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SKY Racing Team VR46’s Luca Marini clinched back-to-back wins for the first time in his career after fighting off Dynavolt Intact GP’s Tom Lüthi in the closing stages at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. In a fiercely competitive Moto2™ race, Marini and Lüthi were joined on the podium by 2018 Moto3™ World Champion Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who earned a debut top-three finish in the intermediate class after starting from 14th on the grid.
A fortnight on from taking victory in Thailand, Marini started from pole position and got the perfect start to help him take the holeshot. It was the polar opposite start for ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team’s Tetsuta Nagashima, however. The home hero crashed on the sighting lap, only to make the grid before then crashing again at Turn 1. A home round to forget.
Behind Marini, FlexBox HP40 teammates Augusto Fernandez and Lorenzo Baldaasarri started to squabble over second place. Their fight allowed Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Somkiat Chantra to join the podium hunt and he took full advantage of a mistake from Baldassarri to settle into third place.
Championship leader Alex Marquez (Marc VDS EG 0,0), meanwhile, was having all sorts of problems, compounded by a huge moment on the exit of the final corner on lap two. Despite being nowhere near as dramatic as yesterday’s miraculous Motegi save, it was certainly a close call for the title protagonist. There was also a frightening moment for Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder after the South African ran wide on the exit of Turn 1. The 2020 MotoGP™ rider hit the grass and was well and truly sideways, with Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) snapping his handlebar when brushing past him and consequently ending his race.
With nine laps now completed, Marquez was embroiled in a fierce fight over sixth with Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Fernandez. There were some extremely firm moves been put in by all three riders as the leaders were allowed to escape. The main threat at the front at this point looked like coming from Lüthi, who made quick work of Baldassarri moments after setting the fastest lap of the race. He then started to apply some pressure on the race leader, Marini. The Italian stood firm for a lap, but the Swiss rider hit the front with a classy move up the inside at Turn 9.
Meanwhile, Marquez began to muscle his way through by, again, showing some uncharacteristic aggression. The Championship leader squeezed past Chantra for fifth, as the Thai rider began to slip backwards. In the fight for third, Martin set the fastest lap of the race with just three laps remaining to close onto the rear wheel of Baldassarri.
Two laps were left when the podium picture took shape. Marini dived through on Lüthi and, within a few seconds, Martin had pounced on Baldassarri. Despite their best efforts, both Lüthi and Baldassarri were unable to respond, meaning Marini took the chequered flag and, as a result, a 50-point haul in the space of a fortnight. Lüthi was back on the podium for the first time since Barcelona and Martin tasted intermediate class bubbly for the very first time after a remarkable ride through from the fifth row of the grid.
Behind Baldassarri in fourth was Beta Tools Speed Up’s Jorge Navarro, who again showed incredible late race pace to take another top-five finish. Marquez came across the line in sixth place, meaning he sits 36 points clear of now Lüthi with three races remaining. Italtrans Racing Team’s Enea Bastianini ended seventh ahead of Fernandez and Schrötter, who both slipped backwards, before MV Agusta got themselves inside the top ten thanks to Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward).
1. Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46)
2. Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) + 0.560
3. Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 3.593
4. Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40) + 3.999
5. Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) + 5.236
6. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) + 7.345
7. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) + 8.115
8. Augusto Fernandez (FlexBox HP 40) + 10.460
9. Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) + 10.711
10. Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) + 12.445
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