After the emotional rollercoaster of the Moto3 race before, the intermediate class had the bar set quite high under the patchy Australian sky. From KTM’s point of view, it was mission accomplished, Brad Binder taking a clear victory to confirm Phillip Island as a happy hunting ground for the Austrian squad. Adding to their celebrations was another impressive podium for rookie Jorge Martin, who matched his teammate for 22 of the 25 laps of the race. Tom Luthi also proved to be firmly into championship contention by taking the final spot on the podium, although he had nothing to match the KTMs ahead.
Poleman Jorge Navarro could not keep Binder at bay past turn one once the lights went off on the grid and Martin quickly became his wingman, demoting Navarro another place. Turn four was the first controversial battleground, when an over-enthusiastic Iker Lecuona wiped out Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi, with an early bit of luck keeping Alex Marquez vertical in that incident. Lecuona unsurprisingly got slapped with a trip to the long lap penalty lane that definitively dropped him out of podium contention.
While the replays were rolling, the lead trio had stretched half a second’s gap to the chasers led by Luthi. Turn four was treated to another incident on lap four, when Xavi Vierge binned it on his own out of fifth place, letting Remy Gardner inherit the position once he demoted Marquez. However, Vierge’s incident destabilised the small group behind him and Gardner lost over two seconds to Luthi, which also left the world championship leader stuck in a feisty group with Gardner, Lorenzo Baldassarri and Stefano Manzi.
Back at the front, Luthi had caught up with the lead trio but the Red Bull KTM men were attempting an escape by lap seven, Binder and Martin almost one second ahead of Navarro and Luthi. Gardner continued to lose ground, three seconds back on the podium battle but the local boy was allowed a bit of a breather by Marquez and Baldassarri engaging in battle. Their lively exchanges also let the next group tag along to their tail, including Tetsuta Nagashima, Marcel Schrotter, Nicolo Bulega, Jesko Raffin and Lecuona. As a result, Marquez was getting mugged all over the place, down to ninth by lap ten.
Meanwhile, Luthi claimed the final provisional podium spot and made Marquez’s afternoon even worse. The Swiss rider had a hotter issue at hand though, and attempted to reduce the one second gap to the lead duo. A few laps of red sectors did not do the trick and the Dynavolt rider got stuck with Navarro. Four seconds down the road, Gardner was getting some heat from Baldassarri and Manzi, with Marquez pulling all the stops to defend eighth place from the hungry lot behind him. It was a tricky task for the Marc VDS rider, Lecuona, Nagashima, Schrotter and Bulega having a lot less to lose than Marquez. Although the championship leader was down in 10th as the race entered the final ten laps, the good news was that his group had merged with the battle for fifth between Baldassarri, Manzi and Gardner ahead.
Binder’s title odds were improving with every lap and it did not seem like his teammate would give him any headaches. Luthi’s boat had sailed, the Swiss rider dropping two seconds back and in a lonely third with Navarro another second behind. Baldassarri was getting challenged by Lecuona in the fight for fifth but with other six riders waiting to pounce. In the middle of that group, Nagashima and Marquez kept each other entertained and pushed each other into red and orange sector times but were not making much progress.
In the victory battle, Martin was yet to try a move on his teammate as the race was starting its final five laps and the rookie never really got a shot, a fast lap from Binder gaining him a one second gap with three laps left. Martin did not push his luck and allowed his teammate to escape to victory. Luthi and Navarro took the checkered flag after pretty lonely rides, with Baldassarri taking the laurels in the race-long fight for fifth against Gardner and Lecuona. Marquez salvaged some extra points with an overtake on Manzi in the final two laps to grab eighth place, Manzi and Nagashima rounding out the top ten.
Binder’s dominating victory and Luthi’s strong podium, coupled with Marquez’s average day at the office, leaves the championship wide open, with the Spaniard heading to Malaysia 28 points ahead of the Swiss rider and 33 up on Binder. Navarro is still mathematically there, down on 43 points, while Augusto Fernandez’s dreadful afternoon ending in 19th place drops him to fifth in the championship.
|4||9||Jorge NAVARRO||Speed Up||+8.151|
|9||62||Stefano MANZI||MV Agusta||+10.699|
|14||21||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Speed Up||+20.255|
|26||20||Dimas EKKY PRATAMA||Kalex||+1'21.622|
|27||77||Dominique AEGERTER||MV Agusta||1 Lap|
|35||Somkiat CHANTRA||Kalex||11 Laps|
|97||Xavi VIERGE||Kalex||22 Laps|
|54||Mattia PASINI||Kalex||22 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|10||Luca MARINI||Kalex||0 Lap|
|72||Marco BEZZECCHI||KTM||0 Lap|