Sterilgarda Husqvarna’s John McPhee completed a fairytale comeback from 22nd on the Sepang grid to claim victory in the Moto3 race on Sunday.
His first win of the challenging 2022 season was backed up by teammate Ayumu Sasaki securing second by 0.043s with Gaviota GasGas Aspar’s Sergio Garcia completing the podium celebrations in third.
Following a wet Sunday warm-up session, a dry race was declared as the Moto3 grid prepared ahead of 17 laps of action in Malaysia. Leopard’s Dennis Foggia commanded proceedings from Aspar duo Izan Guevara and Garcia, the newly crowned champion ready to assist his teammate if needed as they target a one-two in the season’s standings.
Lights out and Guevara was in the lead from the outset, VisionTrack’s Josh Whatley facing a five second delay to his pitlane start after maxing out his engine allowance for the season with wildcard teammate and local rider Syarifuddin Azman on the fringes of the points in 17th.
Foggia returned to the lead as teammate Tatsuki Suzuki arrived to join him. The pack immediately shuffling as the Japanese rider was dropped to tenth with Garcia taking his turn out front. McPhee advanced from 22nd to 14th as the opening lap concluded, the Scott continuing to climb as he met teammate Sasaki in 11th shortly after, while a major highside for MTA’s Stefano Nepa, in the middle of the leading group, scattered the riders once again at turn nine.
Garcia headed the Red Bull KTM Ajo of Jaume Masia as lap three fired up. MT Helmets’ Diogo Moreira running third as Scott Ogden crashed the third VisionTrack machine out at turn two. Fellow rookie David Munoz sat fourth on the BOE KTM before the Brazilian claimed the lead as they crossed the line for lap four.
Garcia was back in charge as Munoz crashed out next time around. Suzuki the next to succumb to the Sepang Circuit’s ninth corner in quick succession.
The top six circulated less than a second adrift after six laps on track. Masia leading Moreira, Garcia and Foggia as KTM’s Daniel Holgado and Sasaki joined the fight with McPhee looking to enter the fight, three places behind.
Foggia was back at the front on lap seven as the leading group swelled to eight. Moreira quickly taking control before the Italian hit back. Garcia remaining in check throughout before the start-finish slipstream saw him dropped to sixth.
McPhee joined the pack after dispatching a 1.2 second deficit with ten to go, the Scotsman dragging Sic58’s Riccardo Rossi with him as the leading fight increased to ten with Tech3’s Deniz Öncü just under two seconds adrift.
The Moto3 Champion was in charge at the halfway stage as Rivacold Snipers’ Alberto Surra crashed out, his teammate Andrea Migno suffering a difficult race of his own from the edge of the points.
Sasaki was up to third next time around as McPhee sat tenth. Foggia returning to command from the Aspar pair through turn nine with Masia and Moreira less than half a second behind in the top six.
Six to go and Aspar held a one-two before Sasaki dispatched Garcia down to fifth. Foggia and Masia capitalising before the slipstream shuffled started again. Rossi unfortunate to crash out at turn one after a move on Moreira with McPhee released to sixth.
The final four laps saw Guevara dropped to ninth after a scary save across the grass out of the final corner as McPhee joined his teammate in the top five. Garcia, Masia and Foggia squabbling for outright control with the GasGas successful as the race counted down.
Two to go and Sasaki claimed second with Garcia continuing to hold court. Masia pushing hard to advance on the leading duo with Foggia and McPhee narrowly behind. Foggia through to the runner-up position as the final lap prepared as Garcia pulled a three tenth margin out front.
Two tenths of a second covered the top five as the final sector prepared. McPhee taking the lead through a dramatic penultimate corner battle with the Scotsman digging deep to meet the flag unchallenged for a sensational run from 22nd. Teammate Sasaki completed the fairytale for the Sterilgarda squad in second from Garcia, Masia, Moreira and Foggia. Holgado, Ryusei Yamanaka, Ivan Ortola and Öncü completed the top ten while Xavi Artigas, Guevara, Elia Bartolini, Migno and Adrian Fernandez collected the final points.