By Lisa Lewis
The Moto3 battle at the Malaysian Grand Prix was a hotly-contested affair with Luis Salom touching Alex Rins as he pushed past for the inside line at the final, vital turn, leaving him able to outrun his fellow countryman to the line.
With six riders in contention for the win on the final lap The Red Bull rider described his seventh victory of the season as “The toughest race I have this year”.
Estrella Galicia rider Rins was out-thought in a battle of wits and despite late braking his way to the front at the start of the opening lap, found himself only capable of second as the chequered flag waved. It still marked a continued his strong showing for Rins which has pushed him into contention for the title in the second half of the season.
It is the third time this season that Salom has translated a pole start into a win having also managed the same feat in Qatar and Catalunya.
Salom's racecraft means he extends his championship lead to 14 points over Rins, Vinales in now a distant 26 points adrift.
Not to be outdone in terms of excitement, after a shocking start dropped Portuguese rider Miguel Oilveira found himself near the back of the field. The Mahindra man staged a courageous fightback to catch the leaders after just a handful of laps and take the final spot on the podium in the dash to the line.
This gives Mahindra their first podium in Grand Prix racing. Oliveira is also the first non-KTM powered podium finisher this year.
The third place is also Oliveira's first rostrum finish this season and the third of his career. He is only the second man not to come from Spain to finish on the podium this year, the other being Germany's Jonas Folger who took third in Jerez and Brno.
Alex Marquez found himself off the podium for the first time after finishing third in the last three races but was still an impressive fourth.
Maverick Vinales saw his title hopes take another blow as the lead pack splintered in two but was pulled back into contention as the leaders battle saw them lose pace.