McPhee victorious as Arenas crashes in Misano thriller

The flying Scotsman wins from 17th on the grid as the Moto3™ title race takes a huge twist in San Marino

In the 150th Moto3™ Grand Prix, John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) produced the ride of his life to emerge victorious from another magnificent and dramatic Moto3™ barnstormer. Polesitter Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) picked up another podium finish in P2 at the Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, with 2019 race winner Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) crossing the line P3. On the penultimate lap, Championship leader Albert Arenas (Pull&Bear Aspar Team Moto3) crashed out of the leading group, seeing his advantage slashed.

Ogura got the launch he would have been looking for from pole position but Suzuki clean and aggressive from the start, taking the lead at Turn 2 after starting third. There was big drama from the off in the Moto3™ race moments later as three riders hit the deck at Turn 4. Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) tucked the front and took out Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), with Styrian GP winner Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) unable to avoid crashing as three leading contenders were out on Lap 1. Fernandez headed to the medical centre for a check-up.

Back at the front, Suzuki was holding firm at the front but Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) was making moves in the early stages. The Argentinian took the lead into Turn 13 on Suzuki with Ogura following through, but Suzuki bit straight back on the polesitter. On Lap 4, 1.8 seconds covered the top 14 as a lightweight class freight train formed at Misano, with Rodrigo at the front.

Having started P19, CIP Green Power’s Darryn Binder was producing the goods on race day again. The South African was up the inside of Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) at Turn 4 on Lap 5, and Binder was soon fourth later round the lap. But this was a proper gaggle, there wasn’t a breakaway happening – Ryusei Yamanaka (Estrella Galicia 0,0) set the fastest lap of the race down in P21 with three seconds covering the leading 21 riders. On Lap 8, Binder took the lead but Rodrigo bit straight back at Turn 10, with the positions changing constantly at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.

Binder was again getting busy and there was slight contact at Turn 2 with the KTM rider and Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team). Binder was on the outside and Arbolino tried to make a move up the inside, but Binder closed the door. It wasn’t much contact, but enough to see Arbolino lose a couple of places. Binder then led but Rodrigo, looking mighty in Misano, didn’t let the South African have the baton for long, with the two Leopard Racing machines on Dennis Foggia and Jaume Masia getting the better of Suzuki who felt the wrath of Binder at Turn 5.

After starting from a season’s worst qualifying in P13, Arenas was now rising to the fore. The Championship leader was up to third with nine laps to go, with drama then unfolding. Binder was down on the exit of Turn 6 as he lost the rear of his KTM on the curb. Luckily, no one collected the South African with Foggia almost going down too right behind Binder – the latter remounted but that was his race over.

Title frontrunners were now starting to strut their stuff after quiet races. Arenas, Ogura and McPhee – who started P17 – were into the top six with seven laps to go, but the gaggle of riders that were line astern was still 19, down to Barry Baltus (CarXpert PrüstelGP). Suzuki was back in the lead but again, Rodrigo didn’t hang around getting back up front as the Gresini rider dipped underneath Suzuki at Turn 4.

With five to go, McPhee was making his move. The Scotsman was up to second at Turn 4 and then showed a wheel to Rodrigo down into Turn 8, but the latter was good on the brakes. Masia then got McPhee back at Turn 10 before carving past Rodrigo through Turn 11 to take the lead – it was starting the get very tasty. McPhee, with four laps to go, made a great move at the final corner to lead as there were just three laps left on the clock now.

Thought you’d seen enough drama in one race? Well, more was about to unfold – and it was the biggest of them all. After being ran wide by Arbolino at Turn 2, Arenas crashed at Turn 3. The Championship leader’s race was over with just over two laps to go, with second and third in the standings – McPhee and Ogura – looking strong at the front. That was just after McPhee had a front-end moment at Turn 1 as his Honda hit one of the ripples, with Masia leading again.

And it was Masia who led onto the last lap, closely followed by McPhee, but Rodrigo was up to second at Turn 2. Suzuki then tried his luck around the outside of McPhee at Turn 4 and 5 – and it worked. Heading down the back straight though, it was elbows out – it couldn’t get much closer. There was contact between Masia and Rodrigo, with McPhee getting a clean run and taking the lead into Turn 8, with Ogura taking profit up the inside. Ogura, on the wide line, was then passed by Suzuki heading into the back straight as McPhee led the way.

The number 17 held his advantage down the back straight and then hugged the inside line to allow Ogura – who had passed Suzuki again – up the inside. Coming around the last sector, McPhee made no mistake and despite the best efforts of Ogura, McPhee crossed the line in P1 for the first time since Le Mans 2019. Ogura was just 0.037 off the win as the two title contenders took full advantage of Arenas’ misfortunes, Suzuki takes a SIC58 podium on the track named after the late, great SuperSic 58 – Marco Simoncelli. Ogura and Suzuki make it two Japanese riders on the lightweight podium together for the first time since Welkom 2001.

Rookie Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) earned his best result of the season with a fantastic P4 result at Misano, he got the better of teammate Rodrigo on the last lap as the Argentinian got shuffled back. Arbolino took a valuable top six on home soil behind Rodrigo, with Masia having to settle for P7 after getting a little bit beaten up on the last lap. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) picks up his best result of the season in P8, just ahead of Foggia and Migno who complete the top 10.

Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Alonso Lopez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) crashed out together at Turn 8 in the lead group – riders ok.

The Moto3™ title race takes another titanic twist. Ogura is now just five points behind Arenas in the standings, with McPhee now only 14 adrift – exciting enough? You bet! The lightweight class riders return to Misano next weekend, can Arenas bounce back?

Top 10:
1. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing)
2. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) + 0.037
3. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) + 0.232
4. Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 0.393
5. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 0.490
6. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) + 0.543
7. Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) + 0.833
8. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) + 0.928
9. Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) + 0.976
10. Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 1.121

Click here for the full results!

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