Scott Redding finished less than 1.5s away from claiming his second Moto2 podium in Japan today as Toni Elias inched closer to the world title with another impressive victory.
Starting from the front row of the grid for the fourth successive race, the 17-year-old made a fast start and was immediately able to breakaway in the leading group with Elias, Julian Simon and home favourite Yuki Takahashi.
The quartet were able to establish a one second advantage over the chasing pack with Redding in a menacing fourth after fast starter Takahashi had been quickly relegated back down to third.
The British rider looked all set to battle it out for a podium finish to add to his maiden rostrum in Indianapolis last month until the rubber cover on his gear lever worked loose causing him to miss gears on corner entry.
After dropping back to sixth place, the Marc VDS rider got his head down in the later stages of the race, eventually catching and passing Takahashi to reclaim fifth position on the penultimate lap.
Redding pushed hard to try and make contact with the battle for the final podium position ahead of him, but ran out of laps and had to settle for fifth place.
The Marc VDS Racing rider said: “That was a tough race. I got a good start and managed to break away with Elias, Simon and Takahashi, but these guys were just so fast and I was struggling to stay with them.
"Then the rubber came off the gear lever and I missed the right gear on corner entry a couple of times, which was enough to lose contact with the leading trio. I made a few mistakes mid-race, but got my head down in the later stages and retook fifth place.
"With a few more laps I could probably have bridged the gap to the battle for third, but it was too late. Like I said, it was a tough race today, so I'm happy enough with fifth position.”
Redding just failed to overhaul Alex de Angelis in fourth with the Italian just 1.1s ahead while Czech Republic rider Karel Abraham claimed his first career podium.
Abraham produced a stunning late charge, first passing Tech 3 Racing rider Takahashi early on the 21st lap and then he went after de Angelis. With two laps to go the gap was 0.828s and MotoGP bound Abraham pounced on the last lap to deny de Angelis his first Moto2 podium.
Spanish duo Elias and reigning world 125GP champion Simon were once again untouchable at the head of the field.
At the halfway point they had opened up a gap of over three seconds and despite his best efforts Simon just couldn’t get close enough to former MotoGP winner Elias to make a crucial overtake.
On the final lap Simon made a slight mistake into the hairpin leading onto the longest straight, killing any chance of making of a late attack on Elias, who held onto claim his seventh win of the season.
Simon rode another excellent raise but it was little consolation as he had to settle for second place for the fourth consecutive race.
Elias has been his chief tormentor in three of those races, although Simon did keep the champagne on ice for his compatriot until next weekend’s Sepang race in Malaysia.
Elias is a certainty to win the inaugural Moto2 crown in the searing Sepang heat as he holds a commanding 81-point lead over Simon with just four races remaining.