Luis Salom overtook championship rival Alex Rins at the very last corner to win a frantic Malaysian Moto3 Grand Prix at Sepang. The title rivals were part of a multiple-rider scrap for the victory with the number of lead changes well into double figures but Salom would be responsible for the decisive change by barging past Rins at the final hairpin.
After a flurry of early action, eight riders edged away from the rest of the field with Salom and Rins joined by fellow championship contender Maverick Vinales as well as the second Estrella Galicia KTM of Alex Marquez and Jonas Folger’s Aspar Kalex-KTM. FTR-Honda riders Alexis Masbou and Jack Miller were punching above their weight in the leading group but the biggest shock was the sight of Miguel Oliveira at the sharp end. The Mahindra rider had started from the second row but an appalling start dropped him to all the way to the back by turn one. By the end of lap one though, he had risen to thirteenth and within another three laps he was fifth and pressuring the KTMs.
Rins held the lead at half distance from Marquez, Salom and Oliveira but alarm bells were starting to ring for Maverick Vinales who was too busy fending off Miller and Masbou to stick with the front quarter, slipping a second behind. His saving grace would come in the form of the riders ahead as Marquez and Salom took every available opportunity to dive past Rins, slowing the pack up and bringing Maverick back into play.
Despite the overwhelming pressure, Rins led across the line to start the penultimate lap but Salom and Vinales breezed past him on the run to turn one with Oliveira following through at turn four. The Portuguese relegated Vinales to third in the same move and a move by Rins into turn nine left the Team Calvo rider out of the podium places as quickly as he’d got into them.
As the final lap began, Rins used the slipstream to power past Salom but that would leave him ahead coming onto the back straight for the last time and with his KTM punching a hole in the air, Alex was powerless to stop Salom storming past into the last corner, giving the no.39 victory by 0.069s and a fourteen point championship lead heading to Australia. Oliveira crossed the line right behind to give Mahindra their first podium finish in Grand Prix racing, an astonishing result given his calamitous start.
A disastrous final lap saw Vinales lose two places to Marquez and Miller but he would at least salvage fifth on the run to the finish line, pipping Miller by two hundredths of a second. Masbou took a fine seventh ahead of Folger while Romano Fenati and Philipp Oettl completing the top ten.
Britain’s John McPhee missed out on a points finish by half a second in seventeenth but his loss was Ana Carrasco’s gain as the Spanish rookie became the first female rider to score points in Moto3 and just the fifth in Grand Prix history.