Tom Lüthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) has taken his first ever back-to-back victories in the world championship, as he slipstreamed Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli to the line in Australia – overtaking the Italian in a stunning photo finish only a week after his victory at the Twin Ring Motegi. Dynavolt Intact GP’s Sandro Cortese completed the podium for his first rostrum in over a year, bouncing back from a tough season marred by injury.
Blue skies, good weather and finally a completely dry track at Phillip Island saw Moto2™ line up a little late after a dramatic Moto3™ race, with Lüthi getting the holeshot from pole and as you were at the front – with a key loser off the line proving Championship leader and reigning Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport). As Lüthi then had a big moment, Morbidelli then struck for the lead – but the Swiss rider hit back and the front row set off at the head of the race.
From a tough starting position of P15 for Championship contender Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40), the Spaniard was up into P6 with 20 laps to go – with Zarco back in P13 – as he attempted to cut the Frenchman’s 21 point lead ahead of the Australian GP. Then Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was the first big name to crash out – rider ok – as the Brit suffered his fifth fall of the weekend early on, before Rins saw his title chances take another big hit as he ended up in the gravel soon after.
The front group of Lüthi, Morbidelli and Pasini remained clear in the lead, with the three keeping pace with each other – and Lüthi, P3 in the Championship, seeing his “Rins – out” pit board. As the three remained in the 1:34 laptimes, Zarco began to drop back through the field – in P14 by 11 laps to go.
After a strong turn of pace at the start, Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) fell back into the clutches of Misano winner Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing), with the Italian taking over in P4 and Folger holding on in the top five – until Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Folger’s teammate Sandro Cortese overhauled the Brno winner. Cortese continued his stunning pace and ride through the field to take the podium, with Nakagami fading slightly as he felt the effects of his highside crash in Qualifying – and Pasini falling out of contention at Turn 4.
Baldassarri finished P4, ahead of Nakagami by the flag as Folger held on to P6. Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) had a solid ride to P7, with Axel Pons (AGR Team) taking eighth ahead of an impressive performance from Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing), who came home in ninth. Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) completed the top ten.
Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team) headed reigning Champion Zarco, as the Frenchman finished the race in P12 – with Jesko Raffin (Sports-Millions-EMWE-SAG), Edgar Pons (Paginas Amalrillas HP40) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsi Honda Team Asia) completing the points positions.
With Lowes and Rins both crashing out, and Zarco down in P12, Lüthi was the big winner in Phillip Island – cutting his deficit in the title fight significantly as the penultimate round of the year at Sepang International Circuit approaches. He took over in P2 in the title, now only 22 points down, and showed the adage can be true – he who dares really can sometimes win.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko