Moto3: Rookie Oncu makes history as youngest ever winner

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It didn’t seem like a day for history to be made when the Circuit Ricardo Tormo began to wake up to a rain-soaked Sunday. It seemed like a day to endure, to be cautious; to take the points and not the risk. It seemed a day more likely to be defined by attrition rather than heroics, but Can Öncü ensured it becomes much more than that. 

Taking his first win as a wildcard, in his first appearance, at 15 years and 115 days old, the Turkish rider is the youngest ever Grand Prix winner, the first rider to win his first race since Noboru Ueda in the 125 race in Japan in 1991, and the first Grand Prix winner from the Asia Talent Cup. If that wasn’t enough, he did it in some serious style – crossing the line four seconds clear of reigning Champion Jorge Martin in second and another two ahead of John McPhee.

It was Tony Arbolino who took the holeshot from pole, although Marco Bezzecchi looked threatening in second as McPhee lost a place and Öncü sliced through into third. Soon the Turk was also starting to threaten Bezzecchi as Arbolino started to make an early gap in the wet conditions, but Arbolino started to pull away again initially – until drama struck. Suddenly sliding out early, the former title contender was down and out of contention, with Arbolino left over two seconds clear of Öncü.

McPhee was then in third, leading Fabio Di Giannantonio and teammate Martin as both Gresini riders made top starts, but the duo were soon past the Scot although the trio remained close. Then there was more drama up ahead and all eyes switched back to the front as Arbolino suddenly highsided out – having been over six seconds clear. Who did that leave in the lead? Debutant, wildcard and imminently impressive Öncü, nursing his own lead – and then starting to increase it.

Soon Martin was past Diggia and McPhee followed suit, but it remained the Turk’s to lose and behind the front few the gaps became even bigger. Nervous faces down at Red Bull KTM Ajo watched the laps tick down towards history being made and records being broken, but Öncü held firm and stayed calm – until a huge wobble on the final lap…

That saw the reigning Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion immediately back off, with time in his pocket to play it safe. Crawling round the Circuit Ricardo Tormo for the final time, he eventually crossed the line four seconds clear for his first Grand Prix win, taking his place in history.

Martin took second in his only lightweight class race as reigning Champion, followed by McPhee in third after another impressive performance in the wet from the Scot. Diggia ended the year and his Moto3 career just off the podium but snatched second overall from Bezzecchi, with Enea Bastianini just behind in fifth. Jaume Masia wrapped up the Rookie of the Year title by taking sixth after his rival for that crown – Dennis Foggia – didn’t finish, with youth getting ahead of experience as Niccolo Antonelli took seventh. Nakarin Atiratphuvapat, who leaves the paddock for pastures new next season, took his best ever finish in eighth after a stunning race and impressive weekend, with Marcos Ramirez and Celestino Vietti completing the top ten.

Tatsuki Suzuki, Aron Canet, and Lorenzo Dalla Porta crashed out together in some early drama, and Darryn Binder was another early faller. Bezzecchi ended his lightweight class career with two crashes in tough conditions, and teammate Jakub Kornfeil almost went down but was able to re-join, taking the last point on offer in 15th.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer