Reigning Moto2 champion Johann Zarco made history at Sepang’s MotoGP round today when he became the first rider to defend his title in the class.
Jonas Folger got the holeshot as the spray kicked up off the start line, with Morbidelli then soon taking him back as polesitter Zarco slotted into third.
Title rival Tom Luthi moved from fifth to eighth in the opening stages as the Swiss rider remained cautious in the difficult conditions, with third championship challenger Alex Rins moving up ten places from 23rd on the grid to 13th in an impressive early gain. Zarco, 22 points clear of Luthi and a few more of Rins, was the one with the advantage.
An early crash saw some drama as Sam Lowes slid out followed by Mattia Pasini at the same corner - before front row starter Axel Pons then also retired in the difficult conditions.
Morbidelli led the field from Zarco after the Frenchman took Folger back, with Xavier Simeon in fourth and local rider Hafizh Syahrin moving into the top five.
Luthi then had a shaky lap as he was passed by both Marquez and Lorenzo Baldassarri, with the second man in the title standings down in eighth – but the rain then stopping and conditions improving steadily.
As Simeon was reeled in by those on the chase, Rins was on the fight back further back on track - with the Spaniard moving up into the top ten by 13 laps to go – but was out of title contention.
As Luthi struggled in the conditions, the two men in Zarco’s way were then down in eighth and ninth and the title got ever closer for the Ajo Motorsport rider.
The front trio of Morbidelli, Zarco and Folger were locked in a game of chess at the front, as the German kept setting the quickest laps of the three, before Zarco pounced for the lead with 6 laps to go – and disappeared into the distance as he tucked in and pulled away from Morbidelli.