By Lisa Lewis
Red Bull KTM rider Sandro Cortese kept his cool to triumph over a pack of riders challenging for third at the historic Moto3 debut race in Qatar on Sunday.
But the German, pole sitter for the race and a pre-season favourite to win the inaugural championship, finished a hefty 18sec behind race winner Maverick Vinales. Another FTR Honda rider, rookie Romano Fenati, was 14sec ahead of Cortese in second.
“Really tough race,” said Cortese, “I am pleased with my result and with the whole GP weekend. Pole position and third place at the race gave a good start for the long GP season.”
He added: “We are at good level but there is still lot of work ahead of us. We aim to catch Vinales at the next GP”.
Team boss Aki Ajo acknowledged that victory was out of reach, but was pleased to see all three Red Bull KTM's in the top eight, with Cortese's team-mates Australian Arthur Sissis seventh and Briton Danny Kent eighth.
“Today we were not just yet able to fight for the victory, but the overall result was pretty encouraging and promising for the future,” he said. “When all the three factory riders are amongst eight fastest riders we know that we are on time with the schedule of this new and challenging project.”
Ajo Motorsports also run the Air Asia-SIC KTM ridden by Zulfahmi Khairuddin, who finished sixth in Qatar.
The Moto3 championship continues in three weeks' time in Jerez, when Friday practice commences on the 27th April.