Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) scored a magnificent first Grand Prix victory at sunny Jerez today, leading the Moto2 race from start to finish. This perfect performance followed his first Moto2 pole position yesterday.
The 21-year-old from Tokyo is the 20th Japanese rider to win a GP in motorcycling’s intermediate World Championship class. The first was Honda star Kunimitsu Takahashi, winner of the 1961 West German GP. Takahashi passed away earlier this year.
Ogura’s hugely popular win was the second in five races for the super-hard-working Idemitsu Honda Team Asia squad, which took its first victory in Indonesia, with Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex). The team is run by former rider Hiroshi Aoyama, who won the last 250cc World Championship in 2009, before the switch to Moto2, aboard a Honda RS250-W.
Ogura had to fight hard to maintain his advantage, especially in the first half of the 23-lap race, when he was chased by rivals Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) and team-mate Chantra.
However, the former Moto3 rider rode perfectly and maintained an incredible pace throughout that had him inexorably increase his advantage as the race went on. At the finish he was 2.5 seconds ahead of Canet. The result strengthens his second place in the World Championship and moves him to within 19 points of Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team Kalex) who finished sixth today.
Chantra was running in fourth place, chasing another podium finish, when he slid off at Turn Eight on the eighth of 23 laps. The 23-year-old Thai rider was disappointed with his tumble, but at least he had once again proved that he has lead-group pace.
Canet’s ride to second place was remarkable, considering that he broke the radius bone in his left arm when he crashed out of last weekend’s Portuguese GP, due to a rain shower. Ogura was one of many others involved in that incident. Vietti, who was further back in the pack, avoided falling, which explains his big points lead.
Canet underwent surgery on Monday and was passed fit to ride here on Thursday. No surprise that he declared the race the most difficult of his career so far. At the finish the 22-year-old Spaniard was 1.1 seconds in front of the final podium finisher Arbolino, who holds third in the title chase, just one point in front of Canet.
Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull Ajo Kalex) took fourth, less than two seconds behind Arbolino and well ahead of fifth-placed Marcel Schrotter (Liqui Moly Intact GP Kalex).
The Moto2 grid now heads north for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans on May 15.