The Red Bull Ring was looking glorious once again, as the sun returned to shine on the day’s racing. Things calmed down somewhat on track as well, the first race of the day not the usual chaos in the lightweight class. It was an excellent morning for KTM though, Marco Bezzecchi taking a commanding victory to extend his championship lead. Enea Bastianini is pilling on the recovery rides after another race in which he caused trouble for himself by losing ground at the start from an already underwhelming grid position only to blast his way through the field and claim second. Jorge Martin’s front row start was already an impressive achievement but the Spaniard’s race was more than damage limitation – it was a courageous ride in which he challenged his main rival until the very last lap and ultimately snuck onto the podium.
The two main title rivals maintained position at the start, poleman Bezzecchi ahead of hero Martin, but by lap two only Gabriel Rodrigo and Albert Arenas had managed to keep in touch with the leaders, Tony Arbolino and Aron Canet leading the massive group eight tenths of a second down the road. Bezzecchi’s KTM rocket launched on the straights and made him a very difficult rabbit to chase. His runaway strategy was helped by Martin, Rodrigo and Arenas engaging in battle right behind him in the first few laps. This also helped the chasers, with Jaume Masia soon on their tails and attacking for the podium. Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Arbolino also merged with the leaders, while Canet had another eight tenths to find in order to join them. Another half a second back, an elite group with Di Giannantonio, Jakub Kornfeil, Bastianini and Marcos Ramirez was still entertaining thoughts of a podium.
By lap eight, Bezzecchi was still unchallenged but his gap rarely got over half a second and Martin’s injured wrist did not look to impede him too much yet. Arenas and Masia were trailing them closely but both Dalla Porta and Rodrigo had trouble keeping within the limits of the track and got separated from the four leaders, dropping back into the clutches of Di Giannantonio, Arbolino and Bastianini. A pretty anonymous Canet was tenth, another second back on the riders ahead and not making much noise.
Bezzecchi continued to lead into the halfway point of proceedings, while Martin was presumably getting distracted from the pain by Masia’s incessant attacks, with Arenas struggling to keep within track limits behind them. Nearly three seconds behind the podium battle, Bastianini had taken initiative in the chasing group made up of Di Giannantonio, Dalla Porta, Arbolino, Rodrigo and Canet, the Spaniard finally catching up with them but not making any moves.
With ten laps left, Masia picked up the task of pulling Bezzecchi back and did a fantastic job to keep him within two tenths of a second most times but Martin wanted to have a go himself and the battle for second once again allowed Bezzecchi some breathing space. Three laps later, the Italian’s gap went over half a second, leaving Martin, Masia and Arenas to settle the remaining podium positions. Bastianini finally reduced the gap to under two seconds, bringing teammate Dalla Porta with him, but the Leopard duo did not yet look like a threat to the men ahead. They did pull ahead of Arbolino, Rodrigo and Di Giannantonio by almost two seconds, with Canet dropping back drastically, down to 12th with four laps left.
The leader’s gap was once again swallowed by Martin & co and the Italian finally saw a bike ahead of him with three laps remaining, when a valiant Martin attempted a couple of attacks but the grunt of the KTM slid past the Honda every time. To add some more spice to proceedings, Bastianini had been posting fastest laps and catching up with the leaders at an alarming rate. The Italian attacked Arenas at the start of the final lap, Martin half a lap later and Masia in the final few turns. Martin saw an opportunity to sneak past as well and the move sent Masia in a rodeo that he just about saved to finish sixth, falling behind Arenas and Dalla Porta.
Having started dead last following his qualifying misfortunes, John McPhee had made his way into the lead of the second group by the start of the last lap but the tight fight saw him lose out by the time they arrived to the finish line and the CIP rider dropped back to 12th. Ayumu Sasaki was best of the pack in seventh position, ahead of Rodrigo, Arbolino and with Canet completing the top ten, Di Giannantonio missing out by only one hundredth of a second.
Bezzecchi’s victory extends his lead in the championship to 12 points, Martin's stellar ride ensuring a limited points loss. Teammate Di Giannantonio kept third, 37 points down on the leader and there points ahead of Canet.
|5||48||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Honda||+1.421|
|11||21||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Honda||+8.824|
|16||Andrea MIGNO||KTM||12 Laps|