Autosolar GasGas Aspar’s Izan Guevara claimed the first Japanese GP victory in three years to extend his Moto3 title bid on Sunday.
Leopard’s Dennis Foggia and Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max’s Ayumu Sasaki completed the podium with the ‘crazy boy’ denied the home win in the closing stages.
A dramatic, but dry warm-up saw championship leader Guevara make contact with the rear of John McPhee’s Husqvarna before careering off track and into the barriers, the Aspar team able to repair the bike in time for the grid as he lined up ninth. Tech3’s Deniz Öncü suffered his own major highside during the morning’s 10 minutes on track with a trip to the medical centre for a hand injury before he too prepared for the 20-lap race.
Leopard’s Tatsuki Suzuki commanded the grid on home soil for the first Japanese Grand Prix in three years. VisionTrack’s Scott Ogden alongside for his maiden front row in the world championship with Sergio Garcia completing the leading trio on the second GasGas machine.
Lights out and Garcia stole the holeshot as home heroes Suzuki and Sasaki took second and third, the Leopard rider returning to the lead with teammate Foggia up to third in the opening sector. Öncü running wide with Ogden dropped to eighth in the bunching pack.
Guevara was into the lead by turn eight as CIP Joel Kelso crashed out with VisionTrack’s Josh Whatley at lap nine, CFMoto’s Carlos Tatay and the second CIP machine of Kaito Toba doing likewise one corner later.
Sasaki sat in the middle of a Leopard sandwich as the opening lap concluded. Garcia, BOE’s David Muñoz, Rivacold Snipers’ Andrea Migno, Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jaume Masia, Sic58’s Ricardo Rossi and MT Helmet's’ Diogo Moreira rounding out the top ten. Replacement rider Kamta Hamada and KTM’s Daniel Holgado the next to depart the action early at turns two and nine respectively next time around.
Sasaki briefly took charge before Guevara hit back, the pair inseparable as lap four played out with the Leopard duo closely behind. McPhee ran 10th as his teammate returned to command, Ogden fading due to the lack of dry track time as the rookie circulated in 16th.
Disaster struck Suzuki on lap five as he crashed out from fourth at turn nine, Tech3’s Adrian Fernandez following suit into the same gravel trap moments later with his own front end slide. While Ogden suffered further as he ran wide and fell down the order to 23rd.
McPhee was up to seventh with a third distance dispatched. Sasaki maintaining control from Guevara, Foggia and Masia as McPhee made further progress looking to reel in Garcia from the head of the second group.
Guevara took charge at the halfway stage, before Sasaki struck back through turn five. Sic58’s Lorenzo Fellon the next to fall as Garcia faded into the clutches of the second group with the leading quartet strengthening a four-second lead out front.
Masia made moves for the podium with eighth laps to go as he captured third from Foggia, Guevara failing to find a way through on Sasaki for the lead. Moreira took his own opportunity to lead group two bettering Garcia while McPhee looked for a way past Muñoz behind.
Garcia was back in fifth two laps later as the Scot took seventh at turn nine. Guevara into the lead next time around before immediately pulling a two-tenth advantage. Moreira dropped to seventh as Sasaki fell victim to Masia. The move providing opportunity for Foggia to capitalise as the former leader quickly found himself in fourth.
Further drama saw the KTM highside out of turn 12 as Sasaki returned to the podium, teammate McPhee now up to fourth as the second group battled hard with Garcia defending from Muñoz and Moreira.
Garcia was back to fourth as the penultimate lap began. The second group covered by just three tenths as the fight continued and McPhee dipped down to sixth once again.
Guevara held a four-tenth advantage from Foggia as the final lap unfolded. Sasaki a similar distance behind as the leading group settled into position with group two doing anything but. Moreira dropping McPhee to seventh in the final sector with the Scot just 0.072s off the rookie as they met the flag.
Ryusei Yamanaka crossed the line in eighth from Migno, Rossi and Xavi Artigas with MTA teammates Stefano Nepa and Ivan Ortola coming home in tandem from 12th and 13th. Taiyo Furusato and the injured Öncü collected the final championship points with Ogden completing a difficult race from 20th.