Three is a magic number for KTM Down Under. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder clinched his third win of 2019 at the Pramac Generac Australian Grand Prix – and the Austrian factory’s third win in a row at the venue – to keep his Moto2™ Championship hopes alive in style; the South African now 33 points off the lead held by Alex Marquez (Marc VDS EG 0,0). Rookie Jorge Martin made it a Red Bull KTM Ajo one-two and took his second intermediate class podium, with Dynavolt Intact GP’s Tom Lüthi taking third. That puts the Swiss rider even closer in the standings, now 28 points adrift of Marquez on the way to Malaysia.
Binder bagged the holeshot from the middle of the front row, with teammate Martin quickly followeing him through as polesitter Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) slipped a little backwards off the line. In a dramatic opening half a lap, monday.com American Racing’s Iker Lecuona then took out both Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), ending the Thailand and Japan winner’s shot at the crown, and Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull Tech 3 KTM) after trying to pull off an audacious move into Turn 4. Championship leader Marquez barely escaped upright; incredibly fortunate not to get caught up in the incident that resulted in a Long Lap Penalty for Lecuona.
Back at the front and the KTM duo had started to break clear from Navarro and Lüthi, who were having their own fight over the final podium spot. The Swiss rider got the better of Navarro at half race distance, and from there the Speed Up couldn’t quite stay in touch.
Marquez, meanwhile, began to fade backwards slightly as Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40), Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) and Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) all finding a way past in the space of a lap, demoting the number 73 down to eighth. It would get worse for Marquez, the points leader losing another couple of places…
Martin, meanwhile, continued to apply the pressure on Binder but the South African was standing firm. Eventually the number 41 broke free from Martin, however, and pushed on towards victory at the same venue he ruled in 2018. Martin was back on the box and it was back-to-back podiums for Lüthi too, with both Binder and the Swiss rider cutting the deficit to the top considerably.
Fourth went the way of Navarro, who held off a brilliant late charge from Baldassarri as the Italian closed to within half a second on the final lap. ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team’s Remy Gardner took sixth at his home round after a quality ride to hold off Lecuona in the closing stages, with Marquez ultimately crossing the line in eighth after a late surge. He now sits 28 points ahead of Lüthi and 33 points clear of Binder with just two rounds remaining.
Manzi pulled off a stunner Down Under for MV Agusta as he and Nagashima completed the top 10, ahead of an impressive comeback from Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) after a tough Saturday for the German. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) took P12 ahead of a solid finish for Jesko Raffin (NTS RW Racing GP) in 13th. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up) was 14th, as Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP) completed the points to put both NTS machines on the scoreboard.
One key name missing? Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40). After a tough qualifying, it was a tough race day that followed for the Spaniard, who now finds himself out the Championship fight. He didn’t score Down Under, and even if he were to win the next two and Marquez took no more points, leaving them equal on victories and points…Fernandez would lose on second places.
And so the battle is four. Marquez is 28 clear of Lüthi, with Binder and Navarro still in with a shout. Next up it’s Malaysia and it’s only just around the corner – so tune in next weekend for what could be the final decider.
Brad Binder: “I expected it to be a big group and a massive fight, but four or five laps into the race I realised it was just going to be me and my teammate, so one one hand it’s a bit of pressure but on the other I felt more relaxed because it’s a lot easier to deal with one person than ten. I’m really happy, I gave my absolute best all race, I think it was one of the most perfect races I’ve done. I almost crashed once but at the end of the day it’s ok because I stayed on! I’m feeling good and I need to say thanks to the team, the bike here worked incredibly, from FP1 it was amazing. We did a good job this weekend and things are looking good, I’m really enjoying the racing and looking forward to the next one.”
1 – Brad Binder (RSA – KTM) 38’53.277
2 – Jorge Martin (SPA – KTM) +1.968
3 – Tom Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) +6.021
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