Rookie Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia / Kalex) had his best race yet in Moto2 today, challenging for the lead in tricky damp conditions.
The 20-year-old from Tokyo had a superb Sunday after an excellent Saturday, when he secured his first front-row start in the intermediate class.
Ogura started well, completing the first lap in fifth place. By half-distance he was the fastest rider on the track, closing the gap on the leading trio.
With six of 25 laps remaining a mistake by World Championship leader Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo / Kalex) promoted Ogura to second and then he started closing on race leader Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46 / Kalex), promising a thrilling final few laps.
However, Ogura’s hopes of a first Moto2 victory or podium disappeared when he was given a long-lap penalty for exceeding track limits. He took the penalty on lap 22, which dropped him to fifth and that’s where he finished, just behind Gardner, despite setting the fast lap on the last lap.
Ogura was then given a further three-second sanction – for exceeding track limits while taking his long-lap penalty. But this didn’t affect his finishing position.
Despite the huge disappointment of not climbing a Moto2 podium for the first time, Ogura will sleep well tonight, knowing that he fought the win and was the fastest rider on the day.
Victory went to 22-year-old Italian Bezzecchi, who took the chequered flag just ahead of Aron Canet (Aspar Team Moto2 / Boscoscuro) and Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc Racing VDS / Kalex).
Ogura’s team-mate Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia / Kalex) also had a brilliant race, finishing in eighth, his best Grand Prix result, bettering three previous ninth-place results.
The 22-year-old Thai rider completed the race only 12 seconds behind Bezzecchi, underlining the strength of his performance.
Next weekend Ogura, Chantra and the rest get to try again at Red Bull Ring, with the Austrian GP, round 11 of 19.