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Takuma Matsuyama took an incredible victory in Race 1 at the Twin Ring Motegi, besting compatriot Sho Nishimura by a tenth and a half as home heroes made it a 1-2 for the Japanese crowd. Buriram double winner Danial Sharil completed the podium and that gave him another boost in the Championship fight, moving to within a single point of second overall as Haruki Noguchi failed to score on home turf.
Sharil took the holeshot just as he did in Buriram and the Malaysian was once again a force to be reckoned with in the fight at the front, with a big freight train battle breaking out in the initial stages. It was every rider for himself in another showstopper before a slightly smaller group were eventually able to break away. Noguchi was in that group and van Eerde was struggling slightly, unable to break into the top five, and the scene seemingly set for the Japanese rider to make a big gain…
It wasn’t to be, however, as a sudden highside for Noguchi put paid to his chances and it swept drama through that front group – with Toshiki Senda also caught up in the incident as he was forced wide and dropped back. That left van Eerde as the one with a big chance to capitalise, but the front group remained out of reach of the Australian.
It was then Matsuyama fighting Nishimura, Sharil, Thai rider Tachakorn Buarsi and Indonesian Lucky Hendriansya and eventual winner Matsuyama pitched it to perfection, just keeping enough breathing space in the final sector and ahead over the line for a first win. Nishimura was next for a second podium in succession, Sharil took P3, and Buarsi was just left off the rostrum although he took another top finish in fourth. Hendriansya completed the top five, but only six tenths off the win.
Koji Hirama took sixth and was another couple of seconds back, avoiding drama that hit Afridza Munandar after the Indonesian suffered a late fall. Then in seventh came Championship leader Billy van Eerde – with the Australian taking a solid finish and a solid haul of points to extend his advantage to 16 points. It won’t be a shot at the title in Race 2 but it is a big chance to once again extend that lead.
Agung Fachrul, Naoki Yamada and Nitipong Saensawang completed the top ten, with Munandar eventually remounting to take P13 and Senda scoring the final point.
That’s the action over on Friday but there’s a whole other race to come yet, with Noguchi up for a comeback on Saturday and van Eerde ready to fight back. There’s another qualifying session first, however, and we get a fresh grid for Race 2. The lights go out for that at the same local time of 16:15 (GMT +9).
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