Ai Ogura proves victorious in Jerez, ahead of Aron Canet and Tony Arbolino.
With title rival Celestino Vietti further down the grid in 6th, Ogura put his Pole position to good use from the opening lap, taking the holeshot into Turn 1. The Japanese rider had a simple affair of a race, his strong start off the line lead the IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia rider straight to the chequered flag 23 laps later. It simply couldn’t have been a better debut victory in a Grand Prix for Ogura.
While Ogura’s win was somewhat easy-going, it very much couldn’t been more of the opposite for the pair joining him on the rostrum. Settling into the podium-contending positions in the first lap, Canet and Arbolino couldn’t keep still for long, as the pair swapped paint with 19 laps to go. After the horrendous incident in Portugal last time out, it’s a sheer marvel to witness Canet not only racing after suffering from a fractured wrist, but being just as competitive. Continuing their fight, the podium contenders risked keeping Ogura in their sights, while opening up the fight to Somkiat Chantra and Sam Lowes behind. However, just as Lowes became set to take on his teammate for third, the Brit lost the front into Turn 8 and ended his podium fight early, taking his third DNF result in a row.
With Lowes’ crash, Canet and Arbolino were able to gap Somkiat Chantra in fourth, and refocus on catching Ogura at the front. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Chantra fell victim to the Spanish gravel also, losing the front a lap after Lowes at Turn 9. The Thai rider becoming yet another rider to suffer from 3 consecutive DNFs.
As the front-runners took a break from the dramatics, more crashes followed further down the order, as the battle for Vietti’s 5th position saw Jake Dixon take out Fermin Aldeguer at Turn 13 with 14 laps remaining. At the same time, Cameron Beaubier retired from the race due to a shifter issue.
The final 10 laps of the Jerez Grand Prix saw the podium contenders relax into their positions, as Ogura still comfortably held the lead. Meanwhile, title leader Vietti continued his hunt for Augusto Fernandez’s fourth position, as the Italian sat just under a second behind the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider; with Ogura certain to close the gap further in the championship standings, earning 25 points in first, any opportunity for Vietti to gain more points proved vital for the Italian. However, Vietti soon had his hands full, but not with Fernandez, as Marcel Schrötter pulled back a 2-second gap to challenge for P5. While the Italian managed to defend well for some time, Schrötter’s experience and knowledge is simply unrivalled, as the German nears his 10th season in the class, and soon passed the title leader and eased into gapping the Italian immediately.
As the final laps wound down, Ogura continued to remain untouchable as Canet conceded the win to the Japanese rider. With a gap of over a second to Arbolino, the trio amicably held onto their positions to claim a much-deserving podium for all three riders. The rostrum-placers each took valuable championship points, and redeemed themselves following the events in Portugal last time out.
Despite a late charge from Schrötter, Fernandez was able to comfortably take 4th position, as the German rider continues his Top 10 streak with a respectable P5. 2 seconds behind, Vietti crossed the line in 6th place, matching his grid position. After a strong battle, Bo Bendsneyder crossed the line just ahead of Joe Roberts in 7th. Albert Arenas crosses the line in P9, and Jorge Navarro rounds out the Top 10.
With a picture-perfect debut win for Ogura, the Japanese rider becomes the 6th new winner of the season, and chases Vietti by just 19 points in the title race.
A very commendable race for all three podium-placers, and a much-needed redemption.
The next Moto2 race will be in France in 2 weeks’ time.
Feature Image: MotoGP.com