The Moto2™ World Championship in 2016 has so far been a mammoth, high octane showdown– and tumultuous. With different winners and leaders, it had seemed that Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) had then gained some real traction in the Championship until things started to go awry. A clash at Silverstone with Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was a low point for the Frenchman as a penalty saw him demoted to P22 – and key rival Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) rode to P7 despite a recently broken collarbone. The chance for the Frenchman to be the first man to defend the intermediate class crown since Jorge Lorenzo in 2007 suddenly seemed precarious – until Motegi.
Rins crashed on Friday, and injured his shoulder. Not within the top twenty in any session of the weekend after struggling with the problem, the Spaniard was 22nd on the grid – and knew he had to make a charge. That pressure saw the title contender slide out of contention at Turn 1 on Lap 1 – remounting but not scoring, and his deficit to Zarco back up to 21 points.
P3 man in the standings Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was next to fall.
The big winner was Garage Plus Interwetten’s Tom Luthi. Ominous throughout the race weekend and making good on that as the lights went out, the Swiss veteran took a lights-to-flag victory from P2 to holeshot to impressive gap at the front. With Zarco unable to chase him down, the former 125 World Champion’s 25 point haul saw him overhaul Lowes for P3 in the title – and very much still in with a chance. A dark horse with no pressure – as was Lowes until falling out of real contention in Japan – Luthi has experience and pace on his side.
Podium contenders in 2016 have been many – amongst whom are Franco Morbidelli and Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Lorenzo Baldassari (Forward Racing Team), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) – a host of race winners and fast riders with a World Champion thrown in for good measure. Together, a daunting task for any rider to face down on the hunt for a title. Add in the many others with the pace to get in the mix at the front and the gap may seem big – but in motorcycle racing, everything can change in one corner.
Last year, Phillip Island belonged to then-rookie Alex Rins, with a 6.6 second margin of victory for the Spaniard in an awesome display of pace. This year, he must make history repeat itself if he wants to close in on Zarco once again – and the incredibly close Moto2™ field of 2016 will all be lining up to write their own chapter at Phillip Island.
Moto2™ World Championship Standings
1 – Johann Zarco (FRA) KALEX 222 points
2 – Alex Rins (SPA) KALEX 201 points
3 – Thomas Lüthi (SWI) KALEX 179 points
4 – Sam Lowes (GBR) KALEX 162 points
5 – Franco Morbidelli (ITA) KALEX 157 points