Honda NSF250RW team-mates Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) and Tatsuki Suzuki (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) scored a superb one-two in today’s breath-taking Moto3 race, which had the first five riders pass the chequered flag covered by just half a second.
This was 23-year-old Italian Antonelli’s first Grand Prix victory since he won the 2016 Qatar GP, also on Honda machinery. His fourth career GP success moves him to second in the 2019 World Championship, just one point behind Aaron Canet.
Suzuki did much of the leading in a typically frantic Moto3 encounter, in which all 15 points scores were separated by just two seconds at half-distance! The lead changed multiple times, often several times a lap, with the pack jostling for position behind. Finally Antonelli bettered his team-mate on the last lap, the 21-year-old from Chiba crossed the finish line 0.242 seconds behind his team-mate for his first GP podium.
The one-two achievement was particularly emotional for team owner Paolo Simoncelli, father of the late, great Marco Simoncelli, who won his first Grand Prix victory 15 years ago, here at Jerez, in the 125cc class.
Two other Honda team-mates also had a remarkable race. Qatar Grand Prix winner Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) and Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) finished sixth and ninth, after starting from 24th and 20th on the grid.
Toba’s race was particularly sensational. The 19-year-old Fukuoka rider’s grid position was the result of a tumble during qualifying, so he spent the entire 22 laps carving his way past other riders to cross the line 1.1 seconds behind the winner. The fact that he completed the first lap in 24th place and after six laps was still 6.6 seconds behind the race leader proves that he would have been in the fight for victory once again, if he hadn’t slid off yesterday afternoon. Today’s result – his third top ten from four races – moved him into fourth place in the championship.
Rookie Ogura also rode brilliantly, fighting his way past numerous rivals to score his first top-ten result in fine style. The 18-year-old from Tokyo was 19th after the first lap and finished the race one tenth of a second behind eighth-placed Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), who started from pole for the first time in his career and was one of the strongest riders in the race, until a collision with a rival damaged his machine’s clutch.
Three other Honda riders scored points: John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) in 12th, Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) in 14th and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) in 15th.
MotoGP continues the European sector of the championship with the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, on May 19.