Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Pedro Acosta commanded the opening Moto2 race of 2023 from lap three to victory at Portimao on Sunday.
Pons Wagon Los40’s Aron Canet gave chase for the entirety of the 21 lap challenge around the Algarve International Circuit, with Elf Marc VDS’ Tony Arbolino recovering from eighth to third for the final podium celebration.
The Moto2 grid lined up with five of its full-time riders missing from action. Gresini’s Filip Salac claiming the first pole position of both the season and his career with Canet and Acosta alongside.
It was Canet who took charge, however, as the lights went out. Fantic’s Celestino Vietti and KTM Ajo’s Albert Arenas completing the top five as Marc VDS’ Sam Lowes dropped down behind fellow Brit Jake Dixon in 14th and 15th.
An early fall for SAG’s Bo Bendsneyder left a furious Dutchman down at turn one. Acosta through on Canet to take charge at the start of lap three.
Vietti, facing a double long lap left over from the Valencia GP, picked up Salac as he pushed to make progress. The Italian dropping from third to tenth as the first penalty was dispatched while teammate Borja Gomez was issued his own double loop for a jump start and Alonso Lopez picked up a single trip for his part in Bendsneyder’s earlier fall.
Dixon was up to tenth by lap six as Lowes likewise regrouped, on front running pace, two places behind. Teammate Arbolino recovering from his own poor start as he swept up to fourth from the back of the top ten before making his case for the podium and dispatching VR46’s Manuel Gonzalez three laps later.
Acosta held a three tenths advantage at the halfway stage, Canet keeping his countryman in check with over a second back to nearest challenger Arbolino while Gonzalez, Salac and Arenas trailed behind.
A six rider fight for seventh found Dixon and Lowes in the mix as the Aspar man captured Jeremy Alcoba to head the mid pack. Husqvarna’s Darryn Binder the next through on the second Gresini as Lowes took a look at Barry Baltus’ Fieten Olie for tenth.
Binder’s run came to an abrupt end at turn five with seven laps to go. Dixon up to sixth, with Lowes eighth as the pair’s late race progress picked up speed. Lopez the next to fall, at turn 14 from 14th, next time around.
Four to go and Salac was back in fourth. Canet keeping the pressure up on Acosta out front as the pair consistently circulated just two tenths apart as the race counted down.
Lowes was through on Arenas for seventh as lap three neared completion. Acosta pulling the pin as the penultimate lap prepared and upping the pressure as victory neared. The former Moto3 Champion crossing the line with a full second in hand from his race-long rival with Canet and Arbolino claiming their places on the fist podium of the year, in second and third.
Salac and Gonzales headed the pair of recovered Brits as Dixon and Lowes took sixth and seventh. Arenas, Somkiat Chantra on the sole Idemitsu Honda and Alcoba completed the top ten with Vietti, Baltus, SpeedUp’s Fermin Aldeguer, Italtrans’ Joe Roberts and Pons rookie Sergio Garcia picking up the final points. American Racing’s Rory Skinner finished his first full-time ride in the intermediate class from 22nd.