Yuki Kunii (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) scored the best result of his short World Championship career in this morning’s first race of the day at Jerez.
The 18-year-old from Setagaya took the chequered flag in 14th place, just 7.2 seconds behind the race winner, a difference of just three tenths of a second per lap.
Kunii’s latest result, which betters his previous best of 15th at last month’s Doha Grand Prix, proves that the youngster is learning more about the difficult craft of GP racing and really getting into the groove.
The former Asia Talent Cup rider spent most of the race battling with rivals just behind the lead group of a dozen or more riders. His pace was very nearly as fast as the leaders, giving him a real confidence boost as he heads to the fifth race of 2021 at Le Mans, France, in two weeks’ time.
Team-mate Andi Farid Izdihar (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) also had a good race as he continues his return to the Moto3 class after contesting the Moto2 World Championship in 2020. The 23-year-old Indonesian had a very promising ride to 18th, fighting in the next group just a few seconds behind Kunii. Izdihar will take everything he learned this weekend to help him get even closer to the points next time out.
Honda’s top finisher in the frantic multi-rider battle at the front was Jeremy Alcoba (Team Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) who crossed the finish line in third place, half a second behind the winner. This was an impressive result from the 19-year-old Spaniard, but much more so because he had to ride two long-lap penalties during the race!
This sanction was imposed for a rules infraction – riding too slowly – during yesterday’s Q1 qualifying session. In spite of this Alcoba kept his cool and made up for lost time to join the podium fight in the closing stages.
Alcoba wasn’t the only Honda rider in contention for the podium. Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) was in the lead group throughout the 22 laps, aiming for his third top-three finish in the first four races of 2021 to strengthen his World Championship hopes.
However, Moto3 is the closest category in MotoGP, with riders so close that they often rub elbows during the races, which sometimes leads to unfortunate incidents. Today’s incident happened at the very last corner, when someone crashed, skittling two riders, one of them Binder. This was deeply unlucky for the 23-year-old South African, who aims to bounce back at Le Mans.
Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW) was Honda’s next finisher, a mere 0.021 seconds behind Alcoba. Fourth was another strong result from the 25-year-old Italian, who finished an excellent third last time out at Portimao and stands third overall in the championship points.
Honda’s fastest rider in the early stages was Gabriel Rodrigo (Team Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW), who was leading the race when he fell heavily at the Turn Seven left-hander, where many riders have fallen this weekend.
Honda’s other great hope today was pole-position man Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) who slid out of contention a few laps later.
Impressive rookie Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) scored his first points of his first full World Championship season with ninth place. The 17-year-old was in the midst of the lead group throughout, finishing just 1.383 behind the winner. Artigas made his GP debut with a one-off ride at the 2019 Valencia GP, when he scored a shock third-place finish.