Pol Espargaro (above) has retaken the Moto2 World Championship lead, winning Sunday’s Tissot Australian Grand Prix while Alex Rins has won a thrilling Moto3 coming out of top of a multiple-rider battle to beat Maverick Vinales by just three thousandths of a second.
Moto2 – Espargaro wins frantic 13-lap sprint race
Pre-race points leader Scott Redding was absent when the Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider was eliminated after a heavy crash in qualifying yesterday. He broke his wrist and underwent immediate corrective surgery, but is a doubtful starter for next weekend’s Japanese GP.
Espargaro started from his fifth pole of the season but was obliged to fend off a strong early attack from Alex De Angelis (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Speed Up), who later set a new lap record. In the closing laps came another fierce attack from Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter).
Pol Espargaro: “All my life I had a dream – to be World Champion, sooner or later. It is not done, yet, but it is close … I can’t believe where we are and what we did. I’m not 100 percent happy because while I have overtaken Redding in the championship points, he was not on track, and this is not good. But this is racing, where every lap and corner can be dangerous. Anyway, we are not still champion. For sure we are going to work hard as we did all season.”
Luthi crossed the line just over half-a-second adrift for his best result of the year, fending off a last lap attack from German GP winner Jordi Torres (Aspar Team Moto2 Suter), less than a tenth behind. Simone Corsi (NGM Mobile Racing Speed Up) was almost as close to him, with De Angelis on his back wheel, and the top five covered by 1.1 seconds
Thomas Luthi: “With just 13 laps there was just one strategy: full throttle from the go. Such a short race… actually, too short for me, because I had quite a good set-up and was not scared at all by a full length. Due to safety reasons we had to do this short race, so I had to change the strategy. The target was to get a good start and push straight from the beginning. I had to battle to keep the other guys behind me, not easy, but at the end second is great. I didn’t struggle at all with the tyres during all the weekend with lost rubber or anything like that.”
Jordi Torres: “We had a good weekend. In the race we tried to push hard to stay at the top, but midway through the race I lost the rear wheel of Luthi and had to fight with de Angelis. But my bike worked well with used tyres. I’m happy. We are going to do our best to replicate the result in the next two races, but it’s going to be pretty difficult, in a class where the difference between riders is so small.”
Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) lost touch in the final stages in sixth while battling with Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex), who finished less than two-tenths behind.
Rabat came back to eighth, after running off the track and dropping out of the leading group, while holding third place, putting two-race winner Nico Terol (Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) ninth.
Australian rider Anthony West (QMMF Racing Team Speed Up) fought through to tenth in a crowd-pleasing ride after finishing the first lap in 20th.
Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) Ricard Cardus (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Speed Up). Danny Kent (Tech 3), Gino Rea (Argiñano & Gines Racing Speed Up) and Doni Tata Pradita (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Suter) claimed the remaining points.
Moto3 – Miller finishes top Honda rider in fifth
The Moto3 race was the only one of the day to run the full scheduled distance, set at 23 laps. In a class where Honda-powered machines are up against rival factories in a variety of prototype chassis, the top Honda rider Jack Miller came heartbreakingly close to a first rostrum finish.
Jack Miller: “Missed it by a whisker, but it was a good race even if I didn’t get on the podium. I had to fight back from the start. I could stay there in the group, and also make the passes to get to the front, so that was quite good. In the same point, the bike on the straight was not what we needed. We missed just a little bit of speed. I knew it was going to be difficult to make the podium.”
The Australian finished fifth in a tight pack, but less than three-quarters of a second off third place, and only six tenths behind the winner. The top seven places were covered by just 1.1 seconds.
Alex Rins took out the Moto3 in a thrilling race coming out on top of a multiple-rider battle to beat Maverick Vinales by just three thousandths of a second. Both riders decreased the championship-leading advantage of pole-sitter Luis Salom, who completed the podium at Phillip Island.
Rins’ latest victory has now matched Salom on six race wins this season as well as having won three of the last four Grands Prix. Remarkably, the top seven riders were covered by just over one second, with Niccolo Antonelli only a further 1.1 in arrears.
A titanic battle at the forefront saw a selection of riders enjoying time in the lead, whereas Salom ran as low as seventh but looked to be making his customary climb to the very sharp end in the closing minutes of the race.
However it was Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger who stole the limelight as the final lap began, shooting into the lead at Doohan curve only to run wide and drop to sixth three corners later.
The run to line resulted in the closest finish so far this year in the World Championship, with Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) pipping Vinales (Team Calvo) after having both started on the second row of the grid.
Rins’ teammate Alex Marquez finished fourth, with the first group completed by local favourite Jack Miller (Caretta Technology – RTG), Folger, front row starter Efren Vazquez (Mahindra Racing) and Antonelli (GO&FUN Gresini Moto3).
Avant Tecno’s Niklas Ajo was a further 12.8 seconds behind and headed the second group, with Alexis Masbou rounding out the top ten for Ongetta-Rivacold.
Mahindra’s Miguel Oliveira recovered to 26th spot and was fortunate to avoid injury after flying over his handlebars at the MG hairpin on the opening lap. Wildcard Lachlan Kavney (Bullet Racing) also hit trouble, finishing one lap down in 30th place.
There is only five points now between the championship leaders with a maximum of 50 still on offer.
The season will continue next weekend with the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan at Twin Ring Motegi.