Race day in Jerez started with the lightweight class causing chaos under patchy cloud cover and glimpses of sun. The end result was a long awaited victory for Niccolo Antonelli, the Italian climbing on the top step of the podium for the first time since Qatar 2016 after a clever race where he avoided the drama and made a move when it mattered: on the final lap. It was an extra sweet day for the SIC58 team as teammate Tatsuki Suzuki turned a front row start into a second place. Celestino Vietti grabbed the final podium position after leading on several occasions throughout the race.
Suzuki had led the way after an excellent start from the front row of the grid and immediately showed good pace to put half a second into the sizeable pack led by teammate Antonelli. Poleman Lorenzo Dalla Porta had dropped to fifth at the start but he did not take long to regroup and challenge for leadership, the Italian lining it up into Pedrosa Corner to attack Suzuki by lap three. About a dozen positions behind, Jaume Masia lost any chance to keep his championship lead after going down at turn two while running outside the top 15. By lap five, the top 12 riders were starting to stretch a one second gap to the rest and the likes of Tony Arbolino, Andrea Migno and Albert Arenas seemed to have missed the boat on the podium battle but that was hardly the end of that story.
Back at the front, the front row starters were exchanging provisional podium positions with Aron Canet and Antonelli in hot pursuit. Jakub Kornfeil, Romano Fenati, Dennis Foggia, John McPhee, Marcos Ramirez, Raul Fernandez and Ayumu Sasaki completed the cast of the lead group. However, the chasers took advantage of the battles between the men ahead and were starting to reel them in.
For the next couple of laps, it was Dalla Porta and Suzuki who were most eager to show the way, while the lead beehive grew to 18 riders. That also meant that the usual Moto3 chaos multiplied and riders could lose a handful of places in the blink of an eye. With eight laps left, local favourite Ramirez made it a Leopard Racing one-two but the teammates were not giving each other an easy time at the front. Despite the still sizeable group, it was the same names attacking for the lead, the Leopards challenged by Canet, Antonelli, Suzuki and Vietti.
Drama properly started in the final four laps, when Ramirez had a scary crash out of turn 5 after contact with Antonelli. It was mostly luck that everyone avoided the stranded bike in the middle of the track but focus soon turned to Sergio Garcia and Fernandez at turn six, their unpleasant tumble ruining an excellent performance for the Estrella Galicia rookie who had made his way into the top ten after starting 23rd.
In the final couple of laps, the pack had whittled down to ten names and they all wanted a piece of the pie. The poleman was suddenly towards the end of the pack and Antonelli, having kept quiet for most of the race, picked up the lead and rode a perfect last lap to take his first victory in what feels like forever. Suzuki followed his teammate across the finish line to complete a memorable day for the SIC58 squad while Vietti completed the podium for SKY. Canet looked like he was just biding his time before a final attack – that never came, the Spaniard settling for best of the rest in fourth. Arenas, Kaito Toba and Kornfeil followed next, while Dalla Porta continued the pole jinx at Jerez. Ai Ogura and Andrea Migno completed the top ten with some fine performances having lingered towards the bottom of the top 20 early in the race. Meanwhile, Dennis Foggia was the sole victim of the long lap penalty, which dropped him out of podium contention in the final laps and into 16th place, to which he added yet another post race penalty for exceeding track limits.
Following Masia’s misfortune, Canet becomes sole championship leader but only one point ahead of winner Antonelli. Masia drops to third, 13 points down, followed by Toba, Dalla Porta and Vietti.
|8||48||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Honda||+1.291|
|76||Makar YURCHENKO||KTM||1 Lap|
|11||Sergio GARCIA||Honda||4 Laps|
|25||Raul FERNANDEZ||KTM||4 Laps|
|55||Romano FENATI||Honda||4 Laps|
|69||Tom BOOTH-AMOS||KTM||4 Laps|
|19||Gabriel RODRIGO||Honda||8 Laps|
|12||Filip SALAC||KTM||12 Laps|
|5||Jaume MASIA||KTM||20 Laps|