In a deja-vu of the events preceding the lightweight class race, the Moto2 riders had to contend with a dry track with damp patches quickly sorted by bright sunshine. But unlike previous events, the downpour returned only once the checker flag was waved in celebration of KTM’s first win n Moto2, courtesy of Miguel Oliveira, who also scored Portugal’s first victory in the intermediate class. The joy was doubled for the Austrian factory by Brad Binder’s presence in second position, the South African rookie getting the better of the world championship leader in a race-long paint-scrapping exchange.
After scoring his fifth pole position of the season, Mattia Pasini made a mess of a start, dropping him back to seventh place and leaving Oliveira to lead the proceedings. Alex Marquez also escaped a hairy moment on lap one and had to fight his way back from ninth position.
By lap two, Franco Morbidelli was into second place just as Pasini’s record of non-scoring races in Phillip Island continued after the rear stepped out on Marcel Schrotter and the incident brought down the Italian as well, Tom Luthi only just avoiding the two of them. Marquez got a massive tank-slapper out of turn eleven soon after and dropped outside the top ten, leaving the three leaders with nearly two seconds’ gap from the pursuers led by Luthi.
The KTM duo of Oliveira and Binder held off the world championship leader at the front, the South African constantly putting to rest Morbidelli’s advances as his Portuguese colleague was stretching half a second’s gap. Some extra spice was added to the action by some spots of rain popping down on lap seven, bringing Oliveira back into the small lead group.
Whether it was the weather or the softer option tyre, Luthi continued to lose ground to the leaders and was being reeled back by Xavi Vierge and a charging Takaaki Nakagami. The Japanese rider made quick work of the gap and he was bumping Luthi back another spot by taking over the pursuit of the leaders on lap eleven. The Swiss rider attempted to fight back but Nakagami’s pace was hard to beat.
Meanwhile, Morbidelli finally made it past Binder after the Red Bull rider ran wide but Binder swiftly recovered to take his rightful second position back one lap later. While this was going on, Oliveira had disappeared into the lead by over two seconds. Behind the lead trio, Nakagami was fighting to bring back a four seconds’ gap, with Luthi’s day turning from bad to worse as he got overtaken by both Vierge and teammate Jasko Raffin at the halfway point of the race.
Oliveira casually added yet another second to his gap with eleven laps to go, while Binder was still not letting Morbidelli have his own way. A quick rubbing of tyres saw the eager Italian drop back into the clutches of Nakagami, who had evaporated the gap to the podium positions in a handful of laps.
With seven laps to go, Oliveira had six seconds at the front but the chasers had formed a compact group behind him, Morbidelli leading Nakagami, Binder, Vierge and Raffin. Another two seconds down the road, Marquez made it past Luthi to aid his teammate’s cause, with Bagnaia and Corsi waiting to pounce close behind. The Swiss rider did not give up just yet but had to fight for every inch of track space in a very determined group. Only one lap later, Morbidelli found himself out of the podium positions but Luthi was also getting roughed up by Corsi, Cortese and Aegerter.
Things were complicated once more by a rain flag in turn four with four laps to go, causing Olivera to lose nearly three seconds of his advantage to Nakagami. But the first victim of the conditions was Nakagami, the Japanese rider chasing hard for the win when a rapid crash on the penultimate lap got him out of contention.
On the other hand, the world championship leader seemed to ignore any safety concerns and gave Binder another pat-down but the South African kept it together to make it a KTM one-two by the time the checker flag dropped. Morbidelli had to settle for second, with a career best for Raffin in fourth place.
Vierge completed the top five, while Marquez crossed the line sixth, four seconds later. The top ten was completed by Corsi, Aegerter, Cortese and Luthi, whose title chase suffered a major setback, now 29 points behind Morbidelli. Oliveira and Marquez continue their ding-dong for third place in the standings, today’s victor ahead of the Spaniard by only one point.
|5||97||Xavi VIERGE||Tech 3||+7.403|
|7||24||Simone CORSI||Speed Up||+12.217|
|15||87||Remy GARDNER||Tech 3||+34.678|
|17||37||Augusto FERNANDEZ||Speed Up||+35.694|
|21||89||Khairul Idham PAWI||Kalex||+57.548|
|30||Takaaki NAKAGAMI||Kalex||2 Laps|
|57||Edgar PONS||Kalex||2 Laps|
|40||Fabio QUARTARARO||Kalex||20 Laps|
|5||Andrea LOCATELLI||Kalex||23 Laps|
|9||Jorge NAVARRO||Kalex||23 Laps|
|23||Marcel SCHROTTER||Suter||24 Laps|
|54||Mattia PASINI||Kalex||24 Laps|