Moto2: Binder wins as championship battle goes on
Brad Binder claimed his third win of the season as he took the chequered flag by just 0.036 from second place Joan Mir at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, with Xavi Vierge snatching a podium away from Augusto Fernandez at the line by an even smaller 0.008. The brilliant battle on the Island in the intermediate class saw neither Francesco Bagnaia or Miguel Oliveira challenge at the front, and the championship rolls on to Malaysia.
There was drama before the race had even begun as P2 on the grid Marcel Schrötter encountered a problem with his bike and although he eventually got it going, the German had to line up at the back of the grid. As the lights went out it was pole man Mattia Pasini who launched well to grab the holeshot, but Vierge soon cut his way through to the lead from third on the grid, with Binder, Iker Lecuona and Dominique Aegerter slotting in behind.
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Pasini’s race wouldn’t last long though, a crash at turn four on lap two for the Italian ended his hopes of a second podium of the year. Meanwhile, Bagnaia had initially made significant progress from 16th on the grid to get as high as sixth, but the championship leader soon dropped back to outside the top ten, along with title rival Oliveira.
Back at the front, a lead group of eight had formed. Lecuona was looking strong but the young Spaniard then crashed out at turn two on lap seven and then, looking good for a home round rostrum challenge, Remy Gardner lost the front at turn ten on lap 13.
The lead was chopping and changing lap by lap, particularly between Lorenzo Baldassarri and Vierge. With five to go, it was a group of six at the front, all of which looked menacing. However, Baldassarri’s race would end prematurely at turn ten after the Italian got his Kalex machine out of shape under braking and went down and out of contention. And so, heading onto the last lap, there were five riders in contention. Luca Marini made a sweeping move to go from fifth to third at turn one as Binder led the way from Mir, and turn four then saw Marini run wide and out of podium contention, with Fernandez and Vierge also getting out of sorts on the exit to leave the battle for the win between Binder and Mir.
Mir wasn’t close enough at his particular strong point: turn ten, but on the exit of turn 11 Binder lit up the rear of his KTM. A run to the line then followed but the South African had just enough edge out the Spaniard – the 2016 and 2017 Moto3 Champions going head-to-head and Binder coming out on top. Vierge won the race to the line with Fernandez to complete the podium, with Marini taking fifth. Aegerter would eventually finish 2.4s from the win in sixth after being in the leading group throughout, with Alex Marquez seventh after being unable to cling on to the front runners. 2018 European Moto2 Champion Jesko Raffin earned a top eight at Phillip Island – a very solid ride from the Swiss rider at a track at which he's got a good record.
Schrötter produced a phenomenal comeback ride to end the Australian GP in ninth, with Fabio Quartararo rounding out the top ten. Then came the two title protagonists: Oliveira 11th, Bagnaia in 12th. A strange race for both as neither could penetrate the top ten, and the championship moves onto Malaysia with Bagnaia holding a 36-point advantage.
Tetsuta Nagashima, Sam Lowes and Edgar Pons complete the points in a top 15 that was separated by 14.076 seconds – the fifth closest top 15 in the history of the middleweight class.