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Niccolo Antonelli claimed an emotional first win for the SIC58 Squadra Corse Moto3™ squad as the Italian led home teammate Tatsuki Suzuki at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España on a circuit the late Marco Simoncelli claimed his first lightweight class victory at in 2004, SKY Racing Team VR46’s Celestino Vietti claimed a hard-earned podium in third.
Polesitter Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) didn’t get the launch he would have been looking for as the lights went out as he dropped to third, but Suzuki did. The Japanese rider got the holeshot and immediately pulled out a slight gap on the field as he set about getting into a nice rhythm at the front, with Vietti slotting into second from P3 off the line.
Suzuki had a half-second lead at the end of lap two but that didn’t last long as we had a 10 rider scrap for the lead, with Antonelli and home hero Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) stalking and jostling Dalla Porta, Suzuki and Vietti in the opening exchanges. However, it was a disastrous opening to the race for two leading protagonists – Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Championship leader Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) crashing out of contention on Lap 1 and Lap 3 respectively.
Back at the front and it was your typical enthralling battle for the lead in Moto3™, with Suzuki and Dalla Porta the two main riders interchanging for P1 in the first quarter of the race. Antonelli was right in the fight but the Italian started to drop down the order as a lead group of 17 formed, Antonelli slipping outside the top 10 in the mid-stages with Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) and Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) starting to look menacing at the front.
Some argy-bargy occurred between a couple of the riders in the lead group into Turn 6 and with eight laps to go, 17 became 12 as the scraps became a little more aggressive – the win and podium in sight for plenty including Antonelli, who had clawed his way back up to the front. However, there was drama with four to go as second place Ramirez hunted race leader Antonelli and heading into Turn 5, Ramirez hit the back of his fellow Honda rider and crashed out. Incredibly, none of the chasing pack collected Ramirez or his stranded bike – but Fenati was the unlucky one as the Italian had to run off track to take avoiding action, his podium challenge was done.
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Moto3™: Ramirez crashes big at T5 - rider lucky and OK
With two to go Vietti was holding onto the baton with Suzuki, Antonelli, Dalla Porta and Canet tucked in behind. Dalla Porta ran wide at Pedrosa corner to all-but end his win hopes as Antonelli led the charge onto the last lap. Vietti fancied a move at Turn 6 but it didn’t work and Suzuki then stuck it up the inside at Turn 9 – Antonelli now had a 0.3 gap heading into the last sector and he made no mistake. The Italian took the win to claim his first 25 point haul since the 2016 Qatar GP, Suzuki fended off Vietti for second to give Paolo Simoncelli an emotional 1-2 on the same track he saw his late son win at 15 years ago.
Vietti claimed P3 for his second GP podium, with Canet taking home the Championship lead from the Spanish GP with a good P4 as the returning Albert Arenas (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) grabbed P5. Qatar GP winner Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) recovered from a 23rd in qualifying to get his title hopes back on track with a P6, Jakub Korfeil (Redox PrüstelGP) was in the hunt throughout to seal a seventh. Dalla Porta got beaten up on the last lap to eventually finish 8th as Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) and Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai) closed out the top ten.
Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) crashed heavily at Turn 6 in the latter stages and collected Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) in the process – thankfully both riders were ok as they went in search of a podium. Tom Booth-Amos (CIP Green Power) crashed at Turn 1 – rider ok, with Filip Salac (Redox PrüstelGP) retiring midway through the race.
It was nothing short of what we expected in terms of wheel to wheel action in the Moto3™ class at Jerez, with a first win for SIC58 Squadra Corse a very popular result. A single point splits Canet and Antonelli in the standings heading to Le Mans as the Moto3™ Championship starts to heat up.
1. Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse)
2. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) + 0.242
3. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.305
4. Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) + 0.472
5. Albert Arenas (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto) + 0.563
6. Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) + 1.133
7. Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP) + 1.187
8. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) + 1.291
9. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) + 1.430
10. Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai) + 1.441
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