Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsols Marc Mrquez stormed to a stunning win in an eventful and thrilling Moto2 race at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi, in front of Pol Espargar and Esteve Rabat.
The start already proved eventful as Mrquezs bike wasnt in gear, causing him to head into the first corner almost last, as much of the grid passed him whilst he put it in gear. Yet as Marc VDS Racing Teams Scott Redding led the early stages ahead of Tuenti Movil HP 40s Pol Espargar, Mrquez impressively fought his way up to 7th within two laps. In frantic opening laps, the lead soon went to Espargars teammate Esteve Rabat, whilst Italtrans Racing Teams Toni Elas made his way into third.
With 19 laps to go Mrquez had fought his way into fifth, while it was disappointing news for Tech 3 Racings Bradley Smith, who had to retire with a mechanical issue after looking strong all weekend. A lap on and Espargar re-found his stride and went into second again to chase his teammate, as a mistake by Redding let Mrquez and Elas through.
With 17 laps remaining it was almost over for Espargar as he nearly lost control of his bike at full lean, yet put in an incredible save. Mrquez also did well to avoid him as he nipped into second. It was then up to Rabat to hold off the change from the championship leader, who was all over his rear wheel with 14 laps left. A lap later Mrquez made use of the slipstream to go into the lead, whilst Espargar had closed up in third. In the meantime, SAG Teams wildcard Kohta Nozane was black-flagged after returning to the track after having previously retired.
Reddings teammate Mika Kallio ran wide with 11 laps to go, dropping him back down the order, whilst Espargar went past Rabat to chase down Mrquez. A few laps later, Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2s Nico Terol copied Kallio and also ran wide at turn one on to the gravel. As the pack settled down, Espargar caught up to Mrquez with six laps to go as the pair rode a lonely race at the front. Three laps on and it was over for Elas as he crashed out of fifth place.
Espargar tried to make his move half way through the penultimate lap, but nearly went into the back of Mrquez. Having to avoid the crash caused his to run wide and drop back slightly. Rabat was holding strong in third, whilst Redding was trying to hold of Interwetten-Paddocks Tom Lthi. Yet Espargar fought back, though it was to no avail, as Mrquez crossed the finish line first, with Rabat recording his first podium this season.
This now puts Mrquez 53 points clear at the top of the championship standings making him the clear favourite for the title. Redding held on for fourth, ahead of Lthi, Came IodaRacing Projects Simone Corsi, Elas teammate Takaaki Nakagami, JiR Moto2s Johann Zarco, Espargars teammate Axel Pons and Technomag-CIPs Dominique Aegerter.