Somkiat Chantra storms to a dream win in Mandalika, ahead of Celestino Vietti and Aron Canet.
With Sunday’s race shortened to just 16 laps due to track conditions, it was set to be a mad dash to the line for the intermediate class.
As rain began to fall as the riders lined up on the grid, all eyes were on debut poleman Jake Dixon, along with the title leader Celestino Vietti. However, when the lights went out,Thai rider Somkiat Chantra took the holeshot and took everyone by surprise with it.
While Brits Sam Lowes and Dixon tried sticking with Chantra at the front, the IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia rider simply remained untouchable throughout the entire race. Gaining a gap of over 3 seconds to the chequered flag, Chantra truly had the perfect race. No faults, no challengers, no worries.
Coming from a DNF in Qatar and a strong weekend so far, the Thai rider couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday – becoming the first ever Thai Grand Prix winner.
Despite a perfect run for the race leader, the same unfortunately couldn’t be said for poleman Dixon. The Brit suffered from a lowside at Turn 10 with 12 laps remaining, shortly after taking 2nd position from Lowes. A horrendously unlucky end to such a promising weekend for the Inde GASGAS Aspar Team rider.
With 10 laps to go, Celestino Vietti soon rose to podium contention, after a tough first half saw the Italian push through the resolute ensemble of Augusto Fernandez, Albert Arenas and Simone Corsi in their battle for 5thposition. The title leader successfully bridged the gap to overtake Lowes in 3rd place. However, Vietti wasn’t alone in his charge, as title rival Aron Canet was another rider to make amends with his grid position, gaining 9 places in the opening laps to then secure his spot within the Top 4 – which now had a comfortable gap of 4.8 seconds back to the battle for 5th. Suddenly, there was all to play for as Vietti was no longer seen to be chasing a win, but also protecting his position at the top of the title board.
So, despite Chantra remaining comfortable out front, Vietti wasn’t going to accept P2 without a fight, as the Mooney VR46 Racing Team rider attempted to bridge the gap to the lead. However, Chantra still had cards to play in the final laps, responding to Vietti with multiple fastest lap times, setting a time of 1:35.591 in the final stages. With Chantra unrelenting even to the end, Vietti’s efforts still managed to cement his P2 result, while successfully holding off rival Canet from closing the gap in the title race.
While the Top 4 seemed confirmed with 5 laps remaining, the 5th place battle remained as vibrant as the start of the race, with Fernandez and Aldeguer continuing to swap paint as Ogura and Arbolino hunted the pair from behind. Another battle still raging on was that of Pedro Acosta and Albert Arenas for P9; with Acosta taking his long-lap penalty earlier in the race, it was no surprise that the Red Bull KTM Ajo rookie was set on taking every position possible. The Spaniards battled it out to the very end to determine the final Top 10 results; however, Arenas was unable to counteract Acosta’s overtake into Turn 13 on the penultimate lap, and handed the rookie 9th place, while settling for the final top 10 place himself.
As the last lap saw Chantra cruise to the line ahead of Vietti and Canet, Lowes comfortably kept 4th place, while Fernandez came out on top for his vigorous battle in 5th, ahead of Ogura, Aldeguer and Arbolino, while Acosta and Arenas rounded out the Top 10.
With just 9 points separating Vietti and Canet in the title race, who will come out ahead at the Gran Premio Michelin de la Republica Argentina in 2 weeks’ time? Or is this the start of Chantra’s reign?
Feature Image: MotoGP.com