Niccolo Antonelli led every lap of a shortened Moto3 race at Motegi to take his second Grand Prix victory of the season. The Italian took the lead at the start and was never threatened while Danny Kent took another giant step towards the title with sixth place, one spot ahead of nearest rival Enea Bastianini.
The Grand Prix went ahead an hour later than originally scheduled after morning rain and mist prevented the medical helicopter from taking off. With the organisers keen to avoid a delay to the MotoGP race, the decision was taken to shorten the races preceding it, presenting the Moto3 riders with just fourteen laps to deal with the treacherous conditions.
The situation was already looking positive for Antonelli after post-qualifying penalties saw Miguel Oliveira and Jorge Navarro demoted three grid positions, promoting the Ongetta rider to the front row, and Niccolo took full advantage by outdragging polesitter Romano Fenati on the approach to turn one.
His chief rivals in the early stages came in the form of wet-weather specialist Livio Loi and home favourite Hiroki Ono but both saw their podium hopes washed away in the opening laps. Ono had climbed to third before losing control at turn three, a corner that also accounted for Fenati seconds later, while Loi’s search of a second GP win came to an abrupt halt when he tumbled on lap five.
Danny Kent had managed to keep his Leopard Honda upright but it came at a cost, the Briton dropping all the way back to sixteenth on lap one, but as the conditions improved, he soon made progress. Despite some brutal manoeuvres from Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Karel Hanika, Kent made it up to seventh and with a lap to go, he was staring at the rear of his title rival. Bastianini did everything he could to keep Kent at bay but as they approached turn seven, Danny scythed through to secure sixth place.
Antonelli had matters under control up front and cruised to victory ahead of Oliveira and Navarro who atoned for their qualifying penalties by finishing on the podium. Isaac Vinales had a rostrum spot in his hands before tumbling two laps from home but still remounted to finish fourth while Zulfahmi Khairuddin finished a fine fifth ahead of Kent and Bastianini.
After losing his battle with Kent, Karel Hanika was forced to settle for eighth with John McPhee and Efren Vazquez rounding out the top ten.
MOTO3 MOTUL GRAND PRIX OF JAPAN – RACE RESULT (13 LAPS)
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