Niccolo Antonelli places seventh in Moto3 World Championship opener


Red Bull KTM Ajo rider finishes in Top 10 at Qatar GP, after riding the entire race in the front group. Bo Bendsneyder places 26th after crash on Lap 4.

The Moto3 World Championship season got underway this Sunday at the Losail International Circuit with the first race of the year. Rain that had threatened to hit the race did not materialise and the riders were able to enjoy dry conditions in the season opener. In his first race with the Red Bull KTM Ajo team, Niccolo Antonelli placed seventh, whilst Bo Bendsneyder completed the contest twenty-sixth after an early crash.

Starting from fourth and fifth place on the starting grid, respectively, Bendsneyder and Antonelli both made good starts. The Red Bull KTM Ajo duo were up into the front group, which consisted of some 13 riders. However, at Turn 6 on the fourth lap, Bendsneyder was clipped by another rider and knocked to the ground. He would complete the 18-lap race, but was unable to get back into contention.

Antonelli continued to fight at the back of the leading group. The Italian spent much of the race in eighth place, until on the last lap he made a final effort to overtake a rival and claimed his first 9 points of the season.

The Moto3 World Championship will take a week off before returning on April 9th with the second round of the calendar: The Argentinian Grand Prix.

Aki Ajo – Team Manager: “It’s been a difficult weekend, but it’s been the same for everyone. I have a mixture of feelings. First of all I am sad about what happened to Bo [Bendsneyder], who crashed due to another rider hitting him. He has had an excellent preseason and has worked really hard -improving all the time. I think he has a good future ahead if he keeps this up. We also have to remember that it was just a race, and look forward. With Niccolo [Antonelli] the winter has not been so easy, as he has had to adapt to both the team and the KTM, and over time he has been getting there. I am very happy with his recent testing performances and also with the weekend he has had in Qatar. For me, him finishing the race without making errors, in the first group, in seventh position and not far from the winner was a very good start for him.”

Results – Race
1. Joan Mir (Honda) 38:27.364
2. John McPhee (Honda) +0.135
3. Jorge Martin (Honda) +0.218
4. Aron Canet (Honda) +0.252
5. Romano Fenati (Honda) +0.453
7. Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) +0.661
26. Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) +1:09.769

Moto3 World Championship Standing 2017
1. Joan Mir (Honda) 25 points
2. John McPhee (Honda) 20 points
3. Jorge Martin (Honda) 16 points
4. Aron Canet (Honda) 13 points
5. Romano Fenati (Honda) 11 points
7. Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 9 points
26. Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 0 points


“I remained in the front group throughout the race, but I wasn’t able to get into the battle for the podium. In some moments of the race I didn’t feel completely comfortable with the front end, and on more than one occasion I had a scare. But I gave my all and in the end we were competitive, taking seventh place and the first points of the season. Personally, this race has been important because I had not ridden in the front group since the first half of last season. It was not easy. We will do our best to be among the best riders at the next race.”

“The race obviously didn’t go as we would have liked. Another rider hit me from behind at Turn 6 and I crashed. I was able to pick the bike back up and finish the race, but I had already lost a lot of time. I am disappointed, but we will never give up and we will continue fighting until the end, since it is only the first race. We have to be positive; we have been very strong throughout the weekend, always among the frontrunners, so I am looking forward to the next Grand Prix in Argentina.”