Thomas Luthi held his nerve under pressure from Maverick Vinales to claim his first Moto2 victory of 2014 at Motegi. The Swiss rider led every lap although he saw his lead whittled away by Vinales in the closing stages but Luthi kept the Spaniard at bay for a long overdue victory.
After putting so much effort into securing pole position yesterday, Esteve Rabat will have been keen on pressing home that advantage in the race but the championship leader was immediately swallowed up at the start, falling back to fifth. Johann Zarco had leapfrogged Mika Kallio, Rabat and Vinales for second and while the Frenchman defended his position, Luthi edged away at the front.
Seeing his main rival for victory disappearing into the distance, Rabat needed to make instant progress but the Spaniard didn’t squeeze past his Marc VDS teammate until lap five, passing Kallio at turn seven. Zarco’s grip on second was finally loosened on lap ten with Vinales outbraking him into turn two and the opportunistic Rabat followed through at the next corner, promoting him to third.
By the time he had found some clear air, Vinales had 2.3 seconds between himself and Luthi’s Suter and the rookie unleased a blistering sequence of laps to close down on the Swiss. Thomas couldn’t quite match Maverick’s pace and had just 0.8s in hand at the start of the final lap but he had just enough in hand to clinch victory in the end. Vinales finished comfortably clear of Rabat for second with the championship leader extending his lead to 38 points after Kallio was beaten to fourth by Zarco.
Julian Simon finished right behind the Finn in sixth, beating his Italtrans teammate Franco Morbidelli into the bargain. Hafizh Syahrin finished a fine eighth ahead of Ricard Cardus and Xavier Simeon while Gino Rea bagged two hard-earned points for fourteenth after an excellent ride. Sam Lowes couldn’t add to his tally though after crashing out of the top ten on lap three.