Race day in sunny Portimão got underway with a title on the line and for 20 of the 21 laps, it looked like a straight battle between the two title contenders. However, that final lap swung the pendulum wildly in one direction, allowing Pedro Acosta to take victory and flaunt a golden helmet on his way back to parc fermé, in celebration of becoming the first rookie Moto3 world champion. The baby-faced champ was joined on the podium by different Italians to the one we expected, Andrea Migno and Niccolò Antonelli inheriting a podium on the dramatic final lap.
There was a much tamer start to proceedings, with poleman Sergio Garcia making a good launch ahead of front row companions Adrian Fernandez and John McPhee, dropping Dennis Foggia to 5th. Having started 14th, Acosta made some early progress and climbed into 12th position by the end of the opening lap.
Despite the fast start, Garcia could not hold onto his line at the final corner and allowed Fernandez past, but it was only brief, as Foggia breezed past both Spaniards into turn 1. Job done for the Italian, who put himself in prime position and quickly extended a half second gap at the front. Meanwhile, rival Acosta got feisty and fast on the second lap, overtaking left and right – but mostly around the outside at turn 1 – to climb into fifth position. The rookie continued his run and soon claimed fourth from Fernandez, with only Darryn Binder, Xavier Artigas and half a second separating the two title contenders after the first couple of laps.
Foggia sat pretty in top spot with wingman Artigas right behind him and the hot pace he set shook off most of the challengers over the next few laps, with the exception of Binder and Acosta. Once John McPhee crashed out of 5th place on lap 5, the chasing group led by Migno, Jaume Masia and Garcia dropped a second back on the leaders. However, the shenanigans were starting amongst the leaders and it gave the pursuit a little boost over the next few laps.
Artigas did his best to have his teammate’s back but had to admit defeat to Binder and Acosta by lap 7 and while all eyes were on Foggia, Binder and Acosta trying to find gaps around each other, Migno steadily bridged the gap and brought a sizeable group back into contention. And it was a pretty dangerous one, including the likes of Masia, Antonelli, Fernandez, Alcoba, Garcia, Ayumu Sasaki, Tatsuki Suzuki and Romano Fenati.
Acosta finally made a bid for the lead at turn 1 on lap 10 but ran too hot on the exit and dropped back to 3rd, behind Foggia and Binder. The South African was a quick job for the Spaniard and Masia soon followed suit to have his teammate’s back. Although the title contenders looked strong at the front, the battle was getting pretty feisty right behind them, Masia fending off Binder, Garcia and Antonelli but with seven more riders biding their time with their podium bid.
If Masia was playing wingman, he didn’t do the best job of it as he found the inside of Acosta at turn 1 but then he followed it up with a solid nudge on Foggia at turn 3, allowing Acosta to sweep past as well. By turn 5, it looked like a stroke of genius, Masia allowing Acosta to lead the way and keeping Foggia away from him, but the gifts ended there and Masia retook the lead at turn 1 with 8 laps remaining. An unsettled Acosta looked over his shoulder and lost four more positions at turn 5, to Garcia, Foggia, Binder and Migno.
Foggia was swiftly back in control with 7 laps remaining, while Acosta was fighting with a lively pack of contenders to try to rejoin the podium positions. He did so with six laps remaining and tried to escape from the rest of the pack, but Binder did not make it easy, the two trading second place several times over the next couple of laps. Going into the final five laps, Foggia and Acosta were the headliners once more, the Spaniard lining up a move at every opportunity and successfully getting past at his favourite turn 3 with 3 laps remaining. A move from Garcia lost Foggia a couple more tenths on the leader but the Italian quickly recovered position to start the penultimate lap less than a tenth behind Acosta.
Foggia then found the inside at turn 11 to start the final lap in the lead but Acosta attacked at turn 3 once more and in the blink of an eye, Foggia lost both the race and the championship, as Binder hit the back of the Italian’s machine in an overly optimistic lunge on Garcia and took both Foggia and Garcia out of contention. Acosta was left to cruise to victory, with Migno and Antonelli inheriting the remaining podium positions. Binder took fourth at the chequered flag but was promptly disqualified for irresponsible riding, allowing Alcoba to inherit fourth, ahead of Guevara and Sasaki, who joined the top 6 despite serving long lap penalties early in the race. Fenati, Artigas, Suzuki and Salac held on to complete the top 10 positions.
|22||19||Andi Farid Izdihar||Honda||+30.249|
|27||Kaito Toba||KTM||8 Laps|
|7||Dennis Foggia||Honda||1 Lap|
|11||Sergio Garcia||GASGAS||1 Lap|
|17||John McPhee||Honda||17 Laps|
|40||Darryn Binder||Honda||0 Lap|