The long-awaited 2012 World Championship finally began on Thursday at Losail, debuting a new category for the occasion. The Moto3 class enjoyed a first two practice sessions at the Qatari circuit, with the Repsol riders starting strong. Maverick Viñales topped the timesheet at the end of the opening session, with Miguel Oliveira fourth and Álex Rins sixteenth. Viñales and Oliveira repeated their placings in the second run, whilst Rins made a big improvement to move up to fifth. As a result, the three Repsol riders all placed in the top five on opening night. Viñales dropped over 1.5 seconds from his time in the second practice, ending the evening with a best lap of 2’08.160 from 27 laps.

Miguel Oliveira was able to cut over a second from his own time, stopping the clock at 2’09.979 after his 26-lap run. He was 8 tenths off Viñales. Rins, who is still yet to make a 100% recovery from his collarbone injury from preseason, made a huge improvement of 4 seconds from session to session. That flung him up to fifth in the combined standings with a 2’09.107 best lap from his 32.

Maverick Viñales

“It has been a good first night, because I felt comfortable on the bike and we were able to work on the chassis. We managed to find a good pace on a track where the conditions really weren’t that bad. We still have to go faster on every corner. We have to take things slowly and take steady steps. We will match the times of the 125cc bikes, but we just need time. We had many days in which to ride at Jerez, so going to 40 minute sessions here makes it a little harder.”

Miguel Oliveira

“We had a good session, even though there are a few tenths between ourselves and the fastest riders. We aren’t far off those ahead of us, but we should still improve a few aspects of the bike in order to close in further on them. I think that it has been a very positive day, but there is still room for improvement. As it is the first day here in Qatar, riders are still looking for their lines, so we will have to pay attention in the coming sessions.”

Álex Rins

“We did a good job tonight, despite the fact that in the first session I was finding it hard to adapt to the track. From then on we made steady progress. This is the first time that I have ridden here and there is plenty of work still to be done. I think that this is one of the most difficult tracks at which I have ridden; I hope to carry on my trajectory tomorrow and improve my times from today. There are some parts of the track where I feel that we should be doing better still —above all on the exit and on the brakes —but generally I am satisfied.”

1. Maverick Viñales FTR Honda 2:08.160
2. Zulfahmi Khairuddin KTM 2:08.658
3. Danny Kent KTM 2:08.967
4. Miguel Oliveira Suter Honda 2:08.979
5. Álex Rins Suter Honda 2:09.107