Marco Bezzecchi snatches victory in Motegi with a late last lap charge as his championship rival Jorge Martin crashes out.
Pole man Gabriel Rodrigo and Bezzecchi both made flying getaways with Rodrigo narrowly getting the jump on the Redox PruestelGP rider in second as John McPhee fell back to third after a slow start but was able to keep ahead of Martin in fourth.
Aron Canet’s nightmare season continued as the Spaniard had barely touched rubber to tarmac when he crashed out at turn three. The Estrella Galicia rider was pushed wide at turn three and pushed too hard when attempting to rejoin causing him to lose control of the bike. Unfortunately, Canet was not the last of the fallers on the opening lap of the 20 lap race, wildcard Yuto Fukushima took a tumble at turn 10 but was able to rejoin.
Bezzecchi lead the pack into the second lap as McPhee picked off Rodrigo for second position. Enea Bastianini’s aggressive form made a welcome return as he and Dennis Foggia battled it out for eighth position. It was further heartbreak for Niccolò Antonelli and birthday boy Vicente Perez as a mistake by Perez saw the Spaniard clip the back of Antonelli’s SIC58 Squadra Corse bike sending Antonelli careering over the handlebars and himself into the gravel. Antonelli had to be stretchered off the track and taken for medical assessment, it was later released that he had suffered a fractured vertebra as well as a fracture to the left foot.
A horrendous highside crash for Fabio Di Giannantonio ended the Italian’s hopes of adding to his championship points but that was the least of his worries as he was quickly transferred to the hospital for a CT scan after suffering a head trauma. The Del Conca Gresini racing team announced that there were ‘no physical consequences following the heavy crash… The Italian will still remain hospitalised for the night and will fly to Australia on Tuesday‘.
As the laps ticked down, title rivals Bezzecchi and Martin scrapped it out for the lead with Rodrigo, Lorenzo Dalla Porta and a fiery Darryn Binder all adding to the action at the front. A nervewracking move during lap 12 by Binder and Bezzecchi on Martin saw the trio run three abreast into turn nine as Binder moved up the inside of the Spaniard as Bezzecchi slipped around the outside. Martin made a rare mistake during lap 13, clipping the rear of Bezzecchi’s KTM which saw the Madrid native slip back into fourth position.
Martin slipped back a further place during lap 14 when disaster struck the Del Conca Gresini rider. As Martin rounded turn 11, he ran wide and lost the bike, sending himself and his extensive championship lead into the gravel. He attempted to remount and rejoin the race but was unable to get the bike restarted, forcing him to retire. Bezzecchi’s Redox PruestelGP team decided not to inform him that Martin was no longer running in an attempt to keep him completely focused on the race.
With Martin out of the running, it was just down to Bezzecchi to keep a cool head going into the final lap. With Binder leading into the last lap, it left Bezzecchi and Dalla Porta to fight between themselves but as the trio approached the main straight, Bezzecchi took the lead from the South African rider with Dalla Porta following in his slipstream. The dramatic battle went down to the wire, ending in a photo finish with Dalla Porta claiming second position by 0.01 from Binder in third.
The Parc Ferme interviews were extra jubilant as Darryn Binder celebrated his first Moto3 podium finish. The third place man said: “(I) can’t complain about third place and I’m so happy but (I) had what it takes to win. I missed a gear coming into the main straight and thought ‘no, they’re going to slip me to the line’ but this year has been so difficult, I’m happy to turn it around. This weekend hasn’t been that easy with so many technical issues but I’m so happy the guys were able to get the bike sorted for the race.‘
Second place man Dalla Porta wasn’t as thrilled with his place as Binder but he was happy with the additional points: “Today has been more/less the same as Thailand. To do more than this would be very, very difficult. I wanted to win but I’m so happy, so happy for Bez as he did a very good race. Thanks to my team because the bike is so fast.”
Race winner Bezzecchi seemed thrilled by his latest victory and the fact he is now within one point of his rival Martin. When asked how happy he was: “A lot because I was not good with the bike from half race till the end, with the front and with the rear. I tried to stay out front. Binder pass, me but I knew he would push the braking so (I) prepared an exit.” He went on to thank his team as well as the VR46 academy, mentor Valentino Rossi as well as his family in Italy for ‘waking up to watch him.’
Unfortunately, Niccolò Antonelli has been ruled out of the next two rounds of the season due to his injury. We wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back for Valencia.
Full results here.
The championship has been blown open once again. A weekend of turmoil for Del Conca Gresini has leant a helping hand to Redox PruestelGP and their man Bezzecchi but can the Italian build on this success to take back the championship or will Martin come back swinging with a point to prove?