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Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) claimed his third win of the season as he took the chequered flag by 0.036 from second place Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) at the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, with Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) snatching a maiden podium away from Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40) at the line by 0.008 – a brilliant battle on the Island in the intermediate class that saw neither Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46) or Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) challenge at the front.
There was drama before the race had even begun as P2 on the grid Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) encountered a problem with his bike and although he eventually got it going, the German had to line up on the back of the grid. As the lights went out it was pole man Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) who launched well to grab the holeshot, but Vierge soon cut his way through to the lead from P3 on the grid, with Binder, Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors) and Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) slotting in behind.
Pasini’s race wouldn’t last long though, a crash at Turn 4 on lap 2 for the Italian ended his hopes of a second podium of the year. Meanwhile, Bagnaia had initially made significant progress from P16 on the grid to get as high as P6, but the Championship leader soon dropped back to outside the top ten, along with title rival Oliveira.
Back at the front, a lead group of eight has formed. Lecuona was looking strong but the young Spaniard then crashed out at Turn 2 on lap 7 and then, looking good for a home round rostrum challenge, Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) lost the front at Turn 10 lap 13 – heartache for the Australian.
The lead was chopping and changing lap by lap, particularly between Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) and Vierge. With five to go, it was a group of six at the front, all of which looked menacing. However, Baldassarri’s race would end prematurely at Turn 10 after the Italian got his Kalex machine out of shape under braking and with grass and slick tyres not a good mix, Baldassarri went down and out of contention. And so, heading onto the last lap, there were five riders in contention. Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) made a sweeping move to go from fifth to third at Turn 1 as Binder led the way from Mir. Turn 4 then saw Marini run wide and out of podium contention, with Fernandez and Vierge also getting out of sorts on the exit to leave the battle for the win between Binder and Mir.
Mir wasn’t close enough at his particular strong point: Turn 10, but on the exit of Turn 11 Binder lit up the rear of his KTM. A run to the line then followed but the South African had just enough edge out the Spaniard – the 2016 and 2017 Moto3™ Champions going head-to-head. Vierge won the race to the line with Fernandez, with Marini taking P5. Aegerter would eventually finish 2.4 back from the win after being in the leading group throughout, with Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) P7 after being unable to cling on to the front runners. 2018 European Moto2™ Champion Jesko Raffin (SAG Team) earned a P8 at Phillip Island – a very solid ride from the Swiss rider.
Schrötter produced a phenomenal comeback ride to end the Australian GP in ninth, with Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up) rounding out the top ten. Then came the two title protagonists: Oliveira P11, Bagnaia in P12. A strange race for both as neither could penetrate the top ten, the Championship moves onto Malaysia with Bagnaia holding a 36-point advantage.
Tetsuta Nagashima (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) and Edgar Pons (MB Conveyors – Speed Up) complete the points in a top 15 that was separated by 14.076 seconds – the fifth closest top 15 in Moto2™/250 history.
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Round 17: Moto2™ Full Race
Jules Danilo (Nashi Argan SAG Team), Isaac Viñales (Forward Racing Team), Federico Fuligni (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2), Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Xavi Cardelus (Marinelli Snipers Team) crashed – riders ok.
So the Moto2™ riders Championship continues for another race, but Kalex claimed a sixth constructors title. A second match point for Bagnaia now awaits, can he and Oliveira challenge at the front again in at Sepang?
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