Moto2: Oliveira keeps his cool for final middleweight win

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In his 50th Moto2 race, Miguel Oliveira produced a faultless ride to take his third victory of the season in the 2018 finale at the Valencian Grand Prix. The Portuguese rider won by an impressive 13 second margin over first-time podium finisher Iker Lecuona, as Alex Marquez completed the podium – despite crashing out the lead.

Straight away in the last race of the season, drama. Before the race had begun, Fabio Quartararo had an issue on the grid which saw him start from the back. Then, just after the lights went out, poleman Luca Marini’s front end washed away under braking at turn two; the Italian hitting the back of teammate Francesco Bagnaia – the latter staying on but running wide – while further back, the exact same happened to Joan Mir. The Spaniard went down, with Mir himself then collecting Lorenzo Baldassarri as the pair followed Marini into the gravel and out of the race. 

After a busy opening handful of laps, we were then eventually left with Oliveira at the front and the top four consisting the Portuguese rider, Marquez, Xavi Vierge and Lecuona in a class of their own – the only riders lapping in the 1:48s. It was Marquez who soon took over the baton at the front though, and the Spaniard then upped the pace, putting in consecutive fastest laps in the 1:47s to give himself a 1.5 second buffer over Oliveira with ten laps gone.

Lap 12 ticked by and it was another fastest lap for Marquez, a 1:47.342 edging the gap to Oliveira to almost two seconds, with Vierge a further two seconds behind the KTM rider at this stage. That was until the Spaniard lost the front at turn eight while under pressure from Lecuona, the latter now up to third, but Lecuona soon ran well wide at turn 14 and dropped to eight seconds off the lead.

At the front, Oliveira and Marquez exchanged fastest laps at the mid-stage, the gap fluctuating between 1.5 and 2.0 seconds. But then, on lap 15, Marquez suddenly crashed. turn 14 was the corner but – such was the advantage the leaders had – the Spaniard was able to remount and re-join the race in third, still on for a podium and just ahead of Mattia Pasini. It did, however, leave Oliveira in control of the race, with an 8.5 second gap between him and second place Lecuona.

From there on, the 2018 Moto2 runner-up kept his cool to stride home for his third win of the season, taking the chequered flag by over 13 seconds back to Lecuona but the Spaniard earning a fantastic maiden Grand Prix podium. After the crash, Marquez was also able to salvage the podium, with Pasini taking a commendable fourth on what could prove his final Grand Prix race.

Fifth place went to Tech 3 Racing’s Remy Gardner, the Australian’s career-best result after he got the better of the recovering Quartararo, who took a phenomenal sixth. After starting from the front row, Marcel Schrötter crossed the line in seventh, while it was a home race top ten finish for Augusto Fernandez in eighth. Andrea Locatelli and Simone Corsi rounded out the top ten in the final Moto2 race of the season. Meanwhile, 2018 champion Bagnaia clawed his way to 14th on his final Moto2 ride after getting caught up in the drama at turn two early on.

Khairul Idham Pawi, Xavi Cardelus, replacement rider Tommaso Marcon, Sam Lowes, a super-fast Joe Roberts, Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder, Jorge Navarro and a charging Niki Tuuli also crashed out – rider ok.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer