Enea Bastianini beat Brad Binder to the Moto3 win at Motegi after a last lap scrap while a delighted Hiroki Ono finished third in front of his home crowd.
The Gresini Racing Moto3 rider rode a clever and careful race to keep himself in touch with the recently crowned champion for the whole race, leading up to the last lap move which would clinch him the win.
At the start, polesitter Andrea Migno on the SKY Racing Team VR46 machine got a strong start, grabbing the hole shot and leading the pack into the first corner, as Red Bull KTM Ajo man Binder slotted into second.
But disaster struck seconds later as Jorge Navarro lost his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda in the first corner and crashed out, skittling both Britain’s John McPhee and Gabriel Rodrigo into the gravel and out of the race.
While McPhee escaped uninjured, Navarro was reported to have dislocated his shoulder while Rodrigo was still being assessed by medics.
Moments later a mistake by Migno was all Binder needed to capitalise and move into the lead, followed by Bastianini and Bagnaia, who had appeared almost from nowhere having charged through the field from 13th to third in half a dozen corners aboard his Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra.
Binder led Bastianini into the second lap and this was to become the shape of how the next 19 laps would pan out. Although the South African built himself a bit of gap by just over half distance, Bastianini was never far behind.
Just slightly back, Migno was determined not to lose out having inherited pole from a penalised Ono yesterday, and after an early battle with Bagnaia, spent much of the 20-lap race scrapping with the Japanese rider.
With three laps to go it became clear Bastianini was finally starting to threaten leader Binder, and it all pointed to a last lap showdown, while Migno sneaked past Ono to take third.
Binder and Bastianini had gapped the rest, and now the Italian was all over the back of the new champ, piling on the pressure.
And it all came down to a last lap move, as Bastianini sized Binder up, waited until the perfect moment and pounced, squeezing down the inside at Turn 11 into the lead.
Binder tried to retaliate but couldn’t steal it back, leading to a drag race down the straight to the line.
At the finish it was Bastianini’s Honda which stole it from Binder by a mere 0.017, while behind a delighted Hiroki Ono managed to overcome a long battle with Migno to finish third, scoring his first ever Moto3 podium in front of his thrilled home crowd.
Sadly for Migno it had gone badly wrong on the last lap when he tried to make a pass on the Honda Team Asia rider, just catching his back wheel. Ono escaped unscathed but it was enough to unseat the poleman, and he crashed out.
Fourth over the line was the SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM of Nicolo Bulega ahead of Philip Oettl fifth and the second Gresini Racing machine of Fabio Di Giannantonio sixth.
Bagnaia managed to hold on to seventh, leading Livio Loi’s RW Racing GP BV Honda over the line as Fabio Quartararo was ninth ahead of his Leopard Racing team-mate Joan Mir who rounded out the top 10