Having been penalised by Race Direction for riding too slow on the track during Free Practice 2, Hiroki Ono was back out on form on his Honda Team Asia on home turf as the Moto3 took to the track for the morning warm-up session at the Twin Ring Motegi ahead of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. The Japanese rider was fastest at the manufacturers’ home track built originally by Honda for testing and included in the MotoGP calendar in 1999.
Ono set a new lap record
During Qualifying, Ono who was riding at record breaking pace, achieved pole position in the process setting the new best lap time of 1:56.443. He knew he had received the penalty, and although he was allowed in to parc ferme to celebrate his pole position, it was revoked and he had three grid positions added on meaning he would be leading the second row starting from fourth. Two KTMs and one Honda made up the front row.
The penalty meant that Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46), who qualified in second, was promoted to pole which turned out to be his first Moto3 pole of his career. The 2016 Moto3 champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who claimed the title in Aragon, was promoted to second, and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), who is battling against Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider Jorge Navarro for second in the championship, was moved up to the front row from fourth as he started from third.
Lights went out to start the 21 lap race
The lights went out and Migno took advantage of his first pole position as he led into the first corner of the race. There was carnage on the first corner as Navarro lost the rear end of his Honda and was thrown over the bike, he slid out taking Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing) wide who in turn hit John McPhee (Peugeot MC Saxoprint).
Navarro was hurt and had to be stretchered off by the Marshals, the other two riders were able to get straight back to their feet, with McPhee looking to help Navarro in what way he could; Navarro ended up with a dislocated shoulder.
Two riders penalised for jump start
It was not a clean start at the Twin Ring Motegi for all of the riders in the class. Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Maria Herrera (MH6 Team), who was directly behind him on the grid, were both penalised for a jump start and they had to complete ride-through penalties.
Migno leads the Japanese Moto3
The Italian led until he unfortunately made a mistake at the 90 degree corner which meant he dropped to fourth. It allowed Francesco Baganaia (Pull & Bear Aspar) to move up to third, and a few corners later he overtook Bastianini pushing the Italian wide and allowing Migno to recover to third. This did not last long as the battle began between the two when Bastianini overtook Migno.
Valtulini crashes out
Binder led the 250cc class as a result of Migno’s original mistake ahead of Bastianini and Bagnaia. Migno found himself under pressure from Ono, which pushed the Italian to make a move on Bagnaia as he overtook him in the fourth lap. On the same lap, Stefano Valtulini (3570 Team Italia) crashed out at turn eight; fortunately he was OK.
Binder crashes out
By lap five Bastianini had caught Binder. Further down the field the South African’s brother Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) crashed out at turn three however he was able to re-join after a low slide. On the same lap Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing) both crashed at turn nine however the two incidents were not related. Only Canet was able to recover and continue with the race, birthday boy Locatelli was forced to retire.
Battle commences between Bastianini and Migno
On the next lap, Bastianini went wide allowing Migno to slot passed him and take second. Bagnaia found himself under pressure from Ono, and behind him, the other birthday boy, rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) followed continuing with his solid performance in Japan. Bastianini soon regained second from Migno at the 90 degree corner. A lead group of six had formed as the Italian rookie Bulega stole fifth from Ono on lap seven as his teammate Migno again passed Bastianini.
Di Giannantonio makes mistake leading the second group
Behind them, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing moto3) led the second group that had formed. He ran wide at turn 14 ad touched the dirt at the end of the kerb. The front lifted as he accelerated away in an attempt to recover. He was holding up the group it seemed as he appeared tovetruggle at the Twin Ring Motegi.
Ono on the move
On lap eight, Ono passed Bulega as Bastianini again took second from Migno. Ono’s surge continued as he made an attempt on Bagnaia however he came under attack from Bulega who passed the Japanese rider as he was distracted and focused on the Mahindra rider. The battle continued between Migno and Bastianini as they continued to make cool and calculated moves on each other over the next few laps.
On the 11th lap, Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) had progressed up to the front of the second group and passed the struggling Di Giannantonio taking seventh. His form continued as he worked hard then to catch the lead group bringing the Di Giannantonio and the others up to Bagnaia who sat in front of them.
Martin retires from the race due to previous injuries
Jorge Martin (Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra) was already injured prior to the Japanese GP; as expected his injuries forced him to retire on the same lap. Canet then experienced his second crash of the race at turn ten. This time it forced the Spanish rookie to retire as he walked behind the Marshals who wheeled his bike off looking very disappointed with his result in Japan.
On lap 12, there was two overtakes in the lead group on the same corner. As Bastianini over took Migno again for second, Ono passed Bagnaia. The Japanese rider then went on to overtake Migno at turn 11 of the next lap. Migno retaliated re-claiming third. A moment from Ono saw the Japanese rider go wide, he recovered wuickly and went on to overtake Migno again.
By lap 15 Oettl had closed the gap to Bagnaia who had feel off the back of the lead group, bringing Di Giannantonio with him in the process. It was not long until Di Giannantonio made his way passed Bagnaia too. Unfortunately for the RBA Racing team, their second rider Juanfran Guevara suffered another crash of the weekend at turn 10 however he was unhurt and able to restart and continue in the race.
Ono under pressure from Migno
Towards the end of the laps as the riders completed lap 17, Migno was all over the back of Ono applying the pressure. It worked as Ono went wide allowing the Italian through. Tension began to build as Bulega was now on Ono’s tail. Responding to the pressure from the rookie, Ono made a move on Migno again but again ran wide and last the position.
Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Bastianini had worked hard to overcome the slight gap that Binder had opened up. The Italian, hungry for his first win was all over the back of the South African by the final lap. Binder went wide at the end of the straight however, Bastianini stayed behind him.
Migno touches Ono and crashes out
Behind them Bulega had passed his teammate Migno who immediately retaliated allowing a slight break for Ono. Ono then made an attempt up the inside of Ono and accidentally touched the rear of his Honda which sent the Italian off and he spun out in the track. It allowed Ono to pull away and Bulega followed closely behind him.
Bastianini makes his move to take the lead
With just four corners of the race remaining, Bastianini overtook Binder at the 90 degree corner. A smooth, cool and calculated move, he continued pushing hard in an attempt to pull away. Binder who had had a clean track for the majority of the race though was able to stick to the back of them. They bombed down the final straight and it was so close as they crossed the line but Bastianini took the win finishing just 0.017 seconds ahead of Binder in second.
Bastianini’s win was his first of the 2016 meaning he became the ninth different winner in the Moto3 class. His second ever Moto3 win, as he won his first in San Marino in 2015, was important for the Italian who is hoping to secure second in the championship after being unable to stop Binder from sealing the deal early.
It was Ono who secured the final spot on the podium. The Japanese rider claimed third on home ground, at what turned out to be a successful weekend for the him despite his misfortune with the penalty. Rookie Bulega claimed fourth giving him a second reason to celebrate (along with his birthday) at the Japanese GP.
Oettl takes fifth after great run
Oettl claimed fifth ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio and Bagnaia who finished eighth as the highest placed Mahindra. Behind him Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) and Leopard Racing teammates Fabio Quartararo and Joan Mir completed the top 10. Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) was 11th ahead of Lorenzo Dalla Porta who had slipped to 12th. He finished ahead of Drive M7 SIC Racing Team riders Adam Norrodin and Jakub Kornfeil, and Albert Arenas (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) who claimed the last championship point available in Japan.
Just outside the points was local rider Tatsuki Suzuki (CIP-Unicorn Starker) who finished 16th ahead of Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold), Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate), penalised Bendsneyder and Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) who completed the top 20. Fabio Spiranelli (CIP-Unicorn Starker) was 2st ahead of Lorezo Petrarca (3570 Team Italia), Darryn Binder who recovered to 22nd after his crash and Herrera who finished 23rd after her penalty.
Migno picked his bike up after his last lap crash and crossed the line in 25th, a disappointing result for the Italian. Guevara who crashed on the first lap was 26th. Female wildcard rider Shizuka Okazaki completed the grid in 27th aboard her UQ & Teluru Kohara RT Honda.
Ono penalised again
After the race, Ono failed to meet the required weight when tested. This led to the Honda rider being disqualified, birthday boy Bulega instead claimed third and all of the riders below also gained a position meaning that Suzuki finished in the points at his home round.