Augusto Fernandez is back in the box seat after an unbelievable final lap at Sepang
Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) has taken victory at the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia as the Moto2™ title race was turned on its head yet again. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) looked to have one hand on the crown as he ran second on the road and Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) struggled to break into the top five, all the way to the start of the 18th and final lap around the Sepang International Circuit. However, Ogura then tried to press home his advantage with a move on Arbolino and disaster struck, the Japanese rider tucking the front and crashing out.
Arbolino went on to win by 11 seconds but the rider who was happiest with his result most likely would have been Fernandez, who inherited fourth position and a 13-point haul. The Spaniard crashed out last Sunday at Phillip Island but, with Ogura scoring a zero this time, he is now back on top of the riders’ standings by 9.5 points with just the Valencia GP to come in a fortnight from now.
Arbolino takes the lead amid early drama
Arbolino had qualified on the middle of the front row and cleared pole-sitter Ogura by the time they arrived at Turn 1. Ogura’s Idemitsu Honda Team Asia teammate Somkiat Chantra started eighth and was trying to slot into fourth at Turn 2 but made contact with the rear wheel of Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) and went down, with Pedro Acosta’s (Red Bull KTM Ajo) bike coming down on top of him. Fortunately, Chantra was at least able to ride back to the pits and retire, while David Sanchis (MV Agusta Forward Racing) went no further after he also hit the deck in the incident.
Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools Speed Up) would emerge in third, behind Arbolino and Ogura, while Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team) did not take too long to pass Dixon for fourth position. Fernandez barely avoided the drama back at Turn 2 and found himself in sixth position, right where he had started, but was unable to make early progress.
Fernandez struggles while Ogura goes for P1
Indeed, that top six ran as you were until Gonzalez got into Lopez’s slipstream and passed the Australian GP winner at Turn 1 at the start of Lap 9. By then, the top two were more than four seconds up the road, Arbolino’s margin over Ogura ebbing and flowing at half to one full second, while Fernandez still sat sixth and was conceding almost a second per lap relative to ‘Tiger Tony’ and his rival for the Championship. Meanwhile, Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40), who had been forced wide as Acosta crashed on Lap 1, got himself back into the top 10 on Lap 10.
Ogura started to apply the pressure on Arbolino and would dive down the inside at Turn 1 to take the lead on Lap 13. However, a lap later, he ran well wide at the end of the straight and very nearly crashed, opening the door for the Italian to reclaim top spot. As that was all going on, Lopez had a big save of his own at Turn 9 before turning under Gonzalez and taking third position back through Turns 10 and 11 on Lap 14.
Fernandez seemingly decided that it was time to attack, with every point crucial as he looked to minimise the damage relative to Ogura in his title quest. However, Dixon was in no mood to simply hand over fifth spot, and they made contact on multiple occasions as they chopped and changed position in the final four laps.
It all goes pear-shaped for Ogura
Up the front, Ogura was still pushing hard, with the carrot of an extra five points dangling in front of him if he could pass the Marc VDS entry which was just ahead. On the final lap, the Honda Team Asia pilot went for a move at Turn 9 but asked too much of his front tyre and ended up on the floor. Arbolino had been let off the hook and could cruise to victory over a distant Lopez while Dixon assumed third and Fernandez had just passed Gonzalez for what became fourth position once Ogura came unstuck.
WATCH: Major last lap Ogura blunder throws away title lead
Gonzalez therefore rounded out the top five, ahead of Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP), Cameron Beaubier (American Racing), Canet, Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP), and Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools Speed Up) in 10th. Acosta had remounted after the second-corner drama but then crashed a second time, on Lap 10 at Turn 15 while running 20th, and would not see the chequered flag. Joining him and Ogura among the DNFs was Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) due to a spill on Lap 6 while running 12th.
For the second time in as many Sundays, the Moto2™ race finishes with a new Championship leader. Will Fernandez hold onto it from here or can Ogura snatch it back? A title goes on the line in a grandstand decider when the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana takes place at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo on November 4-6!
1. Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team)
2. Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools Speed Up) + 11.411
3. Jake Dixon (Inde GAGSAS Aspar Team) + 11.802
4. Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 13.206
5. Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team) + 14.770
6. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 17.166
7. Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) + 20.222
8. Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) + 24.279
9. Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 24.407
10. Fermin Alduguer (Beta Tools Speed Up) + 24.482