Race day in Australia did not get off to the best of starts – not if you’re trying to win a championship at least – with rain making a return during warm-up and then leaving the lightweight class in the unenviable position of lining up on a mostly dry track with significant damp sections. The slight delay to race start helped the situation somewhat and avoided drama on the opening lap, but Izan Guevara didn’t seem very concerned with the conditions, the Spaniard giving as good as he got over 23 laps to clinch the world championship in style – with a sixth victory of the season. He also denied Deniz Öncü a maiden win and the Turkish rider settled for a second podium this year. While Dennis Foggia was no help, Sergio Garcia did his best to take the championship to Malaysia but eventually had to admit defeat and make do with the third step of the podium.
Garcia had led the race off the line, ahead of rookies Diogo Moreira and Ivan Ortolá, while poleman Ayumu Sasaki dropped to fourth early on. Having started seventh, Guevara found one position off the line but was soon challenged by a fast starting David Muñoz, however, his main rival was far behind, a poor start dropping Dennis Foggia to 15th place on the opening lap.
Moreira took over at the front once the field hit the main straight for the first time, and then it was Sasaki’s turn to reclaim the lead at the start of lap three. Ortolá, Garcia, Öncü, Guevara and home favourite Joel Kelso were making up the leading group early on, with Jaume Masia and Muñoz leading the pursuit some seven tenths back. The latter two didn’t make much progress over the next laps and this allowed Stefano Nepa and John McPhee to get past and try to reel in the leading group.
Back at the front, Garcia had another go at the lead by lap five, doing his best to keep his title hopes alive, although Guevara was soon spoiling that plan by joining him on the provisional podium, with Moreira, Sasaki and Öncü occasionally separating the teammates. Nepa, Kelso and McPhee had tagged along for the ride but never really got to make their bid for the podium. The next group was a second and a half back, with Muñoz leading Carlos Tatay, Masia and Ortolá, while teammates Tatuski Suzuki and Foggia were trading places for a lowly 13th position.
As much as rivals tried to halt his progress, Guevara had joined his teammate at the front by lap eight, not waiting too long to pounce on Garcia into Doohan Corner next time around. With Guevara taking the lead for the first time on lap nine, the hot pace at the front briefly detached the two Aspar boys but Garcia was keen to retaliate and the duo traded places over the next couple of laps, allowing Sasaki and Öncü to close back in – the Turkish rider having just been handed a behaviour warning.
By the halfway point, it looked like Guevara, Garcia, Sasaki and Öncü had broken away from a chasing group led by home hero Kelso and including McPhee, Nepa and Moreira. Meanwhile, Foggia started to make some progress to join the top 10, but was almost seven seconds behind his title rivals, who continued to swap top spot over the next few laps. Guevara was leading the way once more heading into the final 10 laps and got a bit of breathing room while his teammate got challenged by a feisty Öncü, but it didn’t last long, as attacks came thick and fast from Sasaki and Garcia over the next couple of laps – the Spaniard particularly impressive at turn four.
Not wanting to be left out, Öncü further animated the podium party for the remaining handful of laps, but Guevara always found a way back into the lead. Rivals did do their best to prevent that, frequent attacks taking Guevara’s title chance on a rollercoaster every few corners. However, the youngster was not shy to retaliate for every attack, starting the final lap at the front of the field once more, but with a hungry Öncü striving for a maiden victory. Late yellow flags dampened the last lap battle somewhat, but Guevara put in a perfect final lap to stretch a half second advantage by the chequered flag, crossing the finish line as a winner and world champion. Öncü settled for second, with Garcia joining them on the podium and Sasaki missing out by one tenth of a second. Nepa took fifth some seven seconds later, ahead of McPhee, Moreira, Kelso and Foggia, with Riccardo Rossi rounding out the top 10 positions.
With Guevara sealing the deal on the world championship, Garcia is on course to make it a one-two for GASGAS in the standings, by reclaiming second position - only two points ahead of Foggia, aided by the Italian’s bad day at the office.
|64||Mario Suryo Aji||Honda||35:01.5860|