Honda’s chief Moto3 World Championship challenger Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) preserved his title challenge with a storming ride to second from a distant 17th in a typically fearsome Moto3 race, just a fraction behind points leader Aron Canet.
Pole starter Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW) was in contention for the win throughout, finally crossing the line third, two tenths behind Canet and some five hundredths behind Dalla Porta.
Second qualifier John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) inadvertently activated his pit-lane speed-limiter at the start, which had his crawling off the line. Riders behind swerved either side, but Grand Prix first-timer Yuki Kunii (Asia Talent Team Honda NSV250RW) couldn’t see McPhee until it was too late. He crashed into the slow-moving bike and rider, suffering fractures to his right hand. McPhee made it round to the pits to retire, with a painful but not serious leg injury.
Third qualifier Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) had already stalled on the formation grid and had to start the race from pit lane, because he had been unable to restart the engine within the time limit. A brilliant and forceful ride had the Italian youngster cut through the 30-strong pack to contest the lead, finally finishing less than half-a-second from first place in fifth. Antonelli had already survived a heavy crash in morning warm-up.
The race saw the usual huge lead group, still 16-strong at half distance, exchanging places at almost every corner. At that point, the difference between first and 16th was less than two seconds.
By the end, the usual attrition had cut the group to ten, with 18-year-old Tokyo-born rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) finishing an excellent sixth, from ninth on the grid. This was the impressive teenager’s third sixth-place finish from the past four races; and he was seventh at the other race.
Today’s ten-point haul moves Ogura past team-mate Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) in the points chase to tenth overall. Qatar GP winner Toba had started from the fourth row of the grid and the 19-year-old from Fukuoka was well placed in the top ten, but suffered another crash.
Early leader Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW) finished a close eighth, with Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) taking 11th , heading the next group.
While Canet regained the championship lead by three points from Dalla Porta, Honda are still strongly represented, holding from second to fourth overall, with five riders in the top seven.
After one day of MotoGP class testing at the circuit tomorrow, the GP circus crosses the border to Austria, where the second back-to-back race of the European season takes place at the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg next Sunday, August 11.