Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) is now the Moto3 rider with the most wins since the class was introduced in 2012, taking his perfect tenth victory in incredible style at the Twin Ring Motegi. With wet weather all weekend, the race was no exception and Fenati once again showed his supremacy in the rain. Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) converted solid pace and a front row start into his first podium since the beginning of 2016 after an impressive ride to second, with Marco Bezzecchi (CIP) taking his first rostrum finish in third and making it three manufacturers on the podium: Honda, KTM and Mahindra.
It was Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) who got the best start from pole, just getting into and through Turn 1 ahead of Antonelli, but the Ajo rider would soon strike back. Streaming through the rain on the first lap was a tough start to the day’s racing for the field, but two men would soon emerge from the spray: Fenati and Antonelli. After shadowing his compatriot and rival, Fenati was quick to strike and sliced through to take the lead – then able to disappear and cross the line four seconds clear.
Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was in podium contention for some time in the initial stages before Bezzecchi began his charge, but the Japanese rider took P4 and his best ever Grand Prix finish – with home soil the perfect place to do it. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was another initially heading for the podium, before fading slightly but crossing the line in a solid fifth in such tough conditions.
Philipp Oettl (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing) had a stunning ride through the field after a tough qualifying outside the top twenty, rounding out the top six just ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini) and another man to slice back through the pack – Jakub Kornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint). Bo Bendsneyder was ninth, with John McPhee (British Talent Team) putting in an impressive comeback from P17 on the grid to complete the top ten.
Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) dropped back slightly on the penultimate lap to take eleventh, ahead of polesitter Nicolo Bulega – who crossed the line in P12 after recovering from a run off. Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate), Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), who also suffered a run off, rounded out the points in the treacherous conditions.
Young Australian wilcard Tom Toparis kept his nose clean throughout the race to successfully finish his first ever Moto3 race in what were appalling conditions. The Goulburn based teenager will have his second outing on home soil next weekend at Phillip Island.
Now it’s Phillip Island time, and Fenati’s comeback remains a long shot in the Championship – 55 points behind now, and 75 remaining on the table.
Niccolò Antonelli – P2
“It’s amazing to have placed on the podium this Sunday in Japan. I knew we could go fast in the wet at this circuit, because we have improved a lot, but I didn’t expect it. We have had difficulties in rainy conditions this year, although here I have had a good feeling. In the race I tried to catch Romano (Fenati), since I had nothing to lose, but the bike was slidding a lot and it was impossible to get to him. In the end, finishing second is like a win for me and a prize for the whole team, whom I want to thank for their work.”
Marco Bezzecchi – P3
“It is unbelievable! The conditions were almost impossible. At the end the rain was very strong and I was trying to stay focused to not make any mistakes. Thanks to everybody, to the team, to Mahindra, to the VR46 guys, to my family and friends. I’m sorry, I’m lost for words – it is a dream come true.”
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