The twenty-round 2022 World Road Race Championship Moto2 class came to a close, with IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia being represented by Thai rider Somkiat Chantra, in his fourth year in the class, and Ai Ogura, who finished 8th overall in his second year.
In the Qatar season-opener, Ogura started fifth and was in contention for a podium, but his hopes were dashed after a last-corner incident forced him off-track on the final lap. Although he only managed to finish sixth, the signs were there that this was going to be an impressive season.
Chantra becomes first Thai rider to win a grand prix
In Round 2, Indonesia, Chantra made up for missing the opening round due to injury in Qualifying, by taking the holeshot from fourth on the grid and riding solo to take his first Grand Prix win, 3 seconds ahead of his closest rival. This victory, his 50th in Moto2, was also the first Grand Prix win for a Thai rider.
Chantra continued his strong performance in the next round in Argentina, finishing second from seventh on the grid, with Ogura also finishing third, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia a double podium finish and the top team ranking. In the fourth round, the Grand Prix of the Americas, Ogura finished second from 11th on the grid, his second consecutive podium finish, and moved up to second overall. In the fiercely contested Moto2 class, the two riders had a great early season.
Ogura’s long-awaited first win places him in contention for the title
In the sixth round of the season in Spain, Ogura took his first pole position. He defended his lead throughout the race, finishing in his long-awaited first GP victory. On his twelfth podium finish including his Moto3 career, he finally stood on the top spot.
In rounds 7 (France) and 8 (Italy), Chantra and Ogura finished third and third, respectively, bringing Ogura to a tied first place on the leaders board. In rounds 9 and 10, the Japanese rider struggled, and in the 11th round in the Netherlands, he dropped from starting fourth to 16th at one point. Nonetheless, Ogura regained his speed and made an amazing catch-up to finish in second place. He finished the first half of the season just one point behind the overall leader.
IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia’s first one-two finish
After the summer break, Ogura finished fourth in Round 12, the British GP. In the 13th round in Austria, he qualified on pole for the second time, while Chantra qualified 5th. With hopes of a double podium finish for the first time since Round 3, the two were way ahead by the closing stage, in a mano-e-mano for the win. On the final lap, Chantra moved ahead, but when he went wide, Ogura got ahead for the lead and win. The team riders staged Honda Team Asia’s first one-two victory, more than 7 seconds ahead of the closest competition. From this point, the fight for the title was between Ogura and Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Ogura wins first Japan GP in three years, title fight heats up
This season, the Japan GP was held for the first time in three years. After falling seven points behind Fernandez in rounds 14 and 15, Ogura qualified 13th in the wet, but rode well in the dry during the race. He moved up to 5th on the opening lap and took the lead on Lap 13. Ogura was able to keep away from the field right up to the 22nd and final lap, winning his first home GP in the Moto2 class. He became the first Japanese rider to win the Japanese GP in 16 years, since his current team manager Hirokazu Aoyama won, and closed the points gap to Fernandez, who finished second, down to two points.
Chantra scores first podium at home GP, Ogura takes overall lead into the last two rounds
Round 17, held in Thailand, was Chantra's home race. In qualifying, he took his first pole position, thrilling the local fans. The race, however, was drenched as the local hero crashed on the second lap. The race was red-flagged after eight laps and ended with Ogura finishing sixth after starting third.
In Round 18, Australia, Ogura survived eleventh in a tough race, in which eleven of the 29 riders crashed. With Fernandez's crash and retirement, Ogura moved into the lead by 3.5 points with two rounds remaining.
An aggressive fight by Ogura for the title
In the penultimate Round 19, Malaysia, Ogura took his third pole position, while Fernandez qualified sixth, giving the Japanese rider the advantage.The race was a duel with second-grid Toni Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team). Ogura tried to take the lead on the last lap but crashed, dashing his hopes to extend his lead going into the final round in Valencia, where Fernandez had the home race advantage.
Ogura went into the final round, the Valencia GP, 9.5 points behind. He started from fifth on the grid hoping to make a comeback for the title, and was running in second place in the early laps, ahead of Fernandez who started third. However, his front-end slipped on Lap 8 at Turn 8, giving Fernandez, who finished the race second, the championship title.
Although narrowly missing out on winning the title, Ogura was second place overall with seven podium finishes, including three wins. Chantra’s tenth place overall was a big improvement over last season, in which he was 18th. The two riders’ determination gave IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia second in the team ranking, which they aim to improve in 2023 with the same riders.
|1||Augusto FERNANDEZ||37||Red Bull KTM Ajo||Kalex||271.5|
|2||Ai OGURA||79||IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia||Kalex||242|
|3||Aron CANET||40||Flexbox HP40||Kalex||200|
|4||Tony ARBOLINO||14||Elf Marc VDS Racing Team||Kalex||191.5|
|5||Pedro ACOSTA||51||Red Bull KTM Ajo||Kalex||177|
|6||Jake DIXON||96||Inde GASGAS Aspar Team||Kalex||168.5|
|10||Somkiat CHANTRA||35||IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia||Kalex||128|