After it all so nearly went wrong when a big plane got stuck in Kenya, Moto3 made it worth the wait for the enthusiastic crowd, with a dramatic final lap that decided both victory and the lead in the championship. Although on paper he led a big chunk of the race, poleman Sergio Garcia had many rivals to contend with on his way to the top spot of the podium and needed a touch of magic on the last lap to secure a first victory of the season. Dennis Foggia had to admit defeat with only one corner left of the race, while Ayumu Sasaki had a special plotline of his own, going from the front row to the long lap lane and back onto the podium over the course of 21 laps.
Garcia looked good from the second the lights went off on the grid, keeping the lead into turn one from Sasaki and Izan Guevara, while Foggia failed to make any progress on the opening lap and still knocking on the doors of the top 10. However, it didn’t take long for Garcia to attach his teammate for the lead by lap two, while fellow front row starter Sasaki served his long lap penalty for the last lap oopsie in Indonesia, re-joing the action down in 18th position.
Guevara was obviously keen to make an escape at the front and while he could not shake off his teammate, the Aspar duo quickly dropped the chasers half a second behind. While Foggia just about joined the top 10, Jaume Masia was stealing the spotlight, as he went from 12th to 3rd in a couple of laps and led the sizeable and rookie-heavy pursuit. However, occasional mistakes from Masia allowed the gap to the leaders to yoyo to almost a second and then back to half by lap five. Only one lap later, Xavier Artigas left the podium battle due to mechanical issue and the Spaniard’s loss was many others’ gain but Foggia didn’t take much advantage, the Italian still at the bottom of the top 10 and holding off rookie Joel Kelso.
Back at the front, Masia eventually managed to bridge the gap to the two GASGAS machines by lap eight and brought Andrea Migno and Diogo Moreira to the party, leaving Daniel Holgado to lead the next group eight tenths of a second down the road. The Aspar hegemony was finally broken with 13 laps to go, when Masia and Migno briefly picked up Garcia, but the Spaniard was quickly back on his teammate’s tail. Before Garcia got a real change to attack Guevara, the leader suddenly lost power as he headed out of turn 3 and heartbreakingly had to abandon before completing lap 10. That left Garcia to face Masia, Migno and Moreira all on his own, while Foggia finally found himself in the lead of the chasing group and was steadily closing a one second gap.
Garcia still led the way at the halfway point of proceedings, ahead of Masia, but the big threat seemed to be coming from Foggia, who joined the podium party for the second half of the race, bringing teammate Tatsuki Suzuki in the mix too. Because the more the merrier, the next group soon bridged the gap too, adding Riccardo Rossi, a quickly recovering Sasaki, Carlos Tatay, Holgado and Kelso to the leading group line-up, although most of the quintet didn’t make much noise in the podium battle.
Garcia continued unchallenged while Masia, Migno and Foggia were squabbling behind him and that battle was sorted with six laps remaining, when Migno picked up Masia at unlucky turn 13 and left both of them taking a walk through the gravel trap. That incident opened the door for the Leopard riders to lead the pursuit but also allowed Garcia a half second advantage at the front with six laps remaining. Foggia lighted up the timesheets for the next few laps, but the men around him were not too far off his pace, so he struggled to make much of an impression on the leader.
It seemed like Garcia’s race took a turn for the worse just before entering the final lap, when Foggia found the inside at turn 12 and then Suzuki slipstreamed past along the main straight, demoting the poleman to third. If Suzuki planned to play wingman, the strategy did not really work out and he found it hard to resist Garcia’s attack at turn nine. With only a handful of corners left, the Spaniard wasn’t happy with second either and gave Foggia a taste of his own medicine at turn 13, resuming the lead and taking the chequered flag one tenth ahead of the Italian. A few steps behind, Sasaki pulled an identical move on Suzuki, to rob him of the final podium position and then the Leopard rider was demoted another place for exceeding track limits on the final lap, promoting Rossi to fourth. Rookies Moreira and Holgado finished only little over half a second behind the winner, while Tatay, Kaito Toba and rookie Kelso rounded out the top 10 places.
Garcia’s last lap tango rewarded him with a four point advantage in the world championship standings, Foggia dropping to second, with Guevara losing ground, 30 points behind his teammate.
|22||87||Gerard Riu Male||KTM||37.416|