Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) made a magnificent start to his second season in the Moto2 World Championship by fighting for a podium finish throughout the race.
The 21-year-old from Tokyo started from the middle of the second row of the grid and was in the contest for the podium from the beginning of the 20-lap race to the end.
Third into the first corner the youngster stayed in that position for much of the race. At one point he was pushed back to sixth but he never gave up, riding superbly smoothly and moving back to third at the head of a four-man group, also comprising Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex), Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull Ajo Kalex) and Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex).
The three riders put Ogura under huge pressure, which he resisted until the penultimate corner of the last lap, when Fernandez squeezed past. Ogura counter-attacked at the final corner, nearly crashed and collided with Fernandez. That pushed Ogura back to sixth place at the chequered flag.
Despite the disappointment of the final few hundred metres of the race Ogura knows he made a very competitive start to 2022.
Team-mate Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) had high hopes for this race after a promising pre-season but the 23-year-old Thai rider fell yesterday, injuring the little finger on his right hand, so he was unable to ride. He has already returned to Barcelona, Spain, to undergo surgery on the injury.
The race was won by Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team Kalex), the 20-year-old Italian who enjoyed a start-to-finish lead from pole position. He was joined on the podium by Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), who took the chequered flag six seconds back and four ahead of last year’s double Losail winner Lowes, who won the position thanks to the last-corner Ogura/Fernandez incident. Fernandez finished fourth, just ahead of Arbolino and Ogura.
The Moto2 grid now enjoys one weekend off before the action moves east for the Indonesian GP at the brand-new Mandalika circuit on March 20.