Catch him if you can! Masia seizes control of Moto3™ title race

The Leopard Racing rider made it two wins on the trot and became outright Championship leader after a thrilling lightweight class race at Motegi

Moto3™’s man of the moment Jaume Masia continues to shine on track as he claimed victory at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, and the outright Championship lead in an epic lightweight class race. The Leopard Racing rider kept his cool amid some Motegi mayhem for victory as title rivals Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) and Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) joined him on the podium.

Masia has been the form rider in recent weeks and it was the case again at Round 14, with the Spaniard launching from pole position ahead of Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Matteo Bertelle (Rivacold Snipers Team).

Despite displaying the best pace all weekend, Masia’s start was average at best as Öncü took the holeshot, while Holgado fired himself into second from P6 on the grid, with Stefan Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team) into third ahead of the poleman by the opening corner. Sasaki was in sixth, but wasted little time in going about his business as he progressed up the places.

As we clocked off the opening lap, Öncü was setting a hot pace out front with Holgado in his wake. Masia and Sasaki took note and quickly dispatched of Nepa and set about closing the half second advantage held by the top two.

They came over the start/ finish line once more, and Masia was .774s behind the race leader Öncü in what was proving a rather settled Moto3™ race at Motegi, but we didn’t need to wait long for some fireworks. Sasaki upped the ante by setting a new all time fastest race lap at Motegi with a 1:57.064, and he then took P3 off the hands of Masia.

As riders jostled for position a little further down the pecking order, a lead quartet formed out front. Öncü still leading ahead of Holgado, with Sasaki and Masia slotting in behind as we began the fifth lap. Sasaki though was still lapping faster than the two ahead of him and he began to show a wheel to Holgado. It was only a matter of time before he edged ahead of the rider who was Championship leader coming into this one, and that move came at Turn 11. Things got worse for Holgado, as Masia then relegated him to the back of the lead group at Turn 3.

Masia was on the move, a couple of corners later getting past Sasaki before Öncü encountered his first challenge for the lead at the beginning of Lap 7 at T1. The Turk was unable to resist, and we had a new race leader in the form of Jaume Masia, while Sasaki also got the better of the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider for P2, and it was all change at the front.

Lap 9 saw Öncü fight back for second, but he couldn’t hold onto the advantage as Sasaki reclaimed the position. Two laps later, and you could not avert your eyes from a compelling lightweight class race. Öncü and Sasaki went elbow-to-elbow and almost collided, as Holgado struck into Turn 1 with an excellent overtake for P2, but then Sasaki pulled off a sensational double overtake at Turn 3 and 4 to regain second.

It all played brilliantly into the hands of Masia as opened up a gap and the chasing trio needed to settle down if they didn’t want to let him escape, but Öncü missed the memo and moved again for second place, but the Turk was on the ragged edge and paid the price just a few corners later; sliding out of action and into the gravel at Turn 9.

With his main title rivals in that lead group, it’s crucial Championship points that have gone begging for Öncü. The drama wasn’t over yet, as Holgado and Sasaki made contact but both managed to stay upright. After the blink-and-you-miss-it drama, Masia held a one second advantage out front with Sasaki second and Holgado third.

That’s how it stayed until the final corners of the race, when Holgado staked a late claim for second as they went into Turn 11 for the final time, diving up the inside hometown favourite Sasaki, but the Spaniard was out of the seat coming onto the front straight and lost all drive, allowing the Japanese rider to steal back second on the line.

Ahead of them, Masia cruised to the chequered flag to make it two wins in a row and, more importantly, make it 90 points taken from the last 100 available to become the outright Championship leader, with Sasaki up to second and Holgado dropping to third.

Teammates Stefano Nepa and Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team) came over the line fourth and fifth, while David Alonso (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) salvaged nine points from a difficult race as he crossed the line behind David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports). Those two led a large gaggle of riders over the line, with Kaito Toba (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Ryusei Yamanaka, (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team), Jose Antonio Rueda (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Collin Veijer (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP), Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia), Riccardo Rossi (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) next over the line, while Joel Kelso (CFMoto Racing Pruestel GP) completed the point scorers.

All roads now lead to Mandalika, where surely some more twists and turns in this thrilling title race await. The Pertamaina Grand Prix of Indonesia gets underway on October 13th. Make sure you join us then!

Top 10:


Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing)



Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP)



Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3)



Stefano Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team)



Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team)



David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports)



David Alonso (GASGAS Aspar Team)



Kaito Toba (SIC58 Squadra Corse)



Ryusei Yamanaka (GASGAS Aspar Team)



Jose Rueda (Red Bull KTM Ajo)




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