The heat of Andalucia set the scene for a tough battle in the lightweight class, with the pressure firmly on poleman Tatsuki Suzuki all throughout the 23 laps. The Japanese rider rode an impeccable race to finally convert pole into a second career win, a rare achievement in Jerez. John McPhee was once again firmly in contention but perhaps the ghosts of last weekend gave him a more cautious approach on the final lap and secured him second position. Celestino Vietti kept his head down and rubbed a few elbows to cross the line in the final podium place.
Suzuki was strong from the start, taking the holeshot from pole ahead of front row starters Ai Ogura and Gabriel Rodrigo, while Albert Arenas was kept away from top spots by his second row companions, Raul Fernandez and Tony Arbolino. Fernandez briefly went on to challenge the poleman on lap two but Suzuki quickly returned to the lead of the sizeable pack, while Arenas and McPhee, some of the favourites from practice, bided their time just outside the top five. Having started 25th, Darryn Binder was trailing the duo to join the podium battle by lap five.
Suzuki did well to defend top spot for the next couple of laps, while Arbolino, Rodrigo, Ogura and Fernandez kept trading places behind him and were followed by seven other contenders amongst the lead group. Rodrigo and Fernandez attacked Suzuki every now and again but Suzuki retaliated straight away, while Jaume Masia and Ogura abandoned the lead group on lap 8, in an innocent tangle at turn 9. The mission did not get any easier for the leaders however, as Vietti and Kaito Toba had bridged the gap to join the podium shenanigans.
Attacks kept coming at the front and Suzuki kept fending them off but the SIC58 rider got some more pressure put on his shoulders by a track limits warning. The halfway point of proceedings saw 10 men in the leading group, Suzuki a steady leader, while Rodrigo was getting challenged by McPhee, with Binder, Fernandez, Arenas, Vietti, Deniz Oncu, Jeremy Alcoba and Arbolino still in podium contention.
The next significant event came with eight laps remaining, when Arenas suffered a fast crash at turn 11 and it looked like a costly tumble for his championship lead. Meanwhile, the leaders picked up the pace and it meant that Oncu and Arbolino lost touch with the seven-man lead group. Another couple of laps and Alcoba gave up on podium ambitions with a long lap penalty, which he failed to take and was sanctioned at the end of the race.
Fewer challengers did not make the podium battle any calmer but Suzuki was untouched at the front. Even though the Japanese rider’s gap was rarely over a couple tenths of a second, attacks were sparse until the final couple of laps, when Binder and McPhee became his main challengers. However, Binder’s overenthusiasm saw him start the final lap at the back of the lead group and left McPhee in a prime position to attack Suzuki. The Scotsman did not want to risk another last corner overtake after last Sunday’s result and Suzuki crossed the line first. McPhee had to settle for second, with Vietti riding a solid race to snatch third.
Alcoba crossed the line fourth but his three second penalty for not complying with the long lap sanction dropped him to seventh, promoting Binder to fourth, Rodrigo to fifth and Fernandez to sixth position. Teammates Sergio Garcia and Ryusei Yamanaka joined Arbolino in the remainder of the top ten.
Arenas just about holds on to his lead in the championship, six points ahead of race winner Suzuki. McPhee stays third, 10 points down on the leader, while Ogura drops to fourth after being the innocent victim of Masia’s crash – the Spaniard himself dropping five positions down to ninth.
|20||89||Khairul Idham Pawi||Honda||+22.445|
|9||Davide Pizzoli||KTM||2 Laps|
|7||Dennis Foggia||Honda||3 Laps|
|53||Deniz Öncü||KTM||4 Laps|
|71||Ayumu Sasaki||KTM||6 Laps|
|5||Jaume Masia||Honda||7 Laps|
|75||Albert Arenas||KTM||8 Laps|
|79||Ai Ogura||Honda||8 Laps|
|12||Filip Salac||Honda||14 Laps|