A light cloud cover set the scene for the intermediate class race but there was no time to watch the skies, with several contenders making their bid for trophies throughout the 24-lap race, with varying degrees of success. Top of the list ended up being Augusto Fernandez, who made a swift recovery from the back of the third row to prove himself as the strongest rider in the second half of the race, claiming a third victory of the season with a half second advantage. Ai Ogura provided quite a few replay-worthy moments as he navigated his way up and down the timing screens but put together an impressive recovery to take second place, with poleman Jake Dixon joining them on the podium.
Dixon had made a solid start off the line, with teammate Albert Arenas close behind, while Sam Lowes left his braking a bit late into turn one, running wide and joining at the very back of the field, before crashing out a few laps later. Despite the strong start from the Aspar boys, Alonso Lopez was quick to separate the teammates and attacked for the lead at turn nine on the opening lap. Dixon and Arenas kept close, while Marcel Schrotter attacked Ogura for fourth but a couple of rodeo moments for the Japanese rider at turns 11 and 3 over consecutive laps dropped him all the way down to 17th position. That left Fernandez to inherit fifth, but almost a second behind the leading group and with a sizeable advantage over the fight between Jorge Navarro, Tony Arbolino, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts, with Celestino Vietti not too far behind, the championship leader not making any progress off the line and even losing a couple of positions.
Back at the front, Lopez kept calm in the lead of proceedings but with a charging Schrotter on his tail, while the Aspar duo had to contend with Fernandez, who quickly closed the gap to join the leading group by lap five, bringing local favourite Bo Bendsneyder with him. Lap eight saw Lopez and Schrotter extend a half second advantage at the front and the German took his turn in the lead at turn 7, but the chasers soon bridged the gap, making it an 8-man victory battle, including Arenas, Fernandez, Dixon, Bendsneyder, Beaubier and Arbolino. Vietti was leading the next group one and a half seconds down the road, which also included Ogura, who was starting to make some progress just outside the top 10.
With Schrotter settling in at the front, Lopez came under fire from Arenas and Fernandez by lap 10 and Arenas soon went on to pile on the pressure on the leader. The Spaniard’s job was done when Schrotter slid out of the lead at turn five with 13 laps remaining, leaving Arenas at the front, ahead of compatriots Lopez and Fernandez but with a growing leading group, as Vietti and Ogura caught up with the seven men ahead to join the podium battle for the final half of the race.
Arenas’ lead was unchallenged over the next few laps, Fernandez keeping Lopez busy until the rookie went into turn 1 a bit too enthusiastically and dropped to 6th in the group with 9 laps remaining. Right behind him, Vietti and Ogura kept each other entertained at the back of the leading group and soon invited the rookie into their exchanges.
Back at front, Fernandez made his move for the lead with 8 laps remaining and attempted an escape but could not shake Arenas off. The incessant battles behind them did drop the pursuers 8 tenths back over the next lap but Dixon’s frustrated fist-shaking did seem to work, Beaubier keeping calm and allowing the British rider to bridge the gap, bringing Ogura, Vietti and Bendsneyder with them, but steadily losing Lopez from the leading group.
Although Fernandez wasn’t shown a wheel yet, Arenas was not spared and both Dixon and Ogura got past him, the Japanese rider starting to look like a real threat for the final handful of laps. Ogura slid past Dixon to claim second at the first corner just one lap later and the Honda Team Asia rider continued to perform some rodeo moves while setting a hot pace to close the half second gap to Fernandez. However, instead of reducing the gap, the Spaniard started the final lap with seven tenths’ advantage and took the chequered flag with six of those still intact, forcing Ogura to settle for second, while Dixon crossed the finish line only three hundredths of a second ahead of Vietti, who posted the fastest lap of the weekend on the last lap. Arenas looked like the favourite for fourth until crashing out at turn nine on the penultimate lap, the leading group having already lost Beaubier a couple laps earlier. Bendsneyder celebrated a fine fifth place on home soil, only 1.4 seconds behind the winner, while Lopez, Arbolino, Roberts, Manuel Gonzalez and Filip Salac rounded out the top 10 positions.
With Fernandez matching Vietti on three victories each this season, the two now also share the lead in the world championship as well, with Ogura only one point behind and the missing Aron Canet dropping 30 points back.
|16||19||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Kalex||19.898|
|17||42||Marcos Ramirez||MV Agusta||28.669|
|18||84||Zonta Van Den Goorbergh||Kalex||28.787|
|19||4||Sean Dylan Kelly||Kalex||44.544|
|20||24||Simone Corsi||MV Agusta||44.612|