The 14th round of the Moto3 championship had a lot riding on it; Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Brad Binder had the potential to become the first South African World Champion in 35 years, but pole position man Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) could stop him.
Six riders penalised ahead of the race
The track was dry but cool when the 250cc class took to MotorLand Aragon. Five riders including Fabio Spiranelli (CIP-Unicorn Starker), Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team), Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold), Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) had received penalties from day one of the meeting for ‘dawdling’ on the track and lapping at 110% their best time (as they waited for a rider to tag onto the back off.
As a result of day two, Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) was added to that list as he was also penalised for the same act. But it was Livio Loi who was found to be ‘cheating’ as he was running with a gear ratio he had not declared at the start of the season for second gear on his RW Racing GP BV Honda, and was forced to start the race from the back of the grid.
Bastianini led into the first corner of the race
Bastianini took full advantage of his pole position start and stormed to the first corner taking the lead immediately. Brad had made his way up to third by the time they had progressed round to the corkscrew but at the end of the lap, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) stole the lead from the Italian.
Crash at turn one as the pack makes its way through
The first crash of the race came at turn one as the pack attempted to make their way through the first turn cleanly. Spiranelli completely messed up and missed the braking point and ran straight on taking Stefano Valtulini out and the both ended up tangled up on the run-off area. Both were unhurt, but Spiranelli’s weekend went from bad to worse as he was out of the race whereas Valtulini was able to continue but later retired after 1 laps.
Another crash on the first lap
A few corners later another crash took place; Maria Herrera (MH6 Team) slid out and tagged the back of Kornfeil who in turn tagged rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing VR46). Kornfeil was taken away in an ambulance that he walked into, and Bulega had to retire but appeared unhurt. Herrera was able to recover her bike and continue with the race.
The battle begins at the front of the Moto3 pack
Not wanting Navarro to break away, Bastianini stayed on his tail while Brad led a pack of four riders including Rodrigo, Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) and Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0). Behind them and catching them up was Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3) and Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46).
Oettl was able to move up to fourth behind Binder and Bastianini took advantage of the long slip stream at the end of the main straight which allowed him to take the lead. As they approached turn one to start lap four, Di Giannantonio took fourth from Jorge Martin (Gaviota Mahindra Aspar) heading into turn one after setting the fastest lap so far. The two had worked their way up through the opening laps.
Navarro had regained the lead although Bastianini threatened to take it back at the end of the main straight. Rodrigo made it past Oettl into turn one of lap 5 and a few corners later Bastianini managed to eventually get past Navarro; until the straight when he retaliated. Rodrigo had fell down to sixth position but recovered to fifth moments later.
By lap six, Brad Binder had caught the lead duo and in turn had brought some hungry Moto3 riders with him. He was able to pass Bastianini heading into turn one, but the Italian bit back. As the two were distracted Oettl decided to take advantage and passed the two of them on the inside of the corner. Navarro would be the German’s next victim, as although he briefly pulled away Oettl started to close him when his attention became focused on him.
Oettl takes the lead in Aragon
As they came to the long straight, Oettl managed to gain from the tow off Navarro and got past the Spaniard to take the lead; the German rider was 0.5 seconds quicker than anyone on track. Behind them the battle continued between Binder and Bastianini as Di Giannantonio moved up to fifth and Martin passed Canet.
Oettl’s lead did not last long as the Moto3 riders heading down the start-finish straight to begin lap nine. Bastianini, Binder, Di Giannantonio and Navarro all managed to overtake the rider on the first turn. Martin was then able to run a tighter line and also got past him however he recovered the position on the last corner. Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), who had missed Free Practice because of a stomach bug, had now tagged onto the back of the group and was able to overtake Migno.
Constant swapping and changing at the front
Lap 10 saw two new leaders as initially Binder made his way to the front of the pack. But by the end of the lap, Di Giannantonio took to the front for the first time. It was short-lived though as on the next lap both Binder and Bastianini passed the Italian. Behind them Oettl recovered a position from Navarro as did Martin as he continued to take completely different lines. Meanwhile Mir had brought the following group up behind the leaders with him.
Oettl overtook Di Giannantonio at the start of lap 12. He didn’t stop there as he surged past Bastianini to take second. This forced Bastianini to mess up his line and he ending up dropping to fifth. But Di Giannantonio wasn’t settling for third and he overtook Oettl as Bastianini recovered one position to fall into fourth.
Bastianini desperate to keep the championship fight going
Heading into turn one on the next lap, Bastianini, determined to not let Binder win so he could keep his own championship dreams alive, got up to second at the turn as Oettl found himself in fourth. By the time they came around to the straight though, Bastianini went down to third as Di Giannantonio passed him and then went on to steal the lead from Binder. Oettl then passed Bastianini on the main straight and accidentally pushed an attacking Binder out to the kerb who was able to recover despite losing momentum.
Di Giannantonio led with seven laps to go but not for long as Oettl regained the lead again a few corners later. On lap 15 turn one proved significant for the standings again as it shifted everyone around. Bastianini led ahead of Di Giannantonio, Mir, Binder, Navarro and Migno. Canet had got in front of Martin who had also got in from of Oettl.
The two Italians battled at the front with Di Giannantonio making it stick. Binder passed the two on the straight but then went wide allowing Di Giannantonio to slot back through; but by the time they made it to the start finish straight Binder was back in front. Binder led ahead of Bastianini who also made a move on Di Giannantonio who was now being chased by Navarro, Rodrigo, Martin and Migno.
Martin makes a mistake at the corkscrew
Martin made a move on Rodrigo but then after the corkscrew, he nearly messed up as he ran wide but he managed to retain the lead of the second group that had formed. Eventually benefiting from his mistake, Mir overtook Martin before the end of the lap. As they came to the straight on the 16th lap, Bastianini made an attempt on Binder but was unable to catch him, but the Binder made a mistake which sent him wide allowing the Italian past. But Binder had a great drive out of the last corner and took the lead as they headed down the start-finish straight.
No way of knowing who would win
With just four laps remaining it was unclear who was going to win still as the front group of four riders still seemed closer than ever on track. Binder was in the lead ahead of Bastianini, Di Giannantonio and Navarro. Navarro began his move overtaking the teammates one by one. On the straight he challenged Binder who went wide again and took the lead in one lap. He led until they visited the straight on the next lap when the Italian’s both overtook him after using his slipstream when Di Giannantonio took the lead coming towards the end of the race.
Four-a-breast into turn one on last lap as Navarro wins in Aragon
As they entered the last lap it was four-a-breast for the first corner as they all wanted to have the lead. Bastianini was in front of Binder, then Navarro and Di Giannantonio followed. Navarro passed Binder, and then so did Di Giannantonio as they passed through the corkscrew. But then Binder reclaimed third and took full advantage again of the straight as he took the lead. But on the very last corner of the race Navarro overtook the South African and went on to win the race.
Binder wins the 2016 Moto3 Championship
Binder, although he wanted to claim his championship with a win, finished the Aragon GP in second which was enough to seal the 2016 Moto3 Championship. Binder became the first South African to achieve this in 35 years and it was big smiles all round for the Binder family.
Bastianini finished the Aragon GP in third position claiming the last step of the podium. Although he did get a great result in Spain, he was disappointed as had he finishe ahead of Binder, he would have kept his own championship hopes and dreams alive for longer, and so it turned out to be a bittersweet result for the Italian.
Di Giannantonio settles for fourth
Di Giannantonio missed out on a well deserved podium as he settled for fourth position. Behind him Mir finished ahead of the second group in fifth (not bad considering he missed out on track time due to being ill). Martin (fastest Mahindra), Canet, Rodrigo finished ahead of Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team) in ninth and Oettl completed the top ten.
Migno was 11th ahead of Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing), British rider John McPhee (Peugeot MC Saxoprint), Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Bo Bendsneyder took the last championship point available in Aragon in 15th. Just outside the points Francesco Bagnaia (Gaviota Mahindra Aspar) was 16th ahead of Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing), and penalised Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV).
Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) was 19th ahead of Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) who completed the top 20. Tatsuki Suzuki (CIP-Unicorn Starker) who celebrated his birthday at Aragon, was 21st ahead of Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia), Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team), Albert Arenas (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Sky Racing Team VR46) who finished 25th.
Platinum Bay Real Estate teammates Darryn Binder and Marcos Ramirez finished ahead of Herrera in 28th after her crash, Lorenzo Pertrarca (3570 Team Italia) and Mexican wildcard rider Gabriel Martinez-Abrego (Motomex Team Worldwide Race) who completed the field in 30th position.
The battle for second in the championship heats up
Binder has won the Moto3 championship and is currently on 249 points with four rounds to go. Navarro moved up to second in the championship with his win and is now on 143, four ahead of Bastianini in third on 139. The battle for second remains with them as Mir is further behind in fourth on 17 points and rookie Bulega is in fifth with 113 points. Di Giannantonio has moved up to sixth on 111 points, one ahead of Bagnaia.
Romano Fenati, although he was sacked by the Sky Racing VR46 Team, is in eighth with 93 points, Antonelli is behind him on 81, and Kornfeil completes the top 10 on 80 points.