The sky was an untroubled shade of blue as the lightweight class race got underway in ever hotter conditions. The action kept the heat rising but the result was another victory for the man of the moment and brand new world champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta. The Italian spent most of the race showing the way to the competition and calmly fended off last lap attacks to do the hat-trick in the flyaways. The rest of the podium was as equally, if not more excited to be in the winners’ enclosure, rookie Sergio Garcia securing a maiden podium in the lightweight class on the final lap, while Jaume Masia had a fairly rousing race. Having qualified 11th, battery gremlins on the sighting lap sent the panicked Spaniard to the back of the grid, from where he performed some real magic to climb on the final podium spot.
The story started with front row starter Tatsuki Suzuki getting the holeshot but slipstream into turn one gave Albert Arenas the upper hand. After allowing his colleagues some airtime, poleman Marcos Ramirez decided to fight back and the trio disputed the early lead of the race. The big movers of lap one were Gabriel Rodrigo, who went from 9th on the grid to first by lap two, while Romano Fenati joined the top ten from a 20th place start. Tony Arbolino was not too far back either after an underwhelming qualifying and Masia quickly found the top 15, the Spaniard soon overtaking a fading Aron Canet.
By lap three, Suzuki decided that he enjoyed the clean air up front despite the known dangers and/or perks of a slipstream around Sepang, with early threats coming in from Ramirez, Rodrigo and Arenas, despite the entire field still being part of the lead group. With that in mind, Masia and Arbolino were knocking on the doors of the top ten, while Canet was struggling to join the top 15, although realistically still in contention for the race.
The cast at the front changed on lap six, when a highside on the exit of turn four for leader Rodrigo took out Suzuki and Alonso Lopez, the trio extremely lucky to escape injury. The reaction in the pack saw Celestino Vietti claim the lead from Dalla Porta, Arenas and Masia, while poleman Ramirez took to the grass and dropped outside the top ten. Unusually for a Moto3 race, the smallest of gaps started separating the four man lead group from the chasers led by Arbolino but the eighth tenths gap was reduced to nothing by lap eight, aided by Vietti and Dalla Porta dicing for the lead. Meanwhile, Canet managed to join the top ten and was making steady progress towards the podium battle, promoted one position by a crash for Darryn Binder at turn two.
At the midpoint of proceedings, Dalla Porta and Vietti were the most keen to lead, with Arenas, Masia, McPhee, Garcia and Arbolino closely behind, while Canet took over the chase in a reduced group with Ogura and Ramirez. A more decisive gap of two seconds kept the next group led by Fenati out of the main battle and that gap seemed to only increase.
Dalla Porta looked settled at the front as the race entered its final seven laps and managed to keep Vietti at bay and avoid getting slipstreamed. The SKY rider’s mission was made more difficult by occasional attacks from Garcia or Arenas, with Ogura soon becoming a headache with aspirations for the podium. Masia and McPhee kept close but although Canet, Arbolino and Ramirez were still nearby, the trio was struggling to make an impression on the men ahead.
Dalla Porta started the final lap still in control by mere hundredths of a second from Vietti but an attack came from the KTM man in turn one and the Leopard rider quickly retaliated – with limited success initially but then making it stick into turn nine. The move led to some contact between Vietti and Arenas and the Spaniard snatched second. However, Arenas’ dream of four consecutive podiums in the flyaways ended at the final corner, allowing Garcia and Masia to join the podium. The rookie of the year title goes to the final in Valencia, after Ai Ogura did one better than Vietti in the top five. Ramirez had to make do with sixth after the early drama, ahead of McPhee, while Canet gained some more points in the battle for second in the championship by finishing one place ahead from Arbolino. Niccolo Antonelli kept under the radar but joined the top ten late on, as the leader of the chasing pack.
|1||48||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Honda||38'01.355|
|40||Darryn BINDER||KTM||7 Laps|
|71||Ayumu SASAKI||Honda||9 Laps|
|16||Andrea MIGNO||KTM||9 Laps|
|27||Kaito TOBA||Honda||9 Laps|
|82||Stefano NEPA||KTM||10 Laps|
|24||Tatsuki SUZUKI||Honda||12 Laps|
|19||Gabriel RODRIGO||Honda||12 Laps|
|21||Alonso LOPEZ||Honda||12 Laps|