Moto3: Arbolino becomes first double winner of 2019

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Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) has become the first man this season to win two Moto3™ races, with the Italian holding off Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) to cross the line just 0.045 clear in the Motul TT Assen. Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrüstelGP) took third and his first podium since Brno last year despite a Long Lap Penalty in the latter stages; the Czech rider leading at the time before the last-gasp drama.

It was Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) who took the holeshot from pole, with Arbolino slotting in behind him and the huge freight train group at the front stuck line astern in classic Moto3™ style. One of the biggest moves early on saw Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) take over at the front and keep it through the final chicane, with the Japanese rider leading the pack over the line with 19 laps to go. A few laps later came another key move: Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) was up in the top trio taking on Arbolino and Toba from 13th on the grid, and with 16 to go he sliced through to lead but there was plenty more action to come.

More from the Dutch TT

Chopping and changing, the fight for the ‘lead’ remained a huge group stretching far beyond the final chicane as the snake of riders threaded the needle towards the line. But after a battle royal of a shuffle, one moment would change that with six laps to go…

Toba collided with Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46), taking down Raul Fernandez (Angel Nieto Team) on the outside, and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) then got caught up in the drama. That created a gap in the group, with Lorenzo Dalla Porta then at the head of train of just seven riders then battling for the win.

Not long after that, Jakub Kornfeil was the man in charge. Hitting the front with a handful of laps to spare, the Czech rider was in some clear air but track limits were about to bite as he was given a Long Lap Penalty. From then, he had three laps to take it and the race result looked like it could all rest on when he did – or even if, with the team putting the pit board out make sure he definitely saw it as soon as possible.

Luckily, he did, and heading into the area to take it released Lorenzo Dalla Porta into the lead with two laps to go. Could the Italian do it and become the 13th different winner in a row? It was all down to the final lap, and the number 48 machine had a duel on his hands against the man who just beat him to the flag at Mugello: Arbolino. Would he wait for a last gasp move?

The number 14 struck just before the final chicane, cleanly getting past and setting up what would become a drag to the line as the kept it pinned and Dalla Porta tried to respond. Sadly for the Leopard Rider, however, he would once again be the bridesmaid rather than the bride, with Arbolino just a whisker ahead to become the first repeat winner and launch himself into the title fight.

Kornfeil had emerged from his penalty into third, and the Czech rider was able to keep it together to stay ahead of another group fight and cross the line for the podium. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) by half a tenth, with John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) putting in a stunning ride to complete the top five from outside the top twenty on the grid.

Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) showed more impressive rookie pace to take P6, ahead of Catalan GP winner Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing). Polesitter Antonelli took P8, with Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) completing the top ten.

Romano Fenati took P11 after getting shuffled back in the latter stages, ahead of Championship leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) after a tougher round for him. Nevertheless, he remains seven points ahead. Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) and Filip Salac (Redox PrüstelGP) completed the group fighting it out, with Sergio Garca (Estrella Galicia 0,0) completing the points.

Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power), Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) and Albert Arenas (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) were other crashers.

Antonelli attacks Assen for pole position

Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) has brought the run of different polesitters in the opening rounds of the Moto3™ season to an end, with the Italian setting a new record in qualifying at the Motul TT Assen to head the grid for Sunday’s race. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) in second, with Mugello winner Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) taking third and just 0.013 in further arrears.

It was a frantic, manic Moto3™ Q2 and Toba sat atop the timesheets before the final flyer came in from Antonelli, but it’s nevertheless a good start down the path to redemption for the Japanese rider after a heartbreaking crash on the final lap in Barcelona that saw him slide out the lead. And the last time he was on the front row, he won the race…and all three men on the front row have the best chance to become the first repeat winner of the year.Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was fourth fastest and is one of the men best-placed to try and keep the record-breaking run of different winners going, joined on Row 2 by rookie duo Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia), both of whom are also looking for their first Grand Prix wins.

Friday’s fastest Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrüstelGP) heads the third row, another to have not yet taken to the top step, but he’s in serious company as the men first and second in the standings line up alongside him. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) is P8 after coming through Q1 and the man he’s chasing, Championship leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), was just 0.014 off him in ninth.

Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) was tenth quickest but has a six-place grid penalty to serve, so it’s Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) who starts in P10, with rookie Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) and Catalan GP winner – and Q1 graduate – Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) joining him on the fourth row.

Kornfeil deposes Arbolino on Day 1

Thanks to an electric final flying lap, Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP) ended Day 1 of the Motul TT Assen as the fastest man in Moto3™, timing his attack to perfection to tuck in behind VNE Snipers’ Tony Arbolino, fastest at the time, and pip him to the top on his final lap of FP2. His 1:41.782 saw Kornfeil finish up 0.098 ahead of the Italian, and that’s the biggest gap across the entire top nine on the combined timesheets.

The entirety of the field improved their times in the afternoon and Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was just 0.013 off Arbolino by the end of play, making him the highest-placed Championship contender on Day 1 after a tougher Friday for the two men ahead of him in the standings. The Italian invasion near the top continued in fourth with Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers), with Kömmerling Gresini Moto3’s Gabriel Rodrigo rounding out a top five split by less than two tenths.

Sixth went to the ever-impressive Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46), and he was half a tenth ahead of Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) after a solid day for the South African. Kaito Toba headed teammate Ai Ogura as the two Honda Team Asia teammates put their stunning 60th anniversary liveries into eighth and ninth respectively, with Catalan GP winner Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) completing the top ten.

His teammate Lorenzo Dalla Porta took P11 on Day 1 and will be looking for more to gain on Championship leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) in the Motul TT Assen, although Canet ended Friday in P22 after a mechanical problem and then a collision with Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), so of the top three in the standings overall it’s Antonelli who holds the cards so far. Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) was P12, ahead of John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race).

Dalla Porta looks to strike back in Assen

Moto3™ made more history at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) taking his first Grand Prix win to make it seven different winners in the first seven races and 12 different winners in a row. Despite that record though, it was an expensive day for one man in particular – Ramirez’ teammate Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing). A mechanical problem took him out the race, and Aron Canet’s (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) second place means the Spaniard now has a 23-point lead. The mission for Dalla Porta will be simple: hit back quick and score big.

The Netherlands is a good place to do just that. The classic TT Circuit Assen’s final chicane rewards bravery and tactics, two things Dalla Porta has shown already in 2019. Canet has too, but the Italian’s motivation on the back foot will be hard to match.

It’s not a two-horse race though. Despite a grid penalty that compounded a tough qualifying for Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), the Italian kept himself in touch and is just five points off compatriot Dalla Porta in the standings. Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) impressed to take yet another podium in his first full season and he’s not far behind either – and then there’s earlier Championship leader Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai), who crashed out and will want to move forward…

Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers), now a race winner after his Mugello stunner, was another man out of the reckoning in Barcelona after a mechanical as well, and the likes of John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) are looking to recover from their last lap shenanigans at Catalunya. The field is deep, and Canet will have a fight on his hands to defend his lead and attack to try and increase it.

Last year the Sterilgarda Max Racing Team rider was in the fight right to the end against eventual winner – and now Moto2™ rider – Jorge Martin, so he knows he has pace at Assen. Now, he just has to go one better and make that tough decision, like the likes of Dalla Porta, where exactly he wants to be going into that final chicane on that final lap.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer