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Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) had a tougher time at the Twin Ring Motegi than expected, finishing outside the points for only the second time in his as yet short but illustrious GP career. Lengthening the odds was Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers), who took a stunning victory in the torrential conditions to gain a whole 25 points on the Majorcan, so now it’s take two - with the same situation in the points. Mir is five ahead of the number with which he must leave the Island if he is to secure the Championship; 55 ahead of Fenati.
It’s also now a two horse race. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) finished just off the podium in Japan and in doing so lost his shot at a comeback, leaving only Mir and Fenati to fight it out at the top. In a suitable full circle if Mir is crowned Champion, the Island is where the Majorcan made his GP debut, in 2015 – the perfect venue for another push for glory.
With eight race wins so far this season and few finishes off the podium, it seems a likely outcome. But anything can happen and Fenati will be riding on a wave of confidence after his stunning win, which also made him the Moto3™ rider with the most victories since the class was introduced in 2012: 10. And who knows what the weather will bring? Only time will tell.
Lining up to complicate the situation for the Championship leader is a cast of quality and ambition: Fenati, Canet – a podium finisher in Australia last season, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), John McPhee (British Talent Team), Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate)…the fight in the upper echelons of the standings is intense, as it always is on track for the lightweight class. There will also be one home talent looking to make an impression, with wildcard Tom Toparis (Cube Racing) back on track after getting to the finish line despite difficult conditions in Japan – and a familiar face lining up once again: Maria Herrera. The Spaniard fills in for Albert Arenas at Mahindra Aspar Moto3 after Arenas broke his hand in Japan.
55 points clear, with 50 left to play for – it makes good reading for Mir. If he wins the race or comes second, he’s Champion. If Fenati can’t gain more than five points on him, Mir is Champion. But how will it play out on race day? Tune in on Sunday at 13:00 (GMT +11) to find out.