Luca Marini beats Tom Luthi to second Moto2 victory of 2019
Luca Marini secured his second consecutive Moto2 victory at Motegi after defeating Tom Luthi late on.
Marini-who started from pole position- got a lightning start to lead into Turn 1 ahead of the chasing Pons Racing machines of Augusto Fernandez and Lorenzo Baldassarri.
Fernandez’s challenge soon faded though as he dropped behind his team-mate to third, and then further to the lower reaches of the top ten throughout the race.
Baldassarri pressured Marini throughout the first half of the 22 lap contest, although Luthi was beginning to make progress behind.
The Swiss rider eventually got the better of championship leader Alex Marquez to get into fifth, before picking off the riders ahead of him to move into the lead by passing Marini into Turn 9 just prior to the half-way mark.
He immediately posted the quickest lap of the race, although only marginally quicker than the now pursuing Marini.
The pair started to pull a significant margin to Baldassarri, the Italian now beginning to struggle for speed slightly but still looking good for his first podium since Jerez.
Marini refused to let Luthi get away meanwhile, and began to close right back on to the tail of the Intact GP bike as the lap counter ticked ever lower, getting into striking distance with only a few laps remaining.
The VR46 man made his move into the Turn 7/8 sweepers on the penultimate lap, and began to instantly pull out a slender advantage over the last lap and a half.
Luthi did everything he could to close the gap, but he was helpless to prevent Marini bringing home his second consecutive victory after winning in Thailand a fortnight ago.
Luthi did at least move into the runners-up spot in the championship, closing down Marquez’s points lead to 34 in the process.
Jorge Martin secured his maiden intermediate class podium finish meanwhile after a stunning ride from 14th on the grid to deny Baldassarri on the second-to-last tour, the Pons man struggling for tyre life in the closing stages but still able to salvage fourth ahead of Jorge Navarro.
Marquez came home sixth after struggling to match the leaders throughout, but at least out-scored closest rival Fernandez who ultimately came home eighth-but fell to third overall in the riders standings as a result.
Separating them was Italtrans rookie Enea Bastianini who put on another strong display, while Marcel Schrotter and Stefano Manzi rounded out the top ten.
Somkiat Chantra looked set to challenge for the podium in the early laps following his strong ninth at home in Thailand last time out, but faded in the latter part of the race to cross the line 13th behind Brad Binder’s KTM, who was lucky to escape a clash with Gresini’s Sam Lowes early on.
The South African ran wide while battling with team-mate Martin at Turn 1, getting into a huge tank-slapper and collecting the innocent Lowes.
The Brit’s handlebar broke as a result of the impact, forcing his retirement from the race.