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A first victory of the 2020 season simply couldn’t have come at a better time for Rivacold Snipers Team’s Tony Arbolino, the Italian emerged victorious from 13th on the grid at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana to see him stay in Moto3™ title contention heading to Portimao. Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) were on the podium again in Valencia as Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) finishes P4 to stretch his advantage to eight points over Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) – the Japanese rider finishing P8.
It was Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) who got the best launch off the front row and immediately took the lead heading into Turn 1, but Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) grabbed the lead back heading into Turn 2 as Arenas made a good start – he was P4 behind compatriot Fernandez. Fernandez then led the race at Turn 7 and later on in the lap, a flying Arbolino was into the podium scrap from the fifth row.
Lap 2 then saw drama unfold. Toba highsided out on the exit of Turn 5, Binder did well to take avoiding action but there was nothing Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) could do. The two Japanese riders were down as Suzuki hit Toba’s stricken KTM. This, in an almost carbon copy of last Sunday, saw Fernandez have a healthy advantage at the front. The Spaniard was over a second clear of Arbolino on Lap 3 as Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing), Arenas and a whole bunch of other riders followed.
Celestino Vietti’s (SKY Racing Team VR46) title charge was then over. The Italian crashed at Turn 11 from the chasing pack and despite remounting, that was all she wrote for the rider third in the Championship chase before today. In the early stages, Ogura was sitting P9 behind Vietti’s teammate Andrea Migno, Arenas was boxing just up the road with the likes of Binder, Masia, Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Garcia.
On Lap 6, Fernandez’ lead was up a couple of tenths to 1.7 seconds as Arbolino remained the rider to lead the chase, polesitter Binder was tucked up behind the Honda rider. Arenas, despite having a title on the line, wasn’t looking nervous as both he and fastest man on circuit Garcia carved their way past Binder. Migno, Ogura and Masia were being cut adrift of the battle for second place, not good news for Ogura who could see Arenas – and the others – starting to break away from him.
On Lap 8, after making phenomenal progress from way down on the grid, Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Alonso Lopez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) were down at the final corner, riders ok, as Fernandez’ gap at the front was back up to 1.8 seconds having seen it drop to 1.4 seconds. The three-rider gaggle of Migno, Ogura and Masia were a second back on Binder’s rear wheel, the South African was at the back of the five-rider scrap who had their eyes pinned on Fernandez.
1.6 seconds was then the gap with 11 laps left on the clock. The riders in the battle for second weren’t chopping and changing in the mid-stage of the race, a good tactic for now, with Masia then getting the better of Ogura eventually. Migno, Masia and Ogura still weren’t attaching themselves onto the back of Binder and the group ahead, and they were dropping. That was 1.6 seconds too as Masia finally got the better of Migno, with Ogura then following through at Turn 4 with 10 laps to go. Something had to come from Masia and Ogura now, the gap was two seconds and Arenas was still in that fight.
Fernandez’ lead with 10 to go was 1.4 seconds, it was coming down ever so slightly. Masia then made a small mistake at Turn 11 and it was now Ogura who led the trio, with Öncü mixing it with Arenas at Turn 2 – the Championship leader bit straight back though. Nine laps to go and Arbolino had cut Fernandez’ gap to 1.2 seconds now, it was starting to heat up nicely in Valencia. With eight laps left, Arbolino was now within a second of Fernandez; Arenas, Binder and Öncü were just dropping back slightly from Arbolino and Garcia. Ogura was now nearly four seconds behind the chase now, unless something drastic happened, Ogura wasn’t going to challenge Arenas in the race.
Arenas, Öncü and Binder were now over a second behind Garcia, but at the front, Garcia and Arbolino had reeled in Fernandez. The gap was now nothing and Arbolino knew that this was huge for the Championship. As things stood with Arbolino P2 and Arenas P4, the gap between them was 16 points heading into the final race. And at this stage, Arenas, Öncü and Binder were 1.5 seconds away from the podium fight and it looked like it was Fernandez vs Arbolino vs Garcia for the 25 points. Incidentally, Fernandez – with a win and Arenas 4th – would sit 27 points off. If something happened to Arenas, Fernandez was still a title contender.
Garcia then made his move. The Spaniard was up to P2 at Turn 2 to shove Arbolino down to P3 – this was critical in the Championship. A few big laps were coming for the Italian and he was back through on Garcia at the final corner, before Garcia drafted him down the straight but Arbolino held it into Turn 1. Arenas still had Öncü climbing all over his back wheel, Binder was patiently waiting just behind the Turkish rider.
So, two laps to go. And it was time for a change of the lead! Arbolino was through at Turn 1 after using his Honda grunt down the straight and this was vital for Arbolino in the title chase. Öncü was well wide at Turn 1 to allow Binder through, Arenas was still sitting P4, 1.6 seconds back from the podium fight. Garcia was now all over Fernandez as the riders crossed the line for the last lap, a monumental lap was coming up as Öncü bit back on Binder.
Garcia then attempted a move on Fernandez at Turn 2 but Fernandez held station. This slowed the Spaniards up and allowed Arbolino to have a healthy gap, which proved to be unassailable. Garcia went for it again and at Turn 6, the Estrella Galicia 0,0 bike was through as contact was made between Garcia and Fernandez down the back straight, Fernandez getting back past at Turn 8. Just behind at Turn 8, Binder made a move on Arenas but the Championship leader held it – pivotal. Arbolino wasn’t going to be beaten but Garcia was determined the earn P2, and he made a move stick at Turn 12.
Fernandez tried at the last corner and it was almightily close between the Spaniards, but Garcia held it. Further up the road, Arbolino flashed across the line to take the chequered flag in a fantastic P1 to close the gap to Arenas – 11 points between the pair. What a time to take his first win since the 2019 Dutch GP. Behind Garcia and Fernandez, Arenas weathered the Binder and Öncü storm to pick up a crucial P4. The Spaniard will take an eight-point lead into the final race and the advantage is his. Binder finished P5 ahead of Öncü as another critical battle unfolded behind. Migno won the three-rider scrap between Ogura and Masia, Ogura missing out on P7 by 0.016 seconds and holds P8 by just 0.012 seconds – that could prove to be the difference in seven days’ time.
Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) completed the top 10, just ahead of John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) whose slim hopes of a World title are now over. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Stefan Nepa (Gaviota Aspar Team) and Ryusei Yamanaka (Estrella Galicia 0,0) completed the points as three riders head into Portimao with a shot at the title.
Arenas, Ogura, Arbolino. After Vietti’s crash and subsequent no score, these are the three riders who head to Portugal ready to lift the Moto3™ World Championship. Arenas has an eight-point lead over Ogura, Arbolino is 11 points off Arenas. It’s all to play for in seven days’ time in the lightweight class, what a weekend we have in store.
1. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team)
2. Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) + 1.142
3. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 1.297
4. Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) + 2.825
5. Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) + 2.999
6. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 3.208
7. Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 9.836
8. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) + 9.852
9. Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) + 9.864
10. Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 12.802
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