamed down into the first corner next time around and demoted back to fifth.
With four laps remaining, Dalla Porta led the field, while Fenati was hit with a track limits warning. However, he misread the message and took an unneeded long lap penalty which dropped him to 13th.
The sister Leopard bike of Marcos Ramirez led across the line to start lap 16, but team-mate Dalla Porta would return to the front on the penultimate lap and started the final tour there.
Toba moved ahead at Turn 1, with Dalla Porta returning the favour at Turn 11. This proved decisive, as Toba was able to utilise the Leopard rider's tow on the run to the line to take the win.
Canet kept the leading two in sight to complete the podium on the Max Biaggi-owned team's debut outing. Ramirez headed Sky VR46's Celestino Vietti in fourth, with Nieto's Albert Arenas completing the sixth.
Raul Fernandez [Nieto] was seventh on his full-time debut, with Antonelli, Fenati and Jakub Kornfeil [Prustel GP] filling out the top 10.
The remaining points went to Toba's rookie team-mate Ai Ogura, EG 0,0 rider Alonso Lopez, Sepang Racing's John McPhee, Bester Capital Dubai's Andrea Migno and Gabriel Rodrigo [Gresini].
British rookie Tom Booth-Amos instigated a pile-up on the first lap with the injured Jaume Masia [BCD], SRT's Ayumu Sasak and Makar Yurchenko [Skull Rider] at Turn 6.
Dennis Foggia [Sky VR46], Kazuki Masaki [Skull Rider] and SIC58 rider Tatsuki Suzuki also had a collision at Turn 6.