Lorenzo Baldassarri opened his 2019 account with a win as he held off the rapidly approaching Tom Luthi in the final moments of the Moto2 Qatar Grand Prix.

The Flexbox HP40 rider had lead from lap two under the floodlights when he passed early frontrunner Xavi Vierge, who initially kept the pressure on the German along with pole man Marcel Schrotter.

Baldassarri then pulled away only to be reeled in by the persistent Luthi who got his wheels ahead briefly as he made a final lunge for the win and then drew almost level at the line, with Baldassarri just 0.026s ahead of the weaving Swiss rider.

Luthi, who suffered a heavy fall on Saturday, had needed to make up for a poor qualifying - starting down in seventh, he instead dropped a further three places back after a poor start. Record in-race pace and a lot of experience saw him able pick off the pack and then hunt down Baldassarri lap after lap on his way to second for Dynavolt IntactGP in an electric return to the class.

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He is joined on the podium by his team-mate Marcel Schrotter, who rallied to fight in the closing laps with Remy Gardner for third, they had their own tight run to the chequered flag with Schrotter just 0.002s ahead to earn just his second podium finish. Gardner had looked to have the pace to win after topping warm-up.

That left the much improved SAG Team rider fourth, but clear of Augusto Fernandez, who despite setting the fastest final lap as all others battled away had to settle for fifth on the second Flexbox HP40 entry.

Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) raced past Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) to claim sixth - his best result since Germany last year.

Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) had enough in the tank for eighth, while behind him Enea Bastianini impressed as the best of the rookies, climbing to ninth for Italtrans. Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) faded all the way back to tenth.

Fabio Di Giannantonio (+Ego Speed Up) was the first rider to interrupt Kalex’s dominance of the championship as their chassis filled all of the top ten places ahead of him.

Brad Binder was the best of the KTM riders for the Ajo Team in twelfth.

The remaining points on offer went to Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans) in 13th, Jesko Raffin - who replaces the injured Steven Odendaal at NTS RW Racing for this round - in 14th and rookie Jorge Martin, who won his on-track war with Bo Bendsneyder (RW Racing NTS) to claim 15th for Red Bull KTM Ajo.

A huge turn one pile up on lap one involving Nicolo Bulega, Jorge Navarro and Iker Lecuona, whose bad luck continued after a breakdown between qualifying sessions, took the trio out of the race. Both Navarro and Lecuona were taken to the medical centre for further checks.

Marco Bezzecchi didn’t last much longer exiting in an unrelated incident at turn six.

Tetsuta Nagashima only lasted one lap more than the Italian. Soon after Jake Dixon also exited, followed by his bike, showering the track with sparks as he went. He was the final faller.

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