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Matsuyama defends to perfection for the double at Buriram

Japanese rider takes the Championship lead as he wins Race 2 in very different style – at the final corner

Takuma Matsuyama has done the double at Buriram, snatching victory in Race 2 to complete the set and with it take the Championship lead. The Japanese rider had to work for it though, with everything going down to the final corner and the number 11 defending his position to perfection for the victory. Syarifuddin Azman and Afridza Munandar, the two men on the offensive, completed the podium.

It was home hero Tatchakorn Buasri who stormed to the holeshot off the front row, the Thai rider taking over as he did in Race 1 and Munandar, especially, one to lose out. Matusyama slotted into second and flashbacks from Saturday must have immediately started for many on the grid, but the number 11 wasn’t for bolting on Sunday.

Instead, the race was a classic freight train with the lead swapping and changing, and a lot less drama than the attrition of Race 1. Matsuyama spent plenty time at the head of the race, but the Japanese rider just didn’t seem quite able to pull the pin – although his key rival, Sho Nishimura, wasn’t having the easiest race of it as he got beaten up in the group, pushed down outside the top five.

Eventually, however, Matsuyama got his chance as the squabble for second allowed him to make a break for it with eight laps to go. Was this it? The gap went up over half a second and kept on climbing…

With four laps to go though, Azman was on a charge. Breaking free from the group battle, he was able to close the leader down – and brought some company. It was therefore a quartet heading over the line for the final lap, with Matsuyama facing Azman, Buasri and Munandar down for the win and of course, it went down to the final corner.

Buasri was a little too far back but both Azman and Munandar attacked Matsuyama, one either side, but the Japanese rider held firm and kept the perfect line around the corner, exiting ahead and slicing away and over the line to do the double. Azman took second and Munandar third, with Buasri heading wide as he also tried to get involved. The home hero was forced to settle for fourth.

Jacob Roulstone got the better of former leader Nishimura in the end, the Australian putting in another stellar performance on Saturday to complete the top five,  as behind Nishimura, but by just a tenth, came Adenanta Putra.

Thai riders Warit Thongnoppakun and Piyawat Patoomyos took P8 and P9 on home soil on Sunday, with Shoki Igarashi completing the top ten to bounce back from his back of the grid penalty. Herjun Firdaus couldn't repeat his Race 1 form, taking P11 ahead of Idil Bin Mahadi, Ryosuke Bando, Rei Wakamatsu and Australian Harrison Voight, who took the final point despite his penalty of starting from pitlane.

That's it from Buriram, and now it's next stop Motegi...home turf for a good portion of the grid, and the two men at the top of the standings. Last year it was all about Matsuyama, can Nishimura flip the form book in 2019? Find out in two weeks.