Francesco Bagnaia thought he’d taken a valuable second at Motegi, but some time after the race there came an announcement: the man who’d taken the flag just ahead of him, Fabio Quartararo, had been disqualified after running tyre pressures lower than the required minimum. It was heartbreak for the Frenchman but for Bagnaia it was another small step towards the crown. Another 25 points as Miguel Oliveira completed the podium.
That means there are a few scenarios for Bagnaia to take the title at the fast and flowing Phillip Island. If he wins, he’ll be Champion if Oliveira doesn’t finish better than fifth. If he’s second, he’ll take the title if Oliveira doesn’t finish better than ninth. A third place for Bagnaia means Oliveira has to finish better than 13th, and finally, a fourth for the Italian would mean the Portuguese rider would have to suffer a DNF or not score for Bagnaia to be crowned.
But who won last year? Phillip Island in 2017 saw the first win for the new KTM Moto2 chassis as Oliveira made a little history, and it was also the start of a three-in-a-row rampage that saw the Portuguese rider unbeaten in Australia, Malaysia and Valencia – with teammate Brad Binder on the podium too. So the Red Bull KTM Ajo team should be walking fairly tall on the way on to the Island, with recent stats on their side.
Luca Marini will also want to get in the battle and join Binder as their teammates fight for the title, and the South African also has third overall in his sights. Alex Marquez took fourth despite a huge highside on Friday in Japan and is another to watch for back at 100%, as well as Motegi podium finisher Lorenzo Baldassarri. Finally, one man with even more at stake is home hero Remy Gardner, who has big aspirations. Phillip Island is a track the Aussie hopes will prove a much better fit than the last two.