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After the flag at Motegi, it seemed as if Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) had used his controlled ride in the wet to grow his advantage to 24 points. Not so, as it was then announced that the winner at Misano, Dominique Aegerter, had been disqualified from the San Marino GP for a technical infringement. Who had been second? Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten), Morbidelli’s Championship challenger. Now promoted to first in that race, the Swiss rider was therefore awarded his second win of the year, and that changes things: 19 points separate the two men, with Phillip Island another of the tracks on which Lüthi took victory last season.
That was the headline of the race last year, until giving the gap to second a closer inspection: +0.010 seconds. And who was the man second across the line? Morbidelli.
It is fitting, then, that the two men now return to the Island in another duel, this time in the standings - and it makes a mouthwatering prospect of the race. Will we see a repeat? Only time can tell.
The title fight may now be a mathematical battle of two, but that's certainly not how it will play out on the track. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) - winner in Motegi in a tactical masterclass for his third victory of the year - and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) are battling over third in standings, and both will head into the weekend focused on the top step. Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) likewise, and there are plenty more with their sights set high: Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – polesitter at Motegi, Aegerter, podium finishers Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) and Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) – as well as Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46), who was confirmed as Rookie of the Year in Japan. Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) too, who lines up to fly the flag on home turf.
Last year it was 0.01 seconds, this year it’s 19 points that separate Lüthi and Morbidelli. Will the Italian keep his cool and increase his advantage? Or does Lüthi have an ace up his sleeve for the Island?
We’ll find out at 14:20 local time (GMT +11) on Sunday – two hours later than normal – as Moto2™ do battle at the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
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