All winter long we wait for the moment when the lights go out in Doha at the Grand Prix of Qatar, igniting a new season of MotoGP racing and leaving us on the edge of our seats as we watch our HJC-backed riders with high anticipation. That moment finally came this past weekend as the 2022 FIM MotoGP World Championship kicked off at Losail International Circuit, and the last three and a half months were well worth the wait.
For the first time in HJC history, we entered into a new racing season with three full-time premier-class riders. Pol Espargaró and Brad Binder returned to the starting grid on their respective Repsol Honda Team and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rides, and rookie Raúl Fernández finally dipped his toes into the world’s most competitive racing series and he entered into his first season of MotoGP-class action with Tech3 KTM Factory Racing.
The Honda woes of last year officially seem to be over, and Pol Espargaró was in top form come race day on his new 2022-spec RC213V machine. Starting from P6 on the grid, Espargaró launched from his second-row position and quickly found himself in P2 behind his Repsol Honda Team teammate, Marc Marquez. But Marquez soon ran wide, and Espargaró seized the opportunity to take over the lead and start inching away from the riders behind him. For 17 laps, the Spaniard showed the rest of the field that he has the speed to win as he led the hunt for the checkered flag for the majority of the race. But Qatar is infamous for tire selection, and Espargaró’s choice of S/S Michelins began to fail him late in the fight. With only four laps to go, the Honda rider’s fading traction left him a sitting duck for Enea Bastianini. As Bastianini attacked, Espargaró ran wide in a corner in an attempt to save his winning position, a mistake that ultimately let Bastianini escape from his grasp and left the door wide open for Brad Binder to slip by. While Espargaró did not have enough traction left to attempt a counter attack and recover the two positions he lost, he held on to finish the race in third and start off 2022 with a well-earned podium and a handful of championship points.
In traditional Brad Binder form, the South African did not let his third row starting position of P7 keep him out of the fight for the win. Binder shot off the starting grid like a cannon and quickly found himself in P3 heading into the first corner, but following a Marc Marquez mistake on lap two, Binder soon took over second place with ease. Binder ran a nearly flawless race, maintaining second place behind Pol Espargarō until late in the battle when a hard-charging Enea Bastianini snuck by him with less than 10 laps to go. Bastianini seemed untouchable, but Binder did not let the Ducati rider out of his sights. As Bastianini made his move for the lead and got around Espargaró, Binder followed suit and used a miscalculation by Espargaró to reclaim P2. On the final lap, Binder made up a significant amount of time, chipping away at Bastianini’s 1.2-second lead, but ultimately he would run out of time and have to settle for P2, a mere 0.3 seconds behind race winner Bastianini.
The highlight of Moto2 came in the form of the newest addition to HJC’s intermediate-class roster, British rider Sam Lowes. After having his pole-setting lap in qualifying taken away by a track-limits penalty, Lowes started his first race in an RPHA 1 from P3 on the grid, but a bad jump off the starting line buried him back in P8 on lap one. Lowes used the remainder of the race to chip away at a handful of riders ahead of him, working his way back up to P5 by the last lap, and it was this hard work that ultimately placed him in a prime position to capitalize on any misfortune ahead of him.
On to Mandalika for the Grand Prix of Indonesia!