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Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) was crowned the Moto3™ World Champion at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix after claiming a stunning Sepang International Circuit victory, with main Championship rival Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) slipping down to P5 on the final lap to hand the title to the Spaniard.
It was Martin who got the best launch off the line from pole position but with a long run down into Turn 1, Bezzecchi was able to get in his slipstream and brake later to get the holeshot. A tentative lap followed for Martin who dropped down to P5 by the end of the first lap and at the end of lap 2, the Championship leader was P8. Bezzecchi, meanwhile, was heading the pack.
The latter then lost the lead of the race at the start of lap 4, fellow KTM rider Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – after getting a good start from P11 – was arguably a little too aggressive heading into Turn 1, forcing Bezzecchi out wide as the latter dropped to sixth, just ahead of Martin. Meanwhile, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) had got past his teammate as the duo battled for P8 – Martin was P9, which soon changed to P10 at the end of lap 5.
You could cut the tension with a knife and on Lap 6 there was a nerve-wracking moment between Bezzecchi and fellow Italian Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) came together on the exit of Turn 6, both – thankfully - staying upright. Then, with 10 laps to go, Martin started to make progress and at the final corner, a phenomenal late lunge underneath race leader Bezzecchi from P6 almost paid off. The slipstream down the straight did pay off as Martin took the lead of the race – was this Martin pulling the pin?
The answer was yes, but he couldn’t break away. Bezzecchi was back through with nine to go at the final corner and then, with eight laps to go, contact between the two main title leaders at Turn 1. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) then took over the baton and started to create a gap but then, at Turn 1, the Spaniard tucked the front and crashed out of contention – rider ok. To put it simply, the gloves were now off at the front with a huge seven laps remaining.
The hustle and bustle at the front kept on going in true Moto3™ style. But then in true Martin style, with three laps of the race to go and the Championship firmly in the balance, the pin was definitely pulled this time. The Spaniard hit the front and suddenly there was a 0.8 second lead appearing, with Bezzecchi unable to get past Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) and Arbolino. This gap continued to grow as it looked increasingly difficult for Bezzecchi to get the better of Martin, with the Italian’s attention now firmly on keeping his title aspirations alive.
On the prowl behind Bezzecchi were a gaggle of hungry Moto3™ riders. Di Giannantonio, Dalla Porta, Arbolino, Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team), Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) and Binder were all the in the hunt for P2. The last lap started and at Turn 4, Bezzecchi was out on the curb and down to P5 – a Championship losing position. Could the Italian recover? The answer was no, Bezzecchi would cross the line P5 to hand Martin the title with a race to spare. Despair for Bezzecchi, jubilation for Martin who took victory by 3.5 seconds.
Dalla Porta crossed the line in P2 for his fifth podium of the season, with teammate Bastianini recovering in the latter stages to grab a podium that means he becomes the most successful Moto3™ rider in history. Australian GP winner Arenas missed out on a podium by 0.038, with Bezzecchi pipping ‘Diggia’ on the line – the duo now have P2 in the Championship to fight for in Valencia. Binder ends P7, Arbolino was eighth, with Suzuki P9 and teammate Niccolo Antonelli secured a top ten on his injury return.
Starting from the pitlane, home hero Adam Norrodin (Petronas Sprinta Racing) produced a stunning comeback rider to get himself into the lead group. But with little over two laps to go, the Malaysian rider crashed out at the final corner. John McPhee (CIP – Green Power), Dennis Foggia (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) all crashing at Turn 9, with Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) crashing in a separate incident at Turn 9.
So that’s it, Martin becomes the Mart1nator to take the Moto3™ World Championship in Malaysia. A wonderful season capped off in sensational style. Bezzecchi and Di Giannantonio now battle for P2 in the Championship in Valencia.