Hot was the word of the day as the intermediate class was lining up to make a start in Sepang and all eyes were on the hot title battle promised by the front row configuration. And the race delivered on that promise, although it was a measured reply from the title contenders. Brad Binder was the fastest man on the day, the South African taking back to back wins but giving up the world title to a sensible but exhausted Alex Marquez. The Spaniard took the first world title of the Triumph era for the Marc VDS squad with a tense second place, while doing the double for the Marquez household. Tom Luthi put pressure on the world champion for much of the race but had to be happy with third place on the 200th intermediate class start of his grand prix career.
Binder had made a dream start from a slower starting Marquez but the poleman held on to his main rival’s coattails with fellow front row starter Tetsuta Nagashima in tow. The Japanese rider got a taste for battling the Spaniard back in Australia and was attacking him at the final turn but Marquez’s wider line allowed him to cut back and resume the chase from second. Xavi Vierge and Luthi kept pretty quiet in the top five, while the group led by Remy Gardner had already lost over one second on the five leaders. With Fabio Di Giannantonio crashing out at turn four of lap two, Enea Bastianini going down at turn 15 one lap later and Jorge Martin throwing it away at turn four immediately after, the rookie of the year battle will be going to Valencia.
Binder and Marquez were the fastest men on track in the early stages, the title contenders separated by a steady half second gap while slowly dropping the chasing trio. Luthi might have had better pace than the men around him but the Swiss rider was struggling to make a move stick on Vierge and Nagashima, who could not keep up with the leaders’ pace.
Marquez did not even need to attempt an overtake because Binder went too hot into turn 14 at the end of lap four, allowing his nemesis to take the lead and leaving himself with a one second gap to recover. The KTM man was steadily finding tenths on the next couple of laps and he was on the Spaniard’s tail by lap six. Seven tenths back, Nagashima was fending off Luthi and Vierge, with Lecuona making up ground on that group as well. Meanwhile, Jorge Navarro seemed to have already made the best of his poor starting position by climbing into seventh, but the gap to the men ahead was over two seconds.
Back at the front, Marquez managed to hold up Binder until turn one of lap eight, the rather harsh move and preceding shenanigans at the front allowing Nagashima and Luthi to tag along for the ride. Luthi finally managed to get past Nagashima after a hairy moment for the Japanese rider out of turn 14 but the brief exchange lost them time on the leaders once again. Binder was in control at the front and Marquez seemed to give him reasonable breathing space, while Luthi, even with his hot pace, was slow to find the one second he needed on Marquez.
Binder had a comfortable one second gap halfway through proceedings and a steady Marquez was keeping Luthi around the seven tenths mark, the Spaniard clearly focused on the title rather than the win. The next few laps were the calm before the storm, Binder going through the permutations while enjoying the clear air at the front, as Luthi’s advances on Marquez put the South African’s championship chances at risk too. However, there was little the KTM rider could do other than win the race, so he kept his head down and carried on safely ahead of his rivals. Some of those worries seemed justified, as Luthi was only seven tenths behind Marquez but the gap was not really coming down as the race entered its last five laps.
The final three laps seemed to be drawing the lead trio closer together but the gaps between them kept yoyo-ing between half a second and eight tenths. After a tense last lap, Binder took victory and Marquez finally broke Luthi’s resolve to cross the line as world champion. Vierge had dropped into the clutches of the chasing group for the final few laps and held off Navarro for fourth. Lecuona got the best of Lorenzo Baldassarri and Nagashima, while Marcel Scrotter and Luca Marini completed the top ten.
With the world title sealed, delivered and celebrated, Binder and Luthi wait for Valencia to settle the podium crumbs, the South African holding a four point advantage over the Swiss rider.
|5||9||Jorge NAVARRO||Speed Up||+7.114|
|15||77||Dominique AEGERTER||MV Agusta||+24.002|
|18||20||Dimas EKKY PRATAMA||Kalex||+29.455|
|24||33||Enea BASTIANINI||Kalex||1 Lap|
|22||Sam LOWES||Kalex||5 Laps|
|72||Marco BEZZECCHI||KTM||6 Laps|
|62||Stefano MANZI||MV Agusta||8 Laps|
|35||Somkiat CHANTRA||Kalex||10 Laps|
|21||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Speed Up||11 Laps|
|47||Adam NORRODIN||Kalex||13 Laps|
|88||Jorge MARTIN||KTM||16 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|64||Bo BENDSNEYDER||NTS||0 Lap|