The Moto2 rodeo had something special in store for Sunday afternoon at COTA, serving a race-long clash between the title favourites, Pedro Acosta coming out on top on the very last lap to snatch victory by a tenth of a second. Tony Arbolino showed him the way for most of proceedings, having made another fine start from the third row of the grid but eventually had to admit defeat at turn 12. Five seconds later, Bo Bendsneyder celebrated a hard-fought first podium in the intermediate class, sailing through the last lap shenanigans to clinch third at the finish line.
There was a taste of drama before the race even started, with Jake Dixon taking a tumble at turn nine on the warmup lap and unable to make the start. With one less rival to worry about on the second row of the grid, Alonso Lopez flew his rocket ship into the lead by turn two, ahead of Acosta and an equally fast-starting Arbolino, while Filip Salac, Aron Canet and Fermin Aldeguer further demoted poleman Celestino Vietti. Bendsneyder followed his example and dropped out of the top 10 early on but, unlike the Italian, steadily recovered to become a factor in the late podium battle.
Back at the front, Acosta and Lopez traded top spot a couple of times over the opening lap but it was Acosta in the lead going into lap two. Although they had five other men in tow, it was Arbolino and Canet who were most eager to join the party early on, with Salac, Alcoba and Aldeguer making up the leaders’ group. A quickly fading Vietti dropped one second behind and was soon challenged by Barry Baltus for the lead of the chasing pack.
A mistake from Acosta at turn 12 promoted Lopez back into the lead and allowed both Arbolino and Canet to take advantage and get ahead of the KTM man. However, Acosta quickly regrouped and reclaimed third from Canet, all while Lopez was enjoying some breathing room for a couple of laps. Arbolino changed that on lap five, attacking the Spaniard at turn 10, who then lost another position to Acosta at the first corner. Canet, Alcoba and Salac seemed to be slowing their pace over the next few laps, dropping a second behind the leaders but soon welcomed Lopez in their midst, following a mistake at turn five. There was a real threat from behind as well, where Baltus had joined the party, taking Aldeguer with him, but it was a short-lived adventure for the Belgian rider, who crashed out of fifth position on lap eight.
Acosta continued to sniff around Arbolino going into lap 10 but was yet to find a good opportunity to attack. With the leading duo of Arbolino and Acosta setting a hot pace at the front, Canet struggled to close the two-second gap but managed to keep the pursuers behind, the Gresini and Speed Up duos keeping each other entertained. The battle for third hotted up with six laps to go, when Aldeguer overtook Canet, with Alcoba soon following his example, but the group had to abandon victory hopes as they had lost touch with the leaders, almost four seconds behind. If Salac managed to keep close to the chasing pack, Lopez continued to fade, while all eyes turned to Bendsneyder, who was the quickest man on track in seventh position.
Despite a hairy moment at turn 15, Acosta could not be deterred and the Spaniard closed any gaps that Arbolino might have hoped to open. The Italian was the first to blink under the incessant pressure from Acosta and a mistake at turn one allowed the Spaniard to seize the lead with three laps remaining. Acosta returned the favour by running wide at turn 12 and allowed Arbolino to reclaim top spot and start the final lap with a slender advantage, but Acosta bided his time until turn 12 when he retook lead and defended beautifully to the finish line. A particularly feisty Canet made a few optimistic moves on the final lap but the constant shenanigans favoured Bendsneyder, who went from sixth to fourth in the blink of an eye and then robbed Alcoba at the line. The Spaniard settled for fourth ahead of teammate Salac, with Aldeguer in turn finishing ahead of teammate Lopez. Canet had to make do with eighth place, while Vietti and Manuel Gonzalez rounded out the top 10 positions.
Despite missing out on victory, Arbolino keeps the lead in the world championship but his gap is reduced to seven points by Acosta, while Canet drops to third, 20 points behind. Salac and Lopez make up the top five, while the unlucky Dixon drops 35 points behind the leader.
|17||84||Zonta Van Den Goorbergh||Kalex||34.734|
|18||4||Sean Dylan Kelly||Kalex||34.934|
|19||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Kalex||06:41.9430|