Sandro Cortese has been crowned the first ever Moto3 World Champion after winning in Malaysia, snatching victory from home favourite Zulfahmi Khairuddin at the final corner. The German only needed a podium finish to clinch the championship but with Salom a distant fourth, the way was clear to challenge Khairuddin and Jonas Folger in the closing stages.
The top three were joined by Salom in the leading group early on with Folger at the head of the queue. Danny Kent was running well in fifth but the quartet ahead of him made a slight break before half distance, leaving the Briton to fight with the Estrella Galicia Suters of Miguel Oliveira and Alex Rins.
Lap ten saw the first sign of activity in the skies as spots of rain started to fall and Salom appeared to be the rider most unnerved by the weather. Having briefly overtaken Cortese for third, the Spaniard was demoted back to fourth by his title rival before sinking back into the chasing group, losing three seconds in a matter of laps.
With the potential for red flags and a shortened race, Khairuddin went on the offensive and breezed past Folger on the back straight leading to the final corner on lap eleven. Folger clearly had the same idea that leading over the line was essential and dived up the inside of the Malaysian at turn five. Khairuddin braved it out around the outside to maintain the lead, only to see Folger push past at turn seven but the extra top-end speed of the factory KTM helped him back in front by the time they reached the final corner, sending the packed grandstands ballistic.
With Salom fading, Cortese began to attack and repeated Khairuddin’s trick to take second at the final corner on lap fourteen but Khairuddin, on identical machinery, was proving a very different challenge altogether, especially with home support on his side.
Despite the championship being effectively decided, the tension was palpable but Cortese finally showed his hand two corners from home, charged up the inside of Khairuddin into turn fourteen. Only the final hairpin remained and Khairuddin reached the braking zone first thanks to his exceptional straight-line speed but Cortese dived for the apex, beating Khairuddin to it, and held the no.63 off on the run to the line to wrap up the championship in style. Second was still a career best for Khairuddin though with the 21 year old taking his first podium in Grand Prix racing.
Just a quarter of a second back, Folger took third with Luis Salom holding off Miguel Oliveira for fourth, despite his lack of comfort in the light rain. Danny Kent finished a comfortable sixth after Alex Rins’ pace tailed off in the closing laps although the Spaniard had more than enough to beat Efren Vazquez to seventh.
Niklas Ajo finished an excellent ninth ahead of Adrian Martin but John McPhee and Danny Webb couldn’t join them in the points, the former finishing 22nd while Webb was left to reflect on another Mahindra DNF.