Ogura takes over the Championship lead despite fellow Honda Team Asia rider Chantra’s last-minute challenge
Ai Ogura has moved into the Moto2™ World Championship lead with victory in the CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, even if Idemitsu Honda Team Asia team-mate Somkiat Chantra seemingly ignored team orders and attacked on the final lap. Chantra went down the inside at Turn 9, the second-last corner of the race, but Ogura re-passed him immediately at Turn 10 to collect 25 crucial points. There was similar drama in the battle for the final podium place, Jake Dixon (Zinia GASGAS Aspar Team) passing Pedro Acosta for third at Turn 10 also. Acosta therefore finished fourth on his return from a broken femur, one position up on now former Championship-leading Red Bull KTM Ajo team-mate Augusto Fernandez.
Ogura settles into the lead as Fernandez loses ground
Ogura made a good start from pole position and took a clear lead to the first corner, while Alonso Lopez (CAG Speed Up) wrested second place from Fernandez at Turn 2a. Fernandez came under further attack in the opening stages, shuffled all the way back to eighth when Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) went past at Turn 3 on Lap 2. Ahead, Chantra ran in third, from Dixon, Acosta, and Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team).
Lopez overtook Ogura for the lead later that lap at Turn 9, but handed it back when he ran wide on Lap 4 at Turn 4. The Spaniard also ceded second place exactly two laps later when Chantra came in hot under brakes, making contact on his way through as he barely kept control of his bike. Meanwhile, Vietti had taken fifth spot from Acosta after an error from #51 on Lap 5 at Turn 5.
Housemates, teammates, best mates: Ogura & Chantra’s bond
On Lap 7, Dixon ran long at both Turns 3 and 4, dropping all the way back to eighth position and hence promoting Fernandez back to seventh. The Briton’s first ‘moment’ also gave Vietti a look at Lopez, but those two drifted to 1.5 seconds behind the leading Honda Team Asia duo before the VR46 pilot assumed third spot when the Speed Up rider ran wide at Turn 4 on Lap 10.
Acosta passed Lopez for fourth on Lap 13 but when they both had messy runs through the chicane on Lap 14, bottling up the pack, Fernandez capitalised with a double pass up the hill at Turn 3 to take up fifth spot, from Canet, Dixon, and Lopez. However, the KTM Ajo rider lost that spot to Canet on Lap 15 and was back to seventh when Dixon made a move at the chicane on Lap 16.
Meanwhile, Vietti had been racking up fastest laps to catch up to second-placed Chantra. He looked likely to go past eventually until disaster struck on lap 17, when he crashed at Turn 3. The incident handed Chantra a five-second buffer over third place and while Vietti remounted, last of the 26 still running, he would eventually retreat to pit lane and retire.
Team orders? What team orders?
With Ogura first and Fernandez sixth after the Vietti crash, the race leader was in the live World Championship lead by two points. While Chantra was latched onto his rear wheel with more than half a dozen laps to go, Honda Team Asia was clearly thinking big picture, as evidenced by a pitboard message to the man in second place of ‘P2 OK’.
Whether he saw that or not, Chantra decided that P2 was not particularly OK. He went for a pass on the 25th and final lap at Turn 9 and briefly got ahead, only for Ogura to come back down his inside at the last right-hander. They flashed across the finish line just 0.173 seconds apart, but that was not the end of the drama.
Dixon and Fernandez had got back up to fourth and fifth respetively, ahead of Canet, by the time they started the last lap, but the former was not done yet. Dixon made one unsuccessful attempt to pass Acosta midway through the final tour, but then got the job done at Turn 10 to snatch the final podium place.
The rest of the points finishers in 11th through 15th respectively were Jorge Navarro (Flexbox HP40), Barry Baltus (RW Racing GP), Cameron Beaubier (American Racing), Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team), and Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), while Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italtrans Racing Team) and Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) were among the nine DNFs. They had been eighth and ninth when Dalla Porta was slow off Turn 3 on Lap 18 and Arbolino, with nowhere to go, crashed into him. As for Vietti, he is still third in the standings, but is now 27 points off top spot.
The title fight could barely be closer, and there is still so much left to play out this season! Catch Round 14, the Gran Premio Gryfyn di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, on September 2-4.
1. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia)
2. Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) + 0.173
3. Jake Dixon (Zinia GASGAS Aspar Team) + 7.854
4. Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 7.960
5. Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 8.037
6. Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) + 9.401
7. Alonso Lopez (CAG Speed Up) + 12.995
8. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 18.254
9. Albert Arenas (Zinia GASGAS Aspar Team) + 20.661
10. Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 22.227