MotoGP Motegi: Ogura delights at home in Moto2

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Ai Ogura became the first Japanese winner on home soil in 16 years after a dramatic Moto2 race at Motegi.

A stellar fightback from 13th on the grid saw the championship challenger 1.1 seconds clear of Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Augusto Fernandez after 22 laps of Honda’s home track on Sunday, the pair now just two points apart, in reverse order, in the standings with four races left to run. CAG Speed Up’s Alonso Lopez completed the podium celebrations with Britain’s Jake Dixon fourth.

The intermediate action saw Elf Marc VDS’ Sam Lowes out of the proceedings as his recovery from injury continues, VR46 Master Camp’s Manuel Gonzales also withdrawn due to a shoulder injury sustained on Saturday.

Flexbox HP40’s Aron Canet headed the grid alongside CAG Speed Up’s Fermin Aldeguer and Inde GasGas Aspar’s Dixon with championship leader Fernandez down in 11th and title-rival Ogura starting his and Honda’s home race further back, in 13th.

Canet maintained control as the pack released with Idemitsu Honda’s Somkiat Chantra straight up to third. Dixon dropped back to seventh after a storming start from Ogura while Marc VDS’ Tony Arbolino and American Racing’s Cameron Beaubier battled for fourth.

Canet and Aldeguer checked out with Chantra a second behind the leading pair by the start of lap two. Ogura continued his charge as he claimed fifth from Beaubier with Lopez through on Dixon behind.

Fernandez was into the top ten and running ninth next time around as Ogura tagged onto his teammate with podium contention in his sights after the fastest lap of the race so far. A crash for Aldeguer providing the promotion before Arbolino took his shot for third at turn nine.

Beaubier was going backwards as Fernandez advanced to seventh. Dixon the next in his sights and quickly dispatched before the Brit hit back.

Canet’s run came to an early end with a turn nine crash after a dominant lead, Chantra released into clear air with a half-second buffer from Arbolino and Lopez with Ogura threatening from fourth. The Marc VDS rider dropped from second to fourth as lap five completed.

Mooney VR46’s Celestino Vietti’s difficult weekend continued as the Italian circulated in the final points position. KTM rookie Pedro Acosta heading Flexbox’s Jorge Navarro and Gresini’s Filip Salac to round out the top ten with Dixon defending hard from the approaching Fernandez in fifth.

Alessandro Zaccone was the next to fall on the second Gresini as Acosta dispatched Beaubier for seventh. A mistake for Chantra finding the Thai rider in third as Lopez took charge out front while Vietti succumbed to the 4.8km layout with his title-fight in the dust at turn one.

Arbolino was back in podium contention by lap nine as Fernandez finally found a way through on Dixon for fifth. Albert Arenas into the top ten on the second Aspar with Salac and Italtrans’ Joe Roberts trailing behind.

Chantra continued to fade as Fernandez capitalised on lap ten. A second now separating the series leader from the podium as he immediately picked up pace. Lopez faltering slightly as he saved a mistake next time around with Ogura quickly homing in on the lead.

Fernandez captured Arbolino as Dixon did likewise on Chantra as lap 12 concluded. The Brit up to fourth at the expense of the Italian as Arbolino dropped from third to fifth in quick succession with Chantra the next to capitalise.

Ogura and Lopez battled hard for the lead with ten to go. The home talent taking control as the lap concluded with the duo inseparable down the start-finish straight before the Honda pulled a three-tenth gap.

The dominance continued as Ogura circulated seven tenths clear with eighth to go. Fernandez on the wheels of Lopez as he struggled to find a way through, the battle providing his rival the opportunity to break free as the gap extended to almost two seconds. Success coming at turn five as Fernandez finally claimed second.

Niccolo Antonelli completed another disastrous day for the VR46 team with a turn one crash while Canet endured his second of the race from the back of the pack. Dixon beginning to reel in the podium trio with just half a second to bridge to Lopez in third and five laps to go.

Ogura and Fernandez began to swap fastest laps as the race counted down. The pair 1.5 seconds adrift of each other as the Japanese rider dug deep, the first home victory in 16 years on the cards at Motegi as the blistering pace sat in the high 1’50’s.

Two to go and the championship standings stood at just two points between the pair. Navarro the next to crash as the action continued. SAG’s Bo Bendsneyder and Salac dispatching Beaubier to 11th as Jeremy Alcoba added his name to the crash list in the final lap.

Ogura secured the first Japanese victory on home soil since team boss Hiroshi Aoyama in 2006 with Fernandez just over a second back for the runner-up position. Lopez completed the podium from Dixon, Chantra and Arbolino with Acosta denied a late-race charge by three-tenths at the flag.

Arenas, Bendsneyder and Salac headed American duo Beaubier and Roberts in the top 12 with Marcel Schrotter, Barry Baltus and Lorenzo Dalla Porta completing the points finishers.

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