After rain hampered racing all weekend, there was almost relief evident in the Moto2 riders as they lined up for the final round of 2018. All their setup time had been in the wet, so racing in those conditions was in some ways more straightforward.
That said, after the first two corners, Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46) would have been extremely thankful that he had wrapped up the championship two weeks ago in Malaysia. The pole sitter, Bagnaia’s teammate Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46), locked the front tyre and his rider-less Kalex hit Bagnaia. This seemed to cause some substantial damage to the #42 bike, and later in the race (when he was riding in the lower reaches of the points positions), Bagnaia was visibly struggling with the stability of his bike. That first lap contact limited Bagnaia’s final Moto2 race into a 45-minute ride of honour.
Meanwhile, there was some strong battling out front in the early stages. Xavi Vierge, in his final race for Dynavolt Intact GP took the early lead, before Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) switched with him and took the lead.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had come up from tenth on the grid to third on the first lap, and had impressively taken the lead by lap two of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo. Other notable rides early on included Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors) and Fabio Quartararo (HDR Heidrum – Speed Up) who had come from 21st and the back of the grid respectively to be within the points by the end of the first lap.
After a brilliant start, Pasini started to fall back as the other riders at the front started to pick up the pace. However, as the veteran Italian was dropping back, Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was steaming forward with some very impressive pace. Lecuona was coming through at the same time, and soon after Marquez passed Oliveira for the lead on lap six, the #27 was pushing the #97 of Vierge up to the back of the Portuguese rider.
Vierge, though, couldn’t maintain his pace and crashed on lap 12, unleashing Lecuona on Oliveira. For a while it looked like the 18-year-old Spaniard would find a way past the Championship runner-up rider and possibly go on to set his sights on Marquez out front. However, Oliveira responded to the pace of Lecuona, and started to pull away, catching up to Marquez simultaneously.
Marquez tried to stabilise the gap before he crashed on the final corner of lap 16 and gifted Oliveira the lead, with a monstrous gap back to Lecuona in second. Such was the pace of the top three before Marquez’ crash, and the attrition rate, that the #73 managed to remount his Kalex in third place, just in front of Pasini, who he then pulled away from.
Oliveira went on to take the final win of the 2018 World Championship season; his final Moto2 race before he moves to Tech 3 KTM next season in the MotoGP class. It was the perfect way for him to end his time in the class. Oliveira’s win also meant that there has not been a single Spanish victor in the intermediate class this season. Lecuona held onto second place for his first ever podium. The ex-supermoto rider will hope to be able to use this as a springboard for 2019, in which he remains with the SII team (although it is changing its name next season) and will be aiming for even more podiums. Marquez managed to clinch the final podium spot after his crash. 2018 has not been kind to the Spaniard, and the aim for him next year will be to turn things around with the regulation change and the move to Triumph motors.
Pasini took fourth in his final GP, from Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing), Quartararo, Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP), Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40), Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) and Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) who completed the top ten. Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) was 11th, ahead of Tetsuta Nagashima (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia), Steven Odendaal (NTS RW Racing GP), Bagnaia, and Jesko Raffin (SAG Team) who took the final point.