Perfect 2018 ending for Oliveira in dramatic Moto2™ finale

Portuguese rider takes a commanding victory as Turn 2 saw three top riders crash, Lecuona takes maiden podium, Marquez P3 despite crash

In his 50th Moto2™ race, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) produced a faultless ride to take his third victory of the season in the 2018 finale at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana. The Portuguese rider won by an impressive 13 seconds over Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors), the Spaniard claiming his maiden Grand Prix podium on home soil, as Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) takes P3 – despite crashing from the lead.

Straight away in the last race of the season, drama. Before the race had begun, Fabio Quartararo (HDR Heidrun -  Speed Up) had an issue on the grid, which saw him start from the back. Then, when the lights went out, pole man Luca Marini’s (SKY Racing Team VR46) front end washed away under braking at Turn 2, the Italian hitting the back of teammate Francesco Bagnaia – the latter staying on but running wide – while further back, the exact same happened to Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). The Spaniard went down, with Mir himself then collecting Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) as the pair followed Marini into the gravel and out of the race.

After a busy opening handful of laps, we were left with Oliveira at the front, with the top four consisting of the Portuguese rider, Marquez, Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Lecuona in a class of their own – the only riders lapping in the 1:48s. It was Marquez who soon took over the baton at the front though, and the Spaniard then upped the pace – consecutive fastest laps in the 1:47s to give himself a 1.5 second buffer over Oliveira with 10 laps gone.

Lap 12 ticked by and it was another fastest lap for Marquez, a 1:47.342 edging the gap to Oliveira to almost two seconds, with Vierge a further two seconds behind the KTM rider at this stage. This was until the Spaniard lost the front at Turn 8 while under pressure from Lecuona, the latter now up to P3. Lap 13 then saw Lecuona run well wide at Turn 14 as he dropped to eight seconds off the lead.

At the front, Oliveira and Marquez exchanged fastest laps at the mid-stage, the gap fluctuating between 1.5 and 2.0 seconds. But then, on lap 15, Marquez crashed. Turn 14 the corner but - such was the advantage the leaders had - the Spaniard was able to remount and rejoin the race in P3 – just ahead of Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team). This left Oliveira in control of the race, with an 8.5 second gap between him and second place Lecuona.

From here on in, the 2018 Moto2™ runner-up kept his cool to stride home for his third win of the season, taking the chequered flag by over 13 seconds back to Lecuona – the Spaniard earning a fantastic maiden Grand Prix podium. After the crash, Marquez was able to salvage a home race podium, with Pasini taking a commendable P4 on what looks to be his final foreseeable Grand Prix race.

Fifth place went to Tech 3 Racing’s Remy Gardner, this the Australian’s career-best result after he got the better of the recovering Quartararo – a phenomenal P7 for the Frenchman. After starting from the front row, Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) crossed the line in P7, while it was a home race top ten finish for Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40) in P8. Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) and Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) rounded out the top ten in the final Moto2™ race of the season. Meanwhile, 2018 Champion Bagnaia clawed his way to P14 on his final Moto2™ ride after getting caught up in the drama at Turn 2.

Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Xavi Cardelus (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2), replacement rider Tommaso Marcon (HDR Heidrun – Speed Up), Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors), Joe Roberts (NTS RW Racing GP), Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder, Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Niki Tuuli (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crashed out – rider ok.

A dramatic final Honda-powered Moto2™ race of the year ends with Oliveira ending his intermediate class career on a high, while also ensuring Red Bull KTM Ajo are the Moto2™ 2018 Team Champions. Oliveira ran Bagnaia close – nine points the final margin - as the two now move to MotoGP™, but who will be the ones to watch at the beginning of a brand-new Triumph powered era in 2019?

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