At the end of a long eventful winter, everyone wanted a lead part in the first Moto3 play of the season. The auditions were tough and fiercely competitive but experience came first and Albert Arenas took KTM’s 100th Grand Prix win and heads to wherever the next race will be as a championship leader for the first time. John McPhee came just half a tenth off the win in the slipstream to the finish line but had to make do with second, while Ai Ogura got a surprise podium after the checkered flag.
Poleman Tatsuki Suzuki was a solid contender after a fast start off the line and the front row configuration with Raul Fernandez and Arenas was maintained on the first lap. Amongst the big winners of lap one were rookie Deniz Oncu and Tony Arbolino, who joined the top five, as well as Gabriel Rodrigo and Sergio Garcia, who were tagging along to the top ten soon after.
Suzuki lost the lead in the slipstream bonanza at the start of lap two and got pushed down to 5th position, while Fernandez and Arbolino exchanged the lead. In usual Moto3 fashion, no leader got too much airtime as attacks came from all sides of the sizeable pack, Arenas and Darryn Binder mixing it up at the front by lap three. One lap later, the KTMs of Arenas, Binder and Fernandez just about stretched a half second gap ahead of the Honda pack led by Jaume Masia, Sergio Garcia and Arbolino – with Suzuki, Rodrigo and McPhee a few of the other names keeping close. That slight advantage did not last long, quite predictably, and Masia attacked Binder for a provisional podium by lap six. While Arenas was still holding onto the lead, the main group reduced in numbers to ten riders, dropping the likes of Andrea Migno, Celestino Vietti, Ogura and Oncu.
The frantic action in turn one finally changed the leader by the halfway mark of the race, when Masia, Fernandez and Suzuki swapped top spot in quick succession. Masia, aided by the blistering speed of his Honda, was the only one who managed to hold onto the lead for more than one lap but meanwhile, the podium fight grew back to 19 participants after the first two groups merged for the final eight laps. That made every small mistake even more punishing, as Fernandez soon learned when he found himself at the back of that group. Vietti abandoned the fight soon after at turn ten, in a race incident with Jeremy Alcoba.
Arenas decided he would rather be defending the lead than be on the attack and picked up top spot for the last seven laps. The Spaniard fended off a few slipstream battles for the next few laps but it was a tough ask and he found himself sixth with four laps to go, while poleman Suzuki picked up the lead once again. His glory was fleeting however and many challengers picked up the baton for the remaining laps, including Arbolino, McPhee, Binder and Rodrigo.
Binder started the final lap in charge of the pack but only got as far as turn one before joining the gravel trap after touching with Arbolino. Left at the top of the field, Arenas attempted a small escape at the front and took McPhee with him, Masia leading the charge three tenths down. It was a small gap but enough for the lead duo to dispute the win between themselves, which went to Arenas as he kept his Honda rival at bay on the long finish straight.
Masia crossed the line in podium positions but the celebrations didn’t last long and the Spaniard was penalised one position due to exceeding track limits on the final lap. That allowed Ogura to join the podium, while several other penalties impacted on the rest the point positions, with Suzuki, Rodrigo, Alcoba, Salac, Foggia and Fernandez eventually rounding out the top ten.
|26||89||Khairul Idham PAWI||Honda||+28.189|
|40||Darryn BINDER||KTM||1 Lap|
|20||Jose Julian GARCIA||Honda||5 Laps|