Acosta and Garcia stage a Spielberg spectacularA duel to the final corner sees some last minute drama decide Moto3™ as Acosta continues his Championship charge.

Four in a row last year in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, a win from the year before that and now, a Moto3™ victory at the Red Bull Ring on first time of asking? Sounds about right for history maker Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), but it didn’t come easy. A truly epic duel for the ages saw the Spaniard take on compatriot and closest Championship challenger Sergio Garcia (Santander Consumer Bank GASGAS Aspar Team) in a half-wet half-dry Styrian showdown, with Acosta making a move at the final corner to take the win – and the number 11 just sliding out on a damp patch on the outside. But such was their domination, Garcia remounted and still made it over the line in second.

Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Racing Team) continued his good form of late to complete the podium as he struck late against Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo), moving up to third in the standings with the move to boot.

There was drama before lights out as polesitter Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) was pulled off the grid before the warm up lap, the Turkish rider’s bike having been worked on within the 3 minute board and that sending him to the back of the grid for the race start. But what had they been doing? Changing to slicks, with a dry line fast appearing around the Red Bull Ring but the majority of the field on wets. The majority didn’t include Öncü after the change, and Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing), his teammate John McPhee, Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3), Andi Izdihar (Honda Team Asia) and Rivacold Snipers teammates Andrea Migno and David Salvador all lined up on slicks too.

Once the start was underway, Fenati took the holeshot from the outside of the front row, the Italian away well to just slip ahead of second place starter – and second in the standings – Garcia, but the Spaniard didn’t take long to hit back and hit the front. Before long, he, Acosta and Fenati already had a couple of seconds in hand over the chasing pack a lap later, with Masia and Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) leading that chase.

Lap by lap though, the top two were pulling away. Garcia and Acosta, the two at the top of the standings, remained the fastest two riders on track even as the dry line got more pronounced, with time starting to run out for those on slicks hoping for a change of fortune. Binder was by far the furthest forward of those trying the gamble, down in P16 but over five seconds ahead of teammate McPhee, the next rider on slicks.

11 to go was when Acosta, who’d been stalking Garcia for over ten laps, made his move. The two were nearly ten seconds clear of the rest, but Garcia hit back quickly and next time over the line, found his fastest lap not beaten straight away by the man just behind him. And so the laps rolled on, and six to go was the next attack from Acosta, again at Turn 3. But again, Garcia hit back and it was as you were.

Five to go marked the first time the fastest lap came from a rider on slicks, and it was Binder. The South African was on a charge and was already well inside the top ten even before that tipping point, leaving the rest of his fellow tyre gamblers far behind. But with time running out for it to make a big difference, it was more a mission of damage limitation.

By two to go, Acosta was ready to try it again, and the points leader pulled the same move at Turn 3. And Garcia, once again, sliced back past. And so the highspeed Moto3™ chess headed onto the final lap, and this time it was Turn 1. Acosta struck, Garcia tucked in and this time round at Turn 3 the roles were reversed – and the elbows out. The number 11 whacked it up the inside and just about made it work, some contact between the two and Acosta running wide but both soon back on track into what had become formation.

And so it rolled on to the final corner, and this time it was Acosta slicing up the inside… and this time there was no contact, but there was drama. Garcia lost it on the wider line, just touching the damp patch and sliding out into the gravel as Acosta gunned it towards the line for another impressive victory, increasing his Championship lead once again.

It wasn’t quite the disaster it seemed for Garcia, however. The domination of the two was such that the Spaniard, quick to his feet in the gravel, had enough time to get back on his bike, back on track and make it to the line in second place for a valuable and hard-earned 20 points.

A duel to the end decided the final place on the podium too as Fenati struck late against Masia, the Italian just taking it by a tenth, up the inside at the final corner for another rostrum finish. Masia was forced to settle for fourth but gets some solid points after a tougher run of it before summer, with Sasaki next up as he made a great return to racing in fifth place following his injury and time on the sidelines.

Sixth place, in the end, was Binder’s limit. The South African somehow did an entire race on completely different tyres to those anywhere around him at the flag, putting in an impressive day’s work. He got past a close fight that saw Ryusei Yamanaka (CarXpert PrüstelGP) beat Yuki Kunii (Honda Team Asia) and Max Kofler (CIP Green Power).

Another close fight completed the points: Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), Filip Salac (CarXpert PruestelGP), Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power, John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Izan Guevara (SANTANDER Consumer Bank GASGAS Aspar Team) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) in 15th.

Now the grid will recharge for another run at the Red Bull Ring next weekend – so get ready for the Austrian GP! Can Acosta make it a magnificent seven in a row at the venue?

Moto3™ podium
1 Pedro Acosta – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 39:45.869
2 Sergio Garcia – Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team – GASGAS – +14.431
3 Romano Fenati – Sterilgarda Max Racing Team – Husqvarna – +15.410

Pedro Acosta: “Sergio was strong like always! I’m super happy after 24 laps, super long race. We have to still fully focused by in the end in the battle I could overtake him. It was a bit on the limit but to win here in Red Bull and KTM house is amazing, and I have to say thanks to all the team. We trained so hard this summer to come here prepared to fight. This is for Hugo Millan, for him, his brother and his family.”

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