By the time the lightweight class lined up on the grid, there was no trace of Saturday’s weather woes, with clear blue skies accompanying riders throughout the 20-lap parage around Motegi. The consequences of that wet Saturday didn’t seem to affect Izan Guevara too much, the Spaniard going from ninth on the grid to a fifth victory of the season, half a second ahead of Dennis Foggia at the chequered flag. Another second later, Ayumu Sasaki secured his first back-to-back podiums in Moto3 and celebrated third on home soil.
Although Guevara stole the show soon after, it was teammate Sergio Garcia who held the limelight at the start of proceedings, after overhauling poleman Tatsuki Suzuki into turn one. Suzuki quickly retaliated and left the Spaniard under attack from a fast-starting Guevara, the championship leader leading the race by the end of the opening lap. Meanwhile, Garcia was under pressure from the Japanese duo of Suzuki and Sasaki and a couple of mistakes on the opening lap dropped the Spaniard another position, behind Foggia. Meanwhile, David Muñoz impressed at the start once more, moving into sixth position from 16th on the grid, and with Andrea Migno, Jaume Masia, Riccardo Rossi and Diogo Moreira making up the early top 10. Front row starter Scott Ogden lost a lot of ground on the opening lap, down to 12th, while Deniz Öncü’s mistake around turn three dropped him down to 25th – both riders out of the plotline for the Japanese GP early on.
Aided by fast lap times, Sasaki took a turn at the front on lap three, but Guevara responded straight away and the leading group, also including the Leopard Racing duo, seemed to stretch an early advantage over the chasing pack led by Garcia. The Spaniard had allowed the leaders almost a second by lap four and spent the next few laps trying to bridge that gap once more, showing the way to Masia, Muñoz, Moreira, Migno, McPhee and Rossi.
Sasaki had another go at leadership on lap five, just as Suzuki crashed out of lead group at turn nine, leaving his leading compatriot in the company of Guevara and Foggia, while Masia was lending a helping hand to Garcia in trying to close the distance to the podium battle. The Red Bull KTM man flashed a series of red-hot sector times to join the leaders just a couple laps later, however, Masia’s speed wasn’t that much help to his compatriot, Garcia unable to keep up and dropping two seconds behind by lap eight, in a lonely fifth place. Despite a track limits warning, Moreira led the pursuit another second back, ahead of McPhee and Muñoz.
Back at the front, Sasaki went unchallenged until lap 10, when Guevara attacked at turn nine and took the lead heading into the second half of the race, but the Japanese rider responded one lap later to resume control. Foggia and Masia were still in the mix but biding their time for an attack on the duo ahead, and eventually trading places with eight laps remaining, when Masia attacked Foggia. Meanwhile, Garcia had really lost touch and dropped four seconds behind the leading foursome, while being reeled in by Moreira, Muñoz and McPhee. The challenge from Moreira came at turn three, the rookie snatching fifth with eight laps remaining, but the Aspar man wasn’t too keen to lose more points and got back through on the next lap – the exchanges between the duo continuing for the next couple of laps.
Although the four leaders kept within close proximity of each other, the battle didn’t hot up until the final five laps, when Guevara had another go at the lead at turn three. Sasaki couldn’t respond straight away this time around and got swamped by Masia and Foggia with four laps remaining. Just as the Japanese rider dropped out of podium positions, he found himself back onto it, when a big high side for Masia took the Spaniard out of contention at turn 12. Foggia inherited second and the podium seemed settled with four laps remaining, although the gaps between the trio weren’t unsurmountable. Over seven seconds behind, Garcia wasn’t having an easy time dealing with McPhee, Muñoz and Moreira – the four men frequently trading places.
If Garcia had a challenge on his hands in the closing stages, teammate Guevara entered the final lap with Foggia and Sasaki at arm’s length and the distance between the trio was just enough to avoid any changes to the chequered flag. Garcia successfully defended fourth from Muñoz, while Moreira claimed sixth over McPhee on the final lap. Ryusei Yamanaka, Migno and Rossi rounded out the top 10 positions.
Guevara leaves a complicated weekend in Japan with an advantage of 45 points over Garcia in the world championship standings, while Foggia loses further ground, 63 points behind the leader.
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