Moto2 rookie Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) scored his first-ever intermediate-class podium at the Red Bull Ring today, when the sun was blazing down before the clouds and rain arrived later in the day.
The 20-year-old from Tokyo qualified third fastest yesterday – his second consecutive front-row start – and started brilliantly, completing the first lap in third place. On lap five he moved into second and spent the remainder of the race chasing leaded Raul Fernandez. The pair were never more the a few tenths apart, the 20-year-old Tokyo closing to within three tenths at one point. Finally he took the chequered flag eighth tenths behind winner Fernandez.
Ogura’s first Moto2 podium more than made up for last Sunday’s disappointment, when he fought for the win, only to lose his chance of victory due to a long-lap penalty.
Today’s result promotes him to eighth in the World Championship standings, just three points behind fifth-placed Canet, underlining his remarkable performances as a rookie.
Honda Team Asia’s joy was made complete when team-mate Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) won an intense battle for fifth place, comfortably bettering his previous best Grand Prix result of eighth in last Sunday’s Styrian GP.
Chantra enjoyed a thrilling duel with Celestino Vietti. At the very last corner the 22-year-old Thai rider dived past the Italian, but they touched on the corner exit, allowing Vietti to cross the finish line 0.065 seconds in front. But Vietti had exceeded track limits during the final lap, which demoted him to sixth and promoted Chantra to fifth. Chantra also set fastest lap of the race.
Today’s hard-fought results once again shine a light on the wonderful work being done by Honda Team Asia, to promote young Asian talent in motorcycling’s toughest arena. The team is run by Hiroshi Aoyama, who won the last 250cc World Championship for Honda in 2009.
Fernandez’s victory was crucial because it moved him much closer to World Championship leader and team-mate Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex), who could only manage a seventh-place finish this afternoon. Last man on today’s Moto2 podium was Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc Racing VDS Kalex).
With 11 races completed and seven remaining Gardner’s advantage has been reduced to 19 points. Third overall is Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) who struggled to tenth overall today.
Sam Lowes (Elf Marc Racing VDS Kalex) stands fourth in the title chase after finishing fourth today, having started the race from pole position.