Estoril MotoGP: Scott Redding fourth in Moto2 thriller
Scott Redding came close to a stunning Moto2 podium at a windswept Estoril today when he missed third place in a pulsating encounter by just 0.012s.
Starting from 25th on the grid after torrential rain wreaked havoc in practice and qualifying, Redding looked out of contention for a top ten let alone a podium as he struggled outside of the top 20 in the early stages on a damp track.
The 26-lap race started on a mostly dry track littered with scattered damp patches as a fierce wind rapidly dried the surface following a repeat of the torrential rain earlier in the day that had blighted the entire Grand Prix of Portugal weekend.
Redding opted for a hard Dunlop rear tyre and it struggled to reach optimum working performance until the track had virtually dried out completely.
But once the Marc VDS Racing rider Redding found his pace in the final laps, he came within 0.012s of beating Italian Alex de Angelis after incredible second half performance.
The 17-year-old started the final lap in eighth but made four fantastic overtakes to come close to a second successive rostrum after his second place in Australia earlier this month.
During his amazing surge through the pack he set the fastest lap of the race on lap 23 with a 1.45.456 and is now in contention for a top seven finish in the rankings heading to the final round in Valencia next weekend.
German Stefan Bradl claimed his first Moto2 victory, the German rider fending off a fierce challenge from Italian Alex Baldolini to win by just 0.068s, the pair finishing ahead of a titanic scrap for third place involving eight riders.
Earlier in the race, World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu had showed why he loves 600cc racing so much after he threatened to score a famous win on his Moto2 debut,
Locked in an early scrap with Hungarian Gabor Talmacsi and Yonny Hernandez, the Turkish rider quickly got to grips with tricky early conditions to streak away from the field.
The 2007 and 2010 World Supersport champion was taking a second a lap out of Talmacsi at one stage to make a decisive early break that nobody else could match.
On lap nine he was almost two seconds faster than the former world 125GP champion to open up a commanding lead of 5.454s.
At one stage he led by over seven seconds but he started to lose time on lap 15 with his lead slashed to 3.846s by a hard charging Bradl. Two laps later the advantage was only 1.983s as he desperately tried to hang on for an emotional triumph for the Technomag-CIP squad.
Sofuoglu was riding the late Shoya Tomizawa’s bike after the Japanese rider was tragically killed in a crash during the Misano Moto2 race in early September.
He surrendered the lead on lap 20 when Bradl and Baldolini burst by on the start/finish straight and from that point he quickly drifted out of contention.
He did recover lost ground in the final laps though to finish fifth behind Redding.
The day belonged to Bradl though after he seized the lead from Baldolini at the first corner on the penultimate lap.
Bradl led at the start of the final lap and he rode an immaculate last lap to fend off Baldolini to claim his first Moto2 win and podium. Second place was a drastic improvement of Baldolini's best result. He'd never even finished in the top ten prior to today's race.
Early contender Hernandez crashed out of second at the first corner on lap six and he recovered to finish 18th.
New world champion Toni Elias crashed out of eighth exiting the first corner on lap 16 and he retired on lap 19.
One of the highlights of the race was the performance of Italian Andrea Iannone. He only just qualified as weather caused severe disruption throughout the weekend and forced yesterday’s qualifying session to be cancelled.
It left him 34th on the grid but he reached the top six on lap 17 and was fourth at the start of lap 18 after a tremendous display of aggressive riding.
It looked like he could go on and claim a heroic victory but he crashed out at the first corner on lap 20 while right on the back of the leading group. He remounted to finish 21st.