Grey patches of cloud gave us a little scare during morning warm-up but the skies cleared by the time the lightweight class lined up on the grid for their seventh attempt at victory in 2021. At the end of a rollercoaster 21 laps, Spain got its 250th victory in the lightweight class through Sergio Garcia. The GASGAS rider took the home win after starting 19th on the grid and quickly working his way through the pack but it was a close call as Jeremy Alcoba crossed the finish line only a hundredth of a second behind. The Gresini rider climbed onto the second step of the podium after employing a less than popular strategy on the final lap. It looked like an all Spanish podium on home soil until a post-race penalty awarded an emotional Deniz Öncü his maiden Grand Prix podium.
Poleman Gabriel Rodrigo was another of the main actors and he made a great start off the line from his front row colleagues Niccolò Antonelli and Alcoba. The rest of the top 10 on the grid was largely maintained on lap 1, other than Ricardo Rossi, who crashed out on the warm-up lap and missed the start. Lap 2 started with Izan Guevara taking his time in the limelight with a perfect slipstream into turn 1, while teammates Rodrigo and Alcoba got demoted behind Antonelli, Darryn Binder and John McPhee. Meanwhile, Garcia managed to break into the top 10, while compatriot Pedro Acosta, who started even further back in 25th, climbed up to 18th.
Binder was the winner of the slipstream roulette at the start of lap 3 and teammate McPhee picked up the lead one lap later but the duo led the way for a sizeable group. Garcia made his way into the battle for victory soon enough, joining the Petronas boys and the Gresini duo in the limelight early on. Acosta’s progress wasn’t quite as quick but the championship leader was at the back of the lead group and knocking on the doors of point scoring positions.
McPhee, Rodrigo and Binder seemed to stretch the smallest of gaps to the rest of the group on lap 6 but it didn’t last long as the pursuers picked up the pace. The poleman returned to prime position at the start of lap 7, with teammate Alcoba following his example one lap later, while a second and a smidge behind them, Acosta entered the top ten positions.
At the start of lap 9, McPhee took over the lead of a 18-man group where the main actors continued to be the Petronas, Gresini and GASGAS riders, with the Red Bull KTMs of Sasaki, Acosta and Masia waiting to pounce. However, the Scotsman’s time in the spotlight was cut sort by a high-side at turn 2 the very next lap, his runaway machine also sending Andrea Migno and Tatsuki Suzuki into the gravel trap from outside the top 10.
The incident changed the narrative at the front and Guevara was left in charge of the pack but the Spaniard soon found himself under friendly fire from compatriots Acosta and Garcia. Garcia rider led the way at the halfway stage of the race but the next few laps were quite the tango on the main straight, with the likes of Romano Fenati and Öncü taking turns at the front and Acosta and Garcia dropping to the back of the top 10 occasionally and spending the rest of the lap recovering from the turn 1 lottery.
Although Alcoba and Acosta traded top spot with 9 laps remaining, the leading group still had 15 riders in total and the lead continued to change hands several times a lap. Rodrigo crossed the line first with five laps remaining, while his two closest rivals, Garcia and Acosta, both got track limits warnings and had to be extra cautious in the closing stages. Despite challengers sniffing all around him, the poleman kept himself inside the top three for the next few laps.
Rodrigo eventually relented the lead to his teammate with 2 laps remaining and dropped all the way down to 9th as things got tight into turn 1. No one seemed to want to lead over the line for the final lap, particularly Alcoba, who slowed right down and bunched up the pack quite dangerously. Suddenly, Masia found himself in charge, having spent the entire race towards the bottom of the top 10, while teammate Acosta dropped as low as 13th on that lap.
Garcia made the decisive overtake at turn 10 while teammate Guevara crashed out right behind him and the Spaniard held onto the lead by one hundredth of a second in the drag to the line with Alcoba. Masia took the flag third but was soon demoted one position for exceeding track limits on the final lap and Öncü inherited third. Binder finished in the top 5, ahead of Rodrigo and Acosta, while Antonelli, Kaito Toba and Stefano Nepa rounded out the top 10 positions after a late crash at the back of the group took Ayumu Sasaki and the Leopard duo out of contention.
Despite missing out on the podium once more, Acosta did well to finish 7th given his disastrous qualifying but victor Garcia reduced the gap in the championship to 39 points, with Masia 38 points back.
|12||92||Yuki Kunii||Honda||1 Lap|
|13||22||Elia Bartolini||KTM||1 Lap|
|14||6||Ryusei Yamanaka||KTM||1 Lap|
|15||96||Daniel Holgado||KTM||1 Lap|
|16||20||Lorenzo Fellon||Honda||1 Lap|
|17||19||Andi Farid Izdihar||Honda||1 Lap|
|18||32||Takuma Matsuyama||Honda||1 Lap|
|28||Izan Guevara||GASGAS||1 Lap|
|71||Ayumu Sasaki||KTM||1 Lap|
|7||Dennis Foggia||Honda||1 Lap|
|43||Xavier Artigas||Honda||1 Lap|
|12||Filip Salac||Honda||6 Laps|
|31||Adrian Fernandez||Husqvarna||10 Laps|
|17||John Mcphee||Honda||12 Laps|
|16||Andrea Migno||Honda||12 Laps|
|24||Tatsuki Suzuki||Honda||12 Laps|
|54||Riccardo Rossi||KTM||0 Lap|