Johann Zarco capped a dream weekend with a typically dominant victory in a rain-affected Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi. The newly crowned champion proved too strong for Jonas Folger as he claimed his seventh win of the season before the title celebrations were finally able to begin in earnest.
With drizzle continuing to fall, Folger showed his intentions to rain on Zarco’s parade by taking the lead off the start line. The Frenchman was the only rider able to match Folger’s initial pace with front row starter Thomas Luthi crashing out in his attempts to keep up on lap three while home favourite Takaaki Nakagami also found the leading group too hot to handle, crashing out at the final corner on lap five.
Nakagami’s tumble came just at the moment Zarco had hit the front for the first time, the world champion diving past Folger at turn eleven, but the IDEMITSU squad weren’t out of the podium hunt just yet. Takaaki’s teammate, Azlan Shah, was enjoying the best ride of his Grand Prix career and rose to third as a result of the Japanese rider’s misfortune but plenty of riders were queueing up to challenge him.
Amazingly, the biggest threat looked to be coming from the other Malaysian in the field with Hafizh Syahrin piling on the pressure but as he faded, Intact GP’s Sandro Cortese took up the challenge. The former Moto3 champion disposed of Syahrin on lap eleven before jumping straight across the gap to Shah and with a lap of a half to go, Cortese deprived the 31 year old of a maiden rostrum by scything past at turn seven.
Zarco was supreme up ahead and cruised to victory by four and a half seconds with Folger and Cortese securing the first German double-podium in Grand Prix racing for three years. Shah and Syahrin were fourth and fifth for Malaysia while Ricard Cardus was the top Spaniard, and top Suter rider, in sixth.
Simone Corsi was seventh for Forward Racing ahead of Britain’s Sam Lowes while Marcel Schrotter and Randy Krummenacher completed the top ten, demoting Alex Rins to eleventh with the Pons rider paying the price for a succession of slip-ups.
MOTO2 MOTUL GRAND PRIX OF JAPAN: RACE RESULT (14 LAPS)
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