A last lap scrap between Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) saw Vietti emerge from another Moto3™ epic with his first Grand Prix victory. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) took his fourth podium of 2020 to close down Championship leader Albert Arenas (Valresa Aspar Team) at the BMW M Grand Prix of Styria, as title contender John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crashed out.
Polesitter Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) propelled himself from pole into P1 at Turn 1 but it was Arbolino who soon led the race from the second row, the Italian using the slipstream to good effect to grab the lead into Turn 3. A gap opened up at the front between the leading four riders – Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) joining Arbolino and Rodrigo – and the chasing pack, led by Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) as plenty of squabbling took place in the opening exchanges.
Ogura soon closed the gap though and soon, McPhee set the fastest lap of the race to bridge the gap after the Scotsman and Vietti swapped positions numerous times. From P10 on the grid, Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) was the fastest man on track on Lap 4, but the South African was almost down at Turn 3 on Lap 5. He kept his KTM upright though as a typical Moto3™ freight train formed at the front.
Having started from a season-best P10, Binder was looking strong. The CIP Green Power machine was the only KTM bike in the top six on Lap 8 and Binder was up to second at Turn 1, before McPhee was up to P2 with a great move into Turn 3. But this was changing all the time. Rodrigo got the better of Arbolino on Lap 9 as the latter lost the lead for the first time since Lap 1, with a lead group of 12 now forming.
The competitiveness of the race was clear to see. McPhee was P1 at Turn 9 as the riders went four abreast into the penultimate corner, but the man second in the Championship was back in sixth at Turn 3 a lap later – this was another stunner in Spielberg, a second covered the top 12 as Arbolino took over at the front once more.
After a long-lap penalty in last week’s Austrian GP, Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) had a score to settle with the Red Bull Ring. The Japanese rider was quickest in Warm Up and he was right in the battle for the lead, with teammate Deniz Öncü also well in the hunt. Soon, Sasaki was up to second with eight laps to go but Arbolino was looking good at the front.
With five laps to go, Red Bull KTM Tech 3 suffered a double blow at Turn 1. Öncü and Sasaki were both down after contact, Öncü unable to get his KTM slowed down enough and the unfortunate Sasaki was hit from behind. A perplexed-looking Sasaki was thankfully up on his feet, with Öncü – who was conscious – being carried off on a stretcher after a heavy tumble.
This split the group at the front. A lead four of Arbolino, Ogura, McPhee and Vietti had a slight gap to Championship leader Arenas. With three laps left, it was all to play for, with Arbolino still holding firm at the front. And with two laps to go, Arbolino and Vietti emerged with a significant gap to the others. It was Italy vs Italy in Styria.
On the penultimate lap at Turn 9, the title race took another twist. McPhee was down after looking so strong throughout the race, with little over a lap remaining at the Red Bull Ring. Up front, taking the bull by the horns was Vietti. It was last lap time and Vietti was leading and – crucially – the KTM rider held P1 down the long stretch between Turn 1 and Turn 3. Arbolino was close though and through Sector 3 and rising over the brow of the hill, the Honda rider showed a wheel to Vietti.
But braking late, Vietti kept the lead into Turn 9 as the last corner approached. Vietti was again a demon on the brakes as Arbolino almost lost the front, allowing Vietti a clear run to the line to claim his first Moto3™ victory. What a win for the Italian, who thankfully went for a more conventional bubbly spray on the podium after Jerez’s antics, with Arbolino’s mistake at the final corner not costing the long-time race leader second. A cracking final lap saw Ogura pick up another podium in 2020 to hunt down Arenas in the Championship standings.
From pole, Rodrigo picked up an important P4 in Styria, his best result of the season. There was no double Red Bull Ring victory for Arenas, however the Spaniard collected crucial points in the Championship. His lead now sits at 25 over Ogura, that gap cut by three points, with McPhee falling to 39 back. Binder crossed the line in sixth to claim two P6s at the Red Bull Ring, as Suzuki finished just 0.038 behind the South African in seventh – the Japanese rider loses P4 in the Championship, he now sits sixth as Vietti and Arbolino leapfrog the SIC58 rider.
Fernandez continued his point-scoring streak with a solid 8th place finish, the Spaniard had a lonely last couple of laps to finish 4.2 off the win. Nearly three seconds behind Fernandez was Stefano Nepa (Valresa Aspar Team) in ninth – his second top 10 of the year. Completing the top 10 was Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Sergio Garcia.
Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), Maximillian Kofler (CIP Green Power) and Riccardo Rossi (BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy) were the other crashers in Spielberg.
Another belting Moto3™ race in the Styrian hills then, as the hard-earned two-week break now awaits the lightweight class before another tripleheader. Arenas still holds a significant advantage in the standings, with McPhee suffering his second DNF of the season. More curveballs will be in store at Misano, bring it on!
1. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46)
2. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) + 0.410
3. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) + 0.938
4. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 1.182
5. Albert Arenas (Valresa Aspar Team) + 1.380
6. Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) + 1.440
7. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) + 1.478
8. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 4.265
9. Stefano Nepa (Valresa Aspar Team) + 6.937
10. Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) + 8.050
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