Elf Marc VDS’ Tony Arbolino claimed victory in the Moto2 Malaysian Grand Prix after a dramatic final lap at Sepang.
A late crash for Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Ai Ogura saw the championship challenger down at turn nine as he challenged the dominant race-long leader. Beta Tools Speed Up’s Alonso Lopez and Inde GasGas Aspar’s Jake Dixon completed the podium while Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Augusto Fernandez finished fourth to retake and extend his lead in the standings to nine and half points.
Ogura lined up at the head of the Sepang grid as he prepared for his first shot at the Moto2 title. Championship rival Fernandez launching from sixth position with Arbolino and Flexbox HP40’s Aron Canet completing the front row.
Lights out for 18 laps and Arbolino claimed the holeshot with Dixon up to third. Somkiat Chantra briefly running fourth on the second Idemitsu machine before turn two drama found him down, out and collecting Pedro Acosta on the Red Bull KTM Ajo. Canet shoved wide in the melee with David Sanchis and Alessandro Zaccone suffering their own collision as the action unfolded.
Lopez was up on Dixon for the final podium position as Yamaha VR46 Master Camp’s Manuel Gonzalez led Fernandez and Fermin Aldeguer in the top seven. Dixon seeming to struggle as he faded further, this time to fifth.
Arbolino held a seven tenth advantage as lap three fired up. The top six spreading out as over three seconds covered the front runners in the opening laps with Aldeguer already a full second adrift of the KTM. Intact GP’s Marcel Shorter, American Racing’s Cameron Beaubier and Gresini’s Filip Salac rounded out the top ten with Canet regrouping a quarter of a second behind.
Mooney VR46’s Celestino Vietti suffered his eighth DNF of the season after a turn 15 crash on lap six. Arbolino stretching his lead to almost a second as Schrotter and Beaubier advanced on Aldeguer. Salac quickly dispatching the Boscoscuro as the lap concluded with Canet lining up a return to the top ten soon after.
Gonzalez put himself in podium contention after a move on Lopez with ten to go. Joe Roberts retiring the Italtrans Kalex into the pits with a technical at the halfway stage.
Ogura began to reel in Arbolino as the second half began, half a second separating the leading duo with Gonzales a full six adrift of the action. Fernandez igniting his own advance on Dixon for fifth as the four-rider battle for third began to build.
Just a tenth separated the title-rivals from their respective targets with five laps to go. Ogura swooping through to command the action overall at the first corner as Dixon dug deep to defend further back.
A mistake at turn one next time around sent Ogura wide, Arbolino wasting no time in capitalising as he returned to the lead. Gonzales now almost eight seconds behind as Lopez fought to retake the third position. Fernandez doing likewise on Dixon for fifth before the Brit hit back with an aggressive move at turn two.
The fight continued as the next two laps played out. The KTM rejoining the top five before the pair repeatedly swapped positions, Dixon back in charge at turn four after half a lap of bickering before he dispatched Gonzales for fourth as the final lap began.
Turn nine claimed it s final victim as Ogura looked to take the lead, the Honda rider down with just seconds to go before the race’s conclusion as Arbolino claimed the victory from Lopez and a late podium promotion for Dixon. Fernandez completed the dramatic action in fourth to retake the championship lead ahead of the final battle in Valencia. Gonzalez settling for fifth at the flag as Schrotter, Beaubier, Canet, Jeremy Alcoba and Aldeguer rounded out the top ten