The battle for the 2022 Moto2 World Championship was reaching a crescendo at Sepang today, with series leader Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) aiming to strengthen his advantage while battling for victory with Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex).
The 21-year-old from Saitama went into the penultimate race of the season holding a 3.5-point lead over title rival Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex). Yesterday he scored a brilliant pole position, his third of the year, and got a great start to chase leader Arbolino, leaving their rivals to dispute the lower positions.
Arbolino and Ogura set a stunning pace out front, always separated by just a few tenths of a second. Ogura briefly took the lead at Turn One shortly after half-distance, but immediately lost it to his 22-year-old Italian rival.
For the remainder of the race the gap between the pair seesawed, until the final lap when Arbolino seemed to leave enough of a gap as they attacked the low-speed Turn Nine for the last time. Ogura saw his chance to further extend his championship lead over Fernandez to give himself a significant advantage going into the season final at Valencia, Spain, in two weeks.
However, Ogura couldn’t quite get his machine stopped in time for the corner, lost the front and slid off to record his first non-finish, since April’s Portuguese GP, when he crashed out on oil, through no fault of his own.
Ogura will therefore go to Valencia 9.5 points behind Fernandez, who had a race-long contest with Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team Kalex), who finished third behind Arbolino and Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools Speed Up Boscoscuro). Fernandez took the chequered flag in fourth place, after passing Manuel Gonzalez ( Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team Kalex) in the final laps.
Of course, Ogura still has a chance of lifting the Moto2 crown, so he will approach Valencia in full-attack mode.
Team-mate Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) also had a great chance of a top result after making an awesome start from the third row of the grid to take fourth place as the pack funnelled into Turn One for the first time. However, as riders flicked their machines from right to left into the second corner Chantra’s front tyre kissed the rear of Dixon’s motorcycle and down he went, with Pedro Acosta (Red Bull Ajo Kalex) falling on top of him. The 23-year-old Thai rider was taken to the medical centre for checks but is OK.
The top ten was completed by Marcel Schrotter (Liqui Moly Intact GP Kalex), Cameron Beaubier (American Racing Kalex), who was riding his last-but-one race before returning home to contest the 2023 American Superbike series, Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40 Kalex), Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP Kalex) and Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools Speed Up Boscoscuro).
The Moto2 grid now packs up and returns to Europe for the Valencia GP on 6th November.