The Moto3 races in the Circuit of the Americas are often different from the rest. The circuit is so long, technical and demanding of both rider and bike that usually over race distance a few riders will be able to distance themselves from the rest of the field.
From pole position, Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) failed to make the holeshot, as that honour went to reigning Junior World Champion Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team). However, it was not long before the Italian was back by his Spanish rival, and trying to pull away.
Unfortunately for Antonelli, though, the slipstream in the early laps was enough to keep the pack together, and he couldn’t get away. Instead, a typical Moto3 group fight broke out, with Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) handing out the big blows, which was not to everyone’s liking.
When Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) hit the front, he started to pull away. He achieved a gap of around one second, which was set on after by Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team). Suzuki had endured a tough start to the weekend; his flight was delayed, so he only arrived at the circuit on Friday morning on four hours’ sleep. When he eventually crashed, just after Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai) had taken second place away from Canet, Suzuki was clearly upset, and understandably so.
That gave Migno the lead, and brought Canet closer to him – the Spaniard keen to not allow his rival any time to breathe. By this point the pair had worked themselves a gap to the duelling Hondas of Gabriel Rodrigo (Kommerling Gresini Moto3) and Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), who also had a gap behind to a group of five riders which included Jaume Masia (Bester Capita Dubai), Niccolo Antonelli, Raul Fernandez and Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46).
By the penultimate lap, Masia had closed on the two Hondas ahead, bringing the rest of his ten-wheeler with him, whilst at the same time Rodrigo and Lopez had caught Canet and Migno. This prompted Canet to make his move in turn one with two laps to go. Canet was able to fashion a small gap for himself through the first sector which meant that no one was close enough to pass him down the long back straight. Instead, it was Rodrigo who slid through on Migno for second.
Canet, at the start of the final lap, once more created that gap between himself and his pursuers which put him almost out of range on the straight. However, a strong performance from Migno on the brakes in turn eleven saw him pass Rodrigo and close to within strong slipstream range of Canet, and the Italian was through before the braking zone.
In fact, it was this which cost Migno the race. Canet was then able to switch back to the inside, and force Migno out wide, reclaiming the lead and costing the Italian time in the process, which had the #16 defending from Rodrigo in turn thirteen. Migno’s defence forced Rodrigo wide, which allowed Masia through, and the Spaniard then passed his Bester Capital Dubai teammate, Migno, in the next corner. It was not a great move, though, by the Argentina winner, and it created an unrecoverable gap to Canet, letting the #44 off the hook for his first win of the season, his first with the Max Racing Team and KTM.
It was a smart race from Canet, pushing when he needed to, but allowing others to lead the way when he was not under pressure. It was the opposite performance to the one he produced in 2017, when he dominated the weekend but crashed in the restarted race, this time he was not only fast, but also calm, and most importantly he was intelligent.
The win also moved Canet into the joint lead of the championship, sharing it with Jaume Masia, the Spanish pair each having forty-five points.
Masia’s race was a fantastic comeback. At one point he was down in sixteenth place, seemingly out of contention. However, before long he was up in the top ten, and then closing down the podium fight, which became the leading fight almost as he arrived at it. Having been taken out of the opening race of the season, winning round two and then finishing a close second at the third round are results which have identified the young Spaniard as a championship contender.
Andrea Migno ensured it was Bester Capital Dubai who occupied both lower spots on the podium, despite his best attempts to throw it away in the final corner. It was Migno’s best race since his win in Mugello back in 2017, and perhaps even better. He led the race seemingly with ease, setting a fast pace that he was comfortable with. Perhaps the move away from the VR46 squad has been just what Migno needed to re-ignite his career.
Only 0.027 seconds back of Migno was Gabriel Rodrigo, who just missed out on his first podium for Gresini, finishing fourth, less than a tenth ahead of pole sitter Niccolo Antonelli. Antonelli made a good comeback after falling back in the middle of the race to finish fifth. Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) who, like Masia, was way back in the pack at the beginning, but fought through, and arrived in the group with the eventual runner-up that brought him into the fight for the win, the Italian finally coming home in sixth.
Seventh place and top rookie went to Raul Fernandez, who had perhaps his most impressive performance in grand prix racing, as he stayed in the top ten for pretty much the whole race, and in the end was in the battle for the win.
Despite looking good for a podium three laps from the flag, the hard fighting that arrived in the final two laps saw Alonso Lopez shuffled back to eighth, ahead of another impressive rookie in the shape of Celestino Vietti who came home in ninth.
Tenth place went to Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) who cut through the pack with his teammate, Vietti, but couldn’t hold the #13’s pace. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) finished eleventh, ahead of Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing), Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing), John McPhee (Petronas SRT) and Darryn Binder who ended up rounding out the points.
Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) finished sixteenth, ahead of Vicente Perez (Reale Avintia Arizona 77), Makar Yurchenko (CIP Green Power), Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Filip Salac (Redox PruestelGP) and Riccardo Rossi (Kommerling Gresini Moto3) who was the twenty-first and final finisher.
There were a whole host of retirements, the first of which was Can Oncu (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) was the championship leader coming into this race but a crash in turn eighteen leaves him fourteen points down on Masia and Canet at the top now. Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP) and Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) were the next to go down, Kornfeil getting caught up in Fenati crashing in turn eighteen – the Italian crashed as he passed the Czech, leaving him nowhere to go. Tom Booth-Amos (CIP Green Power) was the next to retire, before the aforementioned Tatsuki Suzuki; then it was Aleix Viu (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) and finally Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas SRT) retired two laps from the flag.
Featured image courtesy of Gold and Goose/KTM