A touch of cloud cover showed up to watch over the intermediate class race, which ended up being another convincing display from Luca Marini. The young Italian turned pole position into a second consecutive victory but did not have it all his own way for the 22 laps. Tom Luthi had gone missing for a couple of races but turned up to the party in Motegi to become Marini’s main challenger in the race and also the main challenger in the title battle once again. The Swiss rider admitted defeat but was back on the podium – a much more familiar sight for Luthi than for the man in third. Jorge Martin looked nothing like a rookie in Japan and rode a clever race with some quality battles on his way to his maiden podium in the class.
The story started with Marini making a fantastic getaway from pole, ahead of fellow front row starters Augusto Fernandez and Lorenzo Baldassarri, while Somkiat Chantra and Luthi got ahead of Alex Marquez and Jorge Navarro. Fernandez was keen to show a wheel to the leader early on but too much eagerness saw him lose a couple of positions to his teammate and Chantra. Just behind them, Marquez and Luthi were having some early fun – to Navarro’s advantage after another hairy moment out of the final turn for Marquez. Meanwhile, Brad Binder’s weekend was not getting any better, outside of the top 20 after a save of his own on the muddy grass out of that same final corner – the incident making an innocent victim of Sam Lowes. There was some very early drama for Tetsuta Nagashima as well, the local favourite starting last on the grid after crashing on the sighting lap and not making it past turn one once the lights went off.
With Marini comfortable at the front, ahead of pal Baldassarri and with an even more impressive Chantra holding off Fernandez, most of the entertainment was provided by Marquez and Luthi, the two familiar rivals trading positions in between uncharacteristic wiggles and wobbles from the championship leader. However, Luthi found some extra speed on lap six and ran away from Marquez, who dropped into the clutches of the other Dynavolt machine of Marcel Schrotter, who immediately engaged in battle.
By lap eight, Luthi stated to look like the biggest threat to Marini and Baldassarri’s leadership, the Swiss rider past the Flexbox HP40 man only one lap later. Chantra was getting ever so slightly distanced from the trio ahead and just about avoiding the craziness right behind him, where Marquez was getting involved in harsh battles left right and centre with Martin, Fernandez and Schrotter. The highly entertaining shenanigans between the foursome allowed the lead trio to distance themselves to almost two seconds by the lap 11.
Luthi pulled his favourite move at turn nine to take the lead of the race from Marini at the halfway point of proceedings. Marini and Baldassarri were waiting for the best time to retaliate, while the sizeable chasing pack was swallowing Chantra and appointing Martin to reduce the gap to the leaders. The group still included Marquez, Schrotter, Fernandez, Navarro, Enea Bastianini and Stefano Manzi but lost Marco Bezzecchi to an unfortunate bout of illness with ten laps left.
Luthi looked strong at the front, keeping Marini half a second behind and quickly dropping Baldassarri, while the pursuers struggled to make an impression on the two-second gap to the podium men. While his main title rival excelled in the lead of the race, Marquez continued to get forced into pulling some feisty overtakes on yet another rival, this time Navarro, in the battle for fifth. Martin managed to avoid that particular action and gapped the group by one second but was stuck another second behind podium positions.
With five laps left, it appeared clear that Luthi and Marini would be disputing victory but the poleman bided his time for an attack. Meanwhile, three seconds down the road, Martin was smelling a podium after setting the fastest lap of the race and immediately tagging to the back of Baldassarri. The race entered its final two laps with the podium nowhere near decided, Marini finally attacking Luthi at turn seven and Martin following his example on Baldassarri at turn nine.
Marini started the final lap only a couple tenths ahead of Luthi but successfully held on for the entire lap to secure back to back victories. Luthi could not find a way back past and settled for a well deserved second, while Martin crossed the finish line three seconds later to celebrate his first Moto2 podium. Baldassarri had no reply to the rookie’s attack and made do with fourth. Navarro finished in a lonely fifth, while Marquez did well to take the checkered flag in a fiercely fought sixth place. The final top ten positions went to Bastianini, Fernandez, Schrotter and Manzi.
Luthi becomes once again the main title challenger for Marquez, although Marini’s victory limited the Swiss rider’s progress in the championship and he now trails the Spaniard by 36 points. Fernandez drops to third with a 42 point deficit, six points ahead of Navarro. Despite an excellent recent run of races, Binder’s 12th place in Motegi drops him to fifth in the list of title contenders.
|5||9||Jorge NAVARRO||Speed Up||+5.236|
|10||62||Stefano MANZI||MV Agusta||+12.445|
|11||21||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Speed Up||+12.572|
|14||77||Dominique AEGERTER||MV Agusta||+15.778|
|21||20||Dimas EKKY PRATAMA||Kalex||+45.143|
|54||Mattia PASINI||Kalex||5 Laps|
|72||Marco BEZZECCHI||KTM||10 Laps|
|87||Remy GARDNER||Kalex||14 Laps|
|27||Iker LECUONA||KTM||18 Laps|
|97||Xavi VIERGE||Kalex||18 Laps|
|22||Sam LOWES||Kalex||20 Laps|
|11||Nicolo BULEGA||Kalex||21 Laps|
|3||Lukas TULOVIC||KTM||21 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|45||Tetsuta NAGASHIMA||Kalex||0 Lap|