Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) picked up nine important points for his Moto2 World Championship challenge in today’s ninth race of the year, which he finished in a solid seventh place.
The 21-year-old from Tokyo enjoyed a great start, gaining four positions on the first lap from his qualifying position of tenth. However, small mistake when braking for Turn Four on lap eight dropped him to seventh, causing him to lose touch with the leading group. He was then involved in a tight fight for sixth.
Ogura came into the weekend as the joint championship leader, tied on points with Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team Kalex). While he lost out to the Italian here, Ogura is still very much in the title hunt and stands second overall, 16 points behind Vietti. This result also means he continues his strong run of finishing inside the top seven in every race he has finished this year.
Ogura’s team-mate Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) recovered from a difficult Saturday to finish 12th. After qualifying 19th, the 23-year-old Thai rider acknowledged he had to be smoother with the throttle to save his tyres in today’s super-hot track temperatures, which approached 50 degrees.
Chantra started the race strongly, gaining three places on the first lap and was soon among three riders fighting for the final top-ten positions.
The 22-lap race was a thriller, decided on the final lap. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex) initially grabbed the initiative, building up a 2.2-second lead by half-race distance. But a crash at Turn Five on lap 11 ended the American’s run of scoring points in every race this year.
That left Vietti to contest the lead with Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) and Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex). It looked like Spaniard Canet had done enough for victory with a precise last-lap move on Vitelli at Turn One. But the Italian responded with a brilliant cutback on the exit of Turn Ten, which was enough to score his third victory of the year, by just 0.081 seconds.
Fernandez grabbed third from Dixon with just three corners remaining for his second podium finish of the year, with just 0.6 seconds covering the leading quartet at the flag. Marcel Schrotter (Liqui Moly Intact GP Kalex) was fifth ahead of Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex) in sixth.
The Moto2 riders and teams now have one week off before the championship reconvenes for a double header in Germany and the Netherlands on June 19 and June 26.