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After becoming the 100th different Grand Prix winner for Honda last weekend, Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) handed the Japanese manufacturer their 800th Grand Prix win with a pitch-perfect performance at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel. The Spaniard grabbed the win at the penultimate corner to cross the line ahead of Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) as the Japanese rider secures his maiden Moto3™ rostrum. Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) bags his first podium of 2020 with a P3 as Championship leader Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team Moto3) gets shuffled back to P4 on the last lap – but he extends his title lead.
It was Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) who launched well from the front row to get himself in prime position heading into Turn 1. Polesitter Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) went in deep to enable him to have the inside line heading into the Turn 2 right-hander as Fernandez, Arbolino and Arenas got a little too close for comfort after the opening corner, with Fernandez holding firm to lead on the opening lap. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) also got away well from the front row and was P2, with Arbolino getting shuffled back to P4 as the scrapping started straight away in the Moto3™ class.
As is always the case in the lightweight class, the leading positions were ever-changing. Down the back straight it was slipstream city as Fernandez slipped from P1 to P3, but on two consecutive laps the Spaniard bit straight back at Turn 1. Fernandez, Arenas, Vietti and Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) all took turns leading on the opening handful of laps, with Fernandez on Lap 5 getting a bit beaten up heading into Turn 1 – the Aragon GP podium man was shuffled down to P10. Arenas then took to lead on Lap 6 as Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) did his usual Sunday morning routine of fighting his way through the pack, the South African was up to P2.
For the next few laps, Arenas was holding firm at the front as the top 26 riders were all line astern. It really was a Moto3™ freight train at MotorLand. However, Arenas was looking formidable and even when the chasing pack was in the slipstream, no one could get past him down the straight but the title chase leader wasn’t getting away. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) had a heart in your mouth moment on Lap 10 coming over the brow of the hill, the Scotsman was making solid progress in the top 10 but slipped back down to P11.
With nine laps to go, Toba tried to take the lead away from Arenas. Turn 1 was the Japanese rider’s chosen place, but he was slightly wide. Arenas was aggressive on the switchback into Turn 2 and held P1, as Toba lost momentum and slipped from a potential race lead to P6 in a matter of three corners. Arenas really was looking awesome out front as Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) came to play from 28th on the grid, but despite the best efforts of Masia, Arenas didn’t want to give up P1.
Masia was using the Honda grunt down the back straight but Arenas kept biting back at Turn 1. The Aspar rider was supreme on the brakes and was riding like a man possessed, but Masia wasn’t allowing him to get away. After his moment, McPhee was back in the hunt for victory and was up to P4 and with three laps remaining, a battle royale kicked into overdrive. Masia made a move stick at Turn 1 on Arenas but the latter was back through at Turn 7. Toba was up the inside of both Binder and McPhee but the Petronas rider was back into third through Turn 10, with Masia aiming to get Arenas down the back straight.
However, Arenas continued to get a great run down the 1km straight. With two laps to go, Masia got payback at Turn 7 to grab the lead. Masia then found himself P3 though as both Arenas and McPhee carved past at Turn 12, but Masia got McPhee back down the straight. Arenas led onto the last lap but Masia forced his way through at Turn 1, with Toba making McPhee’s life difficult just behind. Sasaki followed his compatriot through on McPhee as Sasaki eyed his maiden Grand Prix podium. Arenas, on the other hand, was eying another win. Turn 7 saw Arenas squeeze past Masia once more as Vietti made his way up to P4 – the title challenger seeing Arenas at the front.
Turn 9 saw Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Garcia crash on the last lap, with Arenas braking late at Turn 12 to shut the door on Masia. So, it was all down the back straight. Could Arenas hold it? Once more he got a great run out of Turn 15 but Masia was reeling him in. The two KTMs of Toba and Sasaki were tucked in behind Masia’s Honda and heading into the braking zone, all three soared past Arenas. The latter was out of shape on entry as Masia stole the lead with two corners to go. Toba was second but ran slightly wide, allowing Sasaki to power through into P2. Masia got the power down and took the chequered flag in P1, Sasaki grabbed P2 as Toba held off Arenas for his first podium of 2020. Arenas slipped to P4 in the last two corners but crucially, he beats the likes of Vietti and Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia).
5th place went the way of Vietti who finishes just three tenths off the win, McPhee too finishes three tenths away and takes P6 after feeling the wrath of Toba on the final lap. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) rode superbly to pick up P7, Binder suffered in the final couple of laps to finish P8 as Ogura crossed the line P9. The Japanese rider was less than a second away from the win but he loses more ground in the fight for the title. Arbolino picks up P10, 2.259 seconds adrift from the win as the Suzuki-Garcia crash splits the pack on the final lap.
Another rip-roaring Moto3™ race goes down to the wire, with Masia making history for the second weekend in a row. What does all this mean for the Championship? Well, Arenas extends his advantage to 19 points over Ogura with three races to go. Vietti is 20 points behind Arenas with Masia now right in the hunt, 24 points split the double Aragon race winner and Arenas heading into the two Valencia and Portimao rounds. Game on!
1. Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing)
2. Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 0.051
3. Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.152
4. Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team Moto3) + 0.296
5. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.331
6. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 0.372
7. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 0.583
8. Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) + 0.772
9. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) + 0.955
10. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) + 2.259
3 years ago