The skies opened ahead of Moto2™ lining up on the grid in Malaysia, with Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) facing down his first chance at the Championship from a soaked pole position – but the Frenchman played his hand perfectly to take an unbelievable win, in front of more podium finishes for Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and wet weather specialist Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP). With Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) finishing in P6 and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) outside the top ten, Zarco took the crown in stunning style.
Folger got the holeshot as the spray kicked up off the start line, with Morbidelli then soon taking him back as polesitter Zarco slotted into third. Title rival Tom Luthi moved from P5 to P8 in the opening stages as the Swiss rider remained cautious in the difficult conditions, with third Championship challenger Alex Rins moving up ten places from 23rd on the grid to 13th in an impressive early gain. But Zarco, 22 points clear of Luthi and a few more of Rins, was the one with the advantage.
An early crash saw some drama in the intermediate class follow that of Moto3™, as Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) slid out followed by Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) at the same corner – before front row starter Axel Pons (AGR Team) then also retired in the difficult conditions.
Morbidelli led the field from Zarco after the Frenchman took Folger back, with Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team) in fourth and local rider Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) moving into the top five. Luthi then had a shaky lap as he was passed by both Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team), with the second man in the title standings down in P8 – but the rain then stopping and conditions improving steadily.
As Simeon was reeled in by those on the chase, Rins was on the fight back further back on track – with the Spaniard moving up into the top ten by 13 laps to go but out of title contention. As Luthi struggled in the conditions, the two men in Zarco’s way were then down in P8 and P9 and the title got ever closer for the Ajo Motorsport rider.
The front trio of Morbidelli, Zarco and Folger were locked in a game of chess at the front, as the German kept setting the quickest laps of the three, before Zarco pounced for the lead with 6 laps to go – and disappeared into the distance as he tucked in and pulled away from Morbidelli.
Another win, after another pole, and another intermediate class crown – the first man to defend the Moto2™ title since its introduction in 2010.
Baldassarri came home in a lonely fourth after getting the better of those behind but unable to catch the front trio, with home hero Hafizh Syahrin getting a good pay off for his battles throughout the race as he completed the top five.
Tom Luthi finished the race in P6 after finding some more pace later in the race – but was unable to stop the Frenchman from taking the title. Fellow hopeful Alex Rins, after starting in P23, came home in fourteenth to similarly bow out in Malaysia.
An incredible ride from Alex Marquez saw the 2014 Moto3™ World Champion move up from a difficult qualifying in P21 to fight for P4 and then cross the line in seventh – gaining 14 places in tough conditions a week after sitting out the Australian GP through injury.
Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) made good on his practice showings at Sepang to ride through the field into an impressive top ten position, as the 2015 FIM CEV Repsol Moto2™ championship runner-up came home in P8. Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) split the Tech 3 Racing Team in P9 in tough conditions, with the second Tech 3 of Isaac Viñales completing the top ten as all three took some serious scalps on their way to big points hauls.
Wildcard Ramdan Rosli (Petronas AHM Malaysia) had a stunning ride at his home GP, as he came home in twelfth and ahead of some usual Moto2™ frontrunners.
The curtain came down with a wheelie across the line as Zarco cemented his place in history once again – becoming the first Frenchman to win more than one Championship in Grand Prix Racing, followed by a trackside celebration as both he and a body double did a signature backflip.
Next stop: Valencia, and the Circuit Ricardo Tormo – where Rins, Morbidelli and Luthi will now have their final showdown behind the new World Champion in the table.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko