The European GP roulette game started with the lightweight class racing on mostly dry asphalt for the first time this weekend and the odd damp patch caught out some high profile names in the championship battle. The man who benefitted most from the unexpected drama was Raul Fernandez, the Spaniard securing a long awaited maiden after dominating in Valencia. Home favourite Sergio Garcia climbs on the second step of the podium for the first time this season, holding off Ai Ogura while refusing him the championship lead at the end of 23 tense laps.
The start told a somewhat different story, with Celestino Vietti making a fine launch from the front row, ahead of Alonso Lopez, Fernandez and Albert Arenas, while poleman John McPhee got swallowed by the group and dropped to the bottom of the top ten by the end of lap 1. Meanwhile, Tony Arbolino joined the top ten having started 17th and Jaume Masia was slow to make progress from 28th on the grid.
Lopez and Fernandez were quick to challenge Vietti for the lead but the first serving of drama came on the second lap, when Vietti highsided out of contention out of turn 4 and took Lopez out with him. Arenas narrowly escaped the incident but got hit by Lopez’s machine and quickly faded through the field before returning to the pits by the end of lap 2. Once his machine was mended, the Spaniard rejoined the action but it was a tough ask to get any points out of it.
Fernandez benefitted from the drama behind him, which handed him a gap of over two seconds at the front. Meanwhile, Ogura had made solid progress from 8th on the grid and was leading the pursuit of the Spaniard but the likes of Arbolino and Darryn Binder wanted a say as well. Ogura’s day kept getting better as another championship contender took himself out of the race on lap 5, when McPhee highsided at turn 1 from within the top ten. With Masia still not in point scoring positions, it was all down to Ogura to decide the championship lead heading into the penultimate race.
Fernandez was untroubled at the front, rarely dropping under two and a half seconds from the chasing pack led by Arbolino and including Garcia, Ogura, Binder and Carlos Tatay. A sizeable third group with the likes of Riccardo Rossi and Gabriel Rodrigo was another two seconds down the road but did not seem like they would be threatening podium positions. Masia got a track limits warning on lap 7 and was then stuck in 16th place for a very long time, until a highside on lap 10 pretty much removed him from title contention as well.
Fernandez did not get much airtime while comfortably ahead of the field and all eyes were on the chasing group, where Arbolino, Ogura, Garcia and Binder saw Arenas mixing it up in the battle for second, although he was several laps down on his rivals. The Spaniard failed to respect the blue flag to allow Binder past and the black flag promptly came out to call him back into the pits with his head hanging in shame. While all that was unfolding, Binder and Tatay had lost touch with the podium battle for the final ten laps, leaving Arbolino, Garcia and Ogura to decide who was second best to Fernandez. Fully aware that he needed second to claim the championship lead, the Japanese rider bided his time before making his move.
The gap to Fernandez reduced to under two seconds for the first time with seven laps remaining, but it was too little too late to make a difference for the victory. Arbolino continued to front the chase but Ogura started attacking Garcia with six laps remaining and the exchanges and mistakes over the next couple of laps dropped them a couple tenths behind Arbolino. A twitch for Ogura with three laps remaining slowed his charge a little bit until the final lap. Garcia started the final lap ahead of Arbolino courtesy of a slipstream into turn 1 and Ogura quickly took advantage to get past the Italian at turn 6 but Garcia was a step too far. Garcia eventually crossed the finish line only seven tenths behind maiden winner Fernandez, while Ogura had to settle for third, with Arbolino unlucky to miss out on the podium by three hundredths of a second. Binder overtook Tatay for fifth place on the final lap, with Stefano Nepa at the front of the next group down the road, ahead of Jeremy Alcoba, Filip Salac and Ayumu Sasaki, who completed the top ten.
Ogura missed the opportunity to lead the championship battle but comes within three points of Arenas, with Vietti 20 points down and Arbolino getting closer, 23 points behind the leader and one ahead of Masia.
|22||89||Khairul Idham Pawi||Honda||+31.661|
|23||Niccolò Antonelli||Honda||7 Laps|
|27||Kaito Toba||KTM||7 Laps|
|24||Tatsuki Suzuki||Honda||10 Laps|
|7||Dennis Foggia||Honda||10 Laps|
|5||Jaume Masia||Honda||14 Laps|
|17||John Mcphee||Honda||19 Laps|
|21||Alonso Lopez||Husqvarna||21 Laps|
|75||Albert Arenas||KTM||0 Lap|