Round nineteen, the penultimate round of the year, brought one of the most dramatic races of the season, with tough moves and questionable tactics the order of the day in the Moto3 class.
Turn six moves decide race - and title
It was tears for both Jaume Masia and Ayumu Sasaki - but for very different reasons.
Both riders enjoyed spells at the front in a frantic race, with Masia twice placing his Leopard Honda ahead of Sasaki on the dirty part of the track, sitting up and holding a straight line to sit the Japanese rider up and force riders in between them.The Spaniard was handed a conduct warning.
With Sasaki back in the pack, Masia’s teammate Adrian Fernandez did the same aggressive - perhaps over the limit - move at turn six, pushing the Liqui Moly Intact GP bike back even further. One final move in front of the Husqvqrna rider ensured he was gapped from the lead group.
Sasaki fought back to be on the back wheel of Daniel Holgado for fifth but with nothing to lose they too clashed, leaving Sasaki sixth over the line as Masia steamed across the line for the win.
Masia embraced his bike and his teammate, crying tears of joy all over his team, while Sasaki was being consoled by good friend Jake Dixon back in his pit box.
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Comeback rides complete the podium
With the chaos out front David Alonso was able to work his way up from twelfth on the grid. The Gaviota GasGas Aspar rider was up to fifth after just a couple of laps, and from there was well placed to fight for a podium. He rode hard against Deniz Oncu through the final corners to finish ahead, and just 0.068s behind Masia.
Oncu staged the biggest comeback of all, leading the way over the first laps, the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider knew he would be penalised for a very obvious jump start.
Double long lap awarded, the first dropped oncu to 17th, then the second trip around the loop took the Turkish rider to 25th. That seemed to spur Oncu on and very rapidly the #53 worked his way back to the lead group.
In the right place when the group was splintered late in the race to be in the breakaway four on the last lap, Oncu, who started third, had worked his way back there to take the final rostrum spot.
It was a similar story for Riccardo Rossi, who had lined up 18th but taken advantage of being near other riders making moves to also push forward on his SIC 58 Squadra Corse bike. Only just behind Oncu, the Italian was fourth at the line.
Vincente Perez was fifth for BOE Motorsports, able to take advantage as Sasaki was held up to finish ahead.
Matteo Bertelle was next to take the chequered flag for the Snipers team, holding off Kaito Toba on the second SIC58 bike for seventh. Holgado finished ninth after starting on pole after his last lap battling with Sasaki for Red Bull KTM Ajo Tech3.
Winner of the last round, Collin Veijer was not near enough to aid Sasaki on track, finishing tenth.
Romano Fenati had late contact with Honda Team Asia’s Taiyo Furusato with five laps remaining, dropping him to eleventh on the Snipers bike.
David Munoz also headed in the wrong direction over the closing laps, twelfth at the finish line for BOE Motorsports, and only just holding off Joel Kelso in the run in. The Australian was sent wide early in the tough, contact filled race, forcing the CFMoto rider out of the top ten at the time.
The remaining points on offer went to Furusato, who like Holgado didn’t see his soft rear tyre gamble pay off, as grip became an issue for the duo, and Ivan Ortola, who was sent around the long loop twice for taking out early frontrunner Diogo Moreira.
Jose Antoino Rueda just missed out, he too had a double long lap penalty for forcing Filippo Farioli into a crash.
Adrian Fernendez finished 17th after his antics with Sasaki.
Crashes, injuries and replacements
Scott Ogden was the highest placed VisionTrack bike in 19th after his teammate Joshua Whatley was the first rider to exit, fracturing his leg in his fall.
Farioli did not get to serve his penalty for his earlier antics which had sent him to the back of the grid, along with Mario Aji, who was yet another rider needing two trips around the penalty loop. He finished 25th with only faller Moreira behind.
Stefano Nepa and Lorenzo Fellon were both hit financially for their slow riding earlier in the weekend instead. a 500 euro fine allowed them to finish 18th and 24th respectively.
Perez was the only replacement rider in the field, back for BOE Motorsports, in for Ana Carrasco until the end of the season.
Where does that leave the championship?
Masia was crowned champion after his win, with a total of 271 with one round remaining. Sixth for Sasaki meant the difference was at 27 points over the line, more than a race win, seeing Masia to the crown.
Alonso sits third oveall, while Oncu’s podium lifts him to joint fourth with Holgado.