2019 Sepang Moto2 Race Result: Hitting Bullseye

Hot was the word of the day as the intermediate class was lining up to make a start in Sepang and all eyes were on the hot title battle promised by the front row configuration. And the race delivered on that promise, although it was a measured reply from the title contenders. Brad Binder was the fastest man on the day, the South African taking back to back wins but giving up the world title to a sensible but exhausted Alex Marquez. The Spaniard took the first world title of the Triumph era for the Marc VDS squad with a tense second place, while doing the double for the Marquez household. Tom Luthi put pressure on the world champion for much of the race but had to be happy with third place on the 200th intermediate class start of his grand prix career.

Binder had made a dream start from a slower starting Marquez but the poleman held on to his main rival’s coattails with fellow front row starter Tetsuta Nagashima in tow. The Japanese rider got a taste for battling the Spaniard back in Australia and was attacking him at the final turn but Marquez’s wider line allowed him to cut back and resume the chase from second. Xavi Vierge and Luthi kept pretty quiet in the top five, while the group led by Remy Gardner had already lost over one second on the five leaders. With Fabio Di Giannantonio crashing out at turn four of lap two, Enea Bastianini going down at turn 15 one lap later and Jorge Martin throwing it away at turn four immediately after, the rookie of the year battle will be going to Valencia.

Binder and Marquez were the fastest men on track in the early stages, the title contenders separated by a steady half second gap while slowly dropping the chasing trio. Luthi might have had better pace than the men around him but the Swiss rider was struggling to make a move stick on Vierge and Nagashima, who could not keep up with the leaders’ pace.

Marquez did not even need to attempt an overtake because Binder went too hot into turn 14 at the end of lap four, allowing his nemesis to take the lead and leaving himself with a one second gap to recover. The KTM man was steadily finding tenths on the next couple of laps and he was on the Spaniard’s tail by lap six. Seven tenths back, Nagashima was fending off Luthi and Vierge, with Lecuona making up ground on that group as well. Meanwhile, Jorge Navarro seemed to have already made the best of his poor starting position by climbing into seventh, but the gap to the men ahead was over two seconds.

Back at the front, Marquez managed to hold up Binder until turn one of lap eight, the rather harsh move and preceding shenanigans at the front allowing Nagashima and Luthi to tag along for the ride. Luthi finally managed to get past Nagashima after a hairy moment for the Japanese rider out of turn 14 but the brief exchange lost them time on the leaders once again. Binder was in control at the front and Marquez seemed to give him reasonable breathing space, while Luthi, even with his hot pace, was slow to find the one second he needed on Marquez.

Binder had a comfortable one second gap halfway through proceedings and a steady Marquez was keeping Luthi around the seven tenths mark, the Spaniard clearly focused on the title rather than the win. The next few laps were the calm before the storm, Binder going through the permutations while enjoying the clear air at the front, as Luthi’s advances on Marquez put the South African’s championship chances at risk too. However, there was little the KTM rider could do other than win the race, so he kept his head down and carried on safely ahead of his rivals. Some of those worries seemed justified, as Luthi was only seven tenths behind Marquez but the gap was not really coming down as the race entered its last five laps.

The final three laps seemed to be drawing the lead trio closer together but the gaps between them kept yoyo-ing between half a second and eight tenths. After a tense last lap, Binder took victory and Marquez finally broke Luthi’s resolve to cross the line as world champion. Vierge had dropped into the clutches of the chasing group for the final few laps and held off Navarro for fourth. Lecuona got the best of Lorenzo Baldassarri and Nagashima, while Marcel Scrotter and Luca Marini completed the top ten.

With the world title sealed, delivered and celebrated, Binder and Luthi wait for Valencia to settle the podium crumbs, the South African holding a four point advantage over the Swiss rider.


Pos. Num. Rider Bike Gap
1 41 Brad BINDER KTM 38'07.843
2 73 Alex MARQUEZ Kalex +0.758
3 12 Thomas LUTHI Kalex +2.683
4 97 Xavi VIERGE Kalex +6.646
5 9 Jorge NAVARRO Speed Up +7.114
6 27 Iker LECUONA KTM +8.582
7 7 Lorenzo BALDASSARRI Kalex +9.232
8 45 Tetsuta NAGASHIMA Kalex +10.180
9 23 Marcel SCHROTTER Kalex +10.807
10 10 Luca MARINI Kalex +14.585
11 40 Augusto FERNANDEZ Kalex +16.521
12 11 Nicolo BULEGA Kalex +22.333
13 54 Mattia PASINI Kalex +23.326
14 87 Remy GARDNER Kalex +23.810
15 77 Dominique AEGERTER MV Agusta +24.002
16 5 Andrea LOCATELLI Kalex +24.055
17 96 Jake DIXON KTM +27.663
18 20 Dimas EKKY PRATAMA Kalex +29.455
19 16 Joe ROBERTS KTM +30.896
20 2 Jesko RAFFIN NTS +37.044
21 65 Philipp OETTL KTM +50.548
22 3 Lukas TULOVIC KTM +54.921
23 18 Xavi CARDELUS KTM +1'00.678
24 33 Enea BASTIANINI Kalex 1 Lap
    Not Classified    
  22 Sam LOWES Kalex 5 Laps
  72 Marco BEZZECCHI KTM 6 Laps
  62 Stefano MANZI MV Agusta 8 Laps
  35 Somkiat CHANTRA Kalex 10 Laps
  21 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO Speed Up 11 Laps
  47 Adam NORRODIN Kalex 13 Laps
  88 Jorge MARTIN KTM 16 Laps
    Not Finished 1st Lap    
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First off, congrats to Alex Marquez on winninning the Triumph era's first M2 title. He had a stellar season all round, was very consistent and in this race in particular must have been under immense pressure to not put a foot wrong and keep his eye on the prize. I think he earned this title more than he did his M3 title against Jack Miller and Alex Rins back then. Ifs and buts M2 2019 go around Binder, Martin, Lecuona and KTM. Would that KTM have had a half decent chassis in the first half of the season...you know where I'm going with this so no need to elaborate. The race itself was very well executed by Alex. Binder pulled every stunt he could think of to duff Marquez up and keep the championship alive. Blitz him at the start and hope Alex gets swallowed by the pack. That didn't work. I almost want to think Binder deliberately 'made a mistake' to let Marquez take the lead so he could force him into a dogfight and see what happens. Marquez kept his head. Then Brad caught him very quickly and made the hard pass. Alex kept his head. All Alex had to do was keep Luthi at bay and Binder in sight and it was game over. Binder in the last 8 laps or so must have felt like Gibernau vs Rossi at PI some years back. Gibernau trying to back the pace off to allow some players to get in on the scrap with the championship open. Not to be. Marquez was wide awake to that. Brad had little left to do except win and concede the title. Well done Alex. It can't be easy being compared with Marc. Alex was physically drained after a brutal cat and mouse game with Brad. He stood up to it very, very well in an extreme presure race. Salute!

Related (but not) conversation topic: will Brad Binder outperform Pol Espargaro on the MotoGP RedBull KTM before the 2020 mid-season arrives?

It appears the Moto2 KTM requires quite the significant wrestling to make it perform adequately (though, at the same time, the way Brad seems to be able to make that front end stick exactly where he wants it is startling when he will speedway 'rear-steer' into corner entry on the very next corner).

But I digress.  The crux of what I am highly expectant of is that Brad's constant improvement on the Moto2 KTM this year is a tell of him being in an optimal position to move up the factory KTM MotoGP team and continue to flourish (and perhaps surprise) with a minimal adjustment period.