The lightweight class celebrated the last day of school with a sensational action-packed race in Portimao and Albert Arenas was named pupil of the year and rewarded with iceream as he claimed the world title after a crazy last lap. However, the man of the day was Raul Fernandez, who rode a perfect race from pole to checkered flag and got to celebrate a special victory on track with his brother. Dennis Foggia put in another of the exceptional performances of the day, the Leopard rider serving two long lap penalties on his way to second on the podium, where he was joined by remarkable Rookie of the Year Jeremy Alcoba.
Poleman Fernandez managed to cling onto the lead at the start, after some challenge in turn 1 from Tatsuki Suzuki, with title rivals Ai Ogura and Albert Arenas close behind them and quickly finding a way past the rest of the front row starters, Ayumu Sasaki and Alcoba. Having started 27th on the grid, Tony Arbolino did not wait for the multiple penalties ahead of him to be served and was up to 17th by the end of lap 1. Ogura was keen to attack early, getting past Suzuki into turn 1 next time around but Arenas immediately followed him. The Spaniard then attacked once more at the same place on lap 3 and got ahead of Ogura as well. Jaume Masia was starting to get involved at the front and challenged both title contenders to climb as high as second, although the Spaniard quickly got a reminder of his double long lap penalty.
While riders fought for the honour of chasing him down, Fernandez had built a gap of over a second by lap four. Arenas picked up the pursuit but Alcoba, Ogura and Masia were still glued to his tail. Masia briefly left the party as he took his first penalty at the end of lap 4, together with teammate Foggia, dropping them to 10th and 11th place. While Masia and Foggia had to do it all over again, Sergio Garcia and Deniz Oncu wanted a say in the podium battle. Meanwhile, Arbolino had joined the top 10 by lap 6, aided by the Leopard boys taking their second long lap penalty.
Fernandez running away at the front was a fairly familiar sight, the Spaniard setting a fierce pace early on and increasing his gap to four seconds by lap 8. Alcoba and Arenas continued to fight to lead the pursuit, in a group also including Garcia, Sasaki, Oncu, Suzuki and Ogura, while Arbolino was in the lead of the next group three seconds down the road.
While Fernandez continued to extend his lead to 8 seconds by the halfway mark of the race, the chasers did not seem to have an answer to his pace, while the Leopard riders – despite their penalties – took over the lead of the next group and dragged Arbolino to within a second of the podium battle. The two groups merged with 10 laps remaining and soon enough Ogura found himself behind Arbolino in 10th position. Meanwhile, title rival Arenas had lost a bit of ground on Alcoba and was under attack for the final podium position from Suzuki and the Leopards. All three riders got past the Spaniard within 2 laps but with his championship rivals still behind him, it didn’t cause much concern yet. Some sparks did fly with 6 laps remaining, when Arenas saw the pink livery of Arbolino sweep past a couple of times and he fiercely defended, but Ogura, who was the main threat, had dropped out of the top 10, although still part of the chasing group.
Back at the front, Foggia and Masia had claimed provisional podium positions from Alcoba, although Fernandez’s 9-second gap looked a few steps too far. Masia quickly got past teammate Foggia but then threw all the fine work away by crashing from second position with 4 laps remaining, leaving Foggia and Alcoba to inherit second and third place. With Suzuki and Garcia filling the top 5 positions and having broken away from the rest of the group, all eyes for the final handful of laps were on the title battle, which had turned into a direct battle for sixth place. Arbolino, Arenas and Ogura got company from Binder, McPhee, Antonelli, Oncu and Vietti and it was Ogura who suffered most from the extra company, as the Japanese rider got demoted outside of the top 10 for the final 2 laps. That battle soon turned into the battle for fifth, as Suzuki crashed out of fourth place with 2 laps remaining.
The final lap started with Fernandez 7 seconds ahead of the rest and the Spaniard was untroubled until the checkered flag, with Foggia and Alcoba also putting in impressive performances to complete the podium. Garcia took the checkered flag half a second later but the big battle was six seconds behind him. Binder was leading the chasing group as the final lap started but Arbolino gave it one more big push to claim fifth and was rewarded with second in the championship for his excellent efforts. Ogura’s 8th place, behind Binder and Vietti, dropped him to third in the championship standings, although tied on points with Arbolino. The last lap shenanigans saw Arenas drop to 12th position and getting served with a track limits warning, but despite some frantic moves and unnecessary risks, the Spaniard did just enough secure the world championship in a truly action-packed season finale.
|28||89||Khairul Idham Pawi||Honda||+46.973|
|24||Tatsuki Suzuki||Honda||2 Laps|
|5||Jaume Masia||Honda||4 Laps|
|21||Alonso Lopez||Husqvarna||7 Laps|