After his stunning first half of the season, newly crowned Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is ready for his next challenge: the Twin Ring Motegi. Confessing to having ridden conservatively in some races so far in 2016, the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider now has even less to lose and is sure to put on another fantastic show as he aims for his sixth win of the year after coming so close at MotorLand Aragon. Last year, Binder crashed out of the race early – but came third in 2014 and will be looking to take his first win at the Japanese track as he arrives on a high.
There are those who aim to stand in Binder’s way, however. Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) will be the man to replace the South African in the Red Bull KTM Ajo squad in 2017, and the Italian is the only rider on the current Moto3™ grid to have taken a win at Motegi. Although suffering some difficulties of late in the lower class, Antonelli should be one to watch with his history at the track and his experience – in addition to looking to fly the flag for home manufacturer Honda.
Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) won the Aragon GP in some serious style for only his second GP victory, and the Spaniard will be looking to take back-to-back wins for the first time in his career. Locked in a tight battle with Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) for P2 in the title and currently ahead, Navarro is getting back to full strength after some injury problems earlier in 2016 – and stood on the podium at Motegi in 2015 in his first full season, staging a great comeback from 13th at the end of lap one.
Bastianini, after coming close to the win in Misano and again standing on the podium in Aragon, will be sure to take the fight to Navarro as the two duel it out over second in the Championship. The man closest to Binder ahead of the South African’s title win, the ‘Beast’ was knocked down again to P3 after Navarro’s win in Aragon and – like the Spaniard he is dueling with for that second classification – now has less to lose as the title is wrapped up and done. The Italian has seen himself rise through the title ranks due to consistency – and will give everything to take his first win of the season in his four remaining chances in 2016, beginning in Motegi.
The fight for P4 in the Championship – and the title of ‘Rookie of the Year’ – will be another one to watch in Japan. With Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3) and Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) locked in a three way fight below the three men at the top, the next three races will prove crucial for taking the honour of top Rookie come the season finale in Valencia. All three have stood on the podium in 2016 – Mir on the top step in Austria – proving past experience isn’t always an indicator of what awaits when the lights go out. The track may be new to the three – but that was also true at the Austrian GP when Mir took his stunning maiden win. The new kids on the block have proven they aren’t shy when it comes to fighting at the front, and although not counting on experience of the track from the FIM CEV Repsol will be eager to hit full speed as the points start to really count.
Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) is another who will be looking for another good haul of points at home, as he flies the flag at the classic venue – and will have nothing to lose as he goes for glory.
Japan awaits and Binder, now, can truly show his full hand – but so can those around him as the paddock heads for the Twin Ring Motegi. With the title done and decided, the pressure of the melting pot has been released – ahead now lies the fight for points, and honour.
Moto3™ lead the pack from pitlane first in the morning of Friday 14th October, before Sunday sees the lights go out for another modern thriller.
Moto3™ World Championship Standings
1 – Brad Binder (RSA) KTM 249 points
3 – Enea Bastianini (ITA) HONDA 139 points
2 – Jorge Navarro (SPA) HONDA 143 points
4 – Joan Mir (SPA) KTM 117 points
5- Nicolo Bulega (ITA) KTM 113 points