In the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) did all he could to take the Championship down to the wire against Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) as the South African won for the fourth time this season, but it wasn’t quite enough. Marquez took second under immense pressure to wrap up the crown, with another key rival, Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP), completing the podium.
It was Binder who took the holeshot, the KTM rider slicing straight across off the line to cover Marquez and staking an early claim on the win. But the number 73 stayed calm and retained second, a few important places ahead of Lüthi as the Swiss rider failed to gain from fifth on the grid.
Early on it seemed the front two had the pace to escape, but a moment for Marquez at the final corner was a definite warning shot as the Spaniard had to fight off front row starter Nagashima to keep second. That he did, however, and he set off on the chase behind Binder once again before the South African made an error of his own.
An open door on Lap 3 saw Binder relinquish the lead AND let Nagashima through as Marquez was left in some clear air at the front, but with the tables turned the number 41 was equally able to cut the gap. And when the pass came, it was pretty brutal. After a quick look at the final corner that Marquez repelled, Binder attacked at Turn 1 and pushed both slightly wide – emerging on top as the number 73 was forced back into second.
The cat and mouse would be played out in pace from then on, with Binder able to stay a few tenths ahead and Marquez solid in second, holding a similar gap back to Lüthi. The Swiss rider had very much arrived on the scene, nipping past Nagashima after an error from the Japanese rider.
The three men at the top of the standings were now in their own private battle, and none would budge. A bit of time gained here became some lost there, and all that was left for each to do was stay calm under the pressure. Binder did that to cross the line for victory number four of the year, but Marquez was equally steadfast. The number 73 took podium number 10 to crown himself Moto2™ World Champion as Lüthi took another rostrum in third, agonisingly close to keeping the battle alive to Valencia.
Fourth went the way of Vierge after a solid ride, with Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) completing the top five for an improvement on a tough Saturday. Iker Lecuona (monday.com American Racing) beat Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) to sixth, with Nagashima ultimately crossing the line in eighth. Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and last year’s winner, Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), completed the top ten.
Augusto Fernandez’ (Flexbox HP 40) tougher run of form continued in P11, ahead of Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), who was top rookie. Fellow debutants Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up), Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) all crashed out, so the fight for Rookie of the Year goes down to Valencia with ‘Diggia’ ahead.
Mattia Pasini (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) was 13th, with Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) able to take P14 despite an incident with Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2). Dominique Aegerter (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) completed the points.
The throne has now been taken and the king of 2019 crowned, so Valencia is a chance for him to race without pressure – and his rivals to hit back one more time. Who will take second overall this season? And who will take the Rookie of the Year title? Find out in two weeks.
Brad Binder: “We did everything we had to do, everything within our power we accomplished today. We knew it was an outside chance coming here because we knew it would need a lot of bad luck for the other guys. At the end of the day we did our job and that’s that, to walk away with the win today was incredible and we’ll just keep building for the future.
“I almost crashed, as I went for the front brake I didn’t realise how much less front grip there was than all weekend and I locked the front wheel, I was lucky to stay on! But all in all I can’t complain, it was a good race and I did my best. It was mistake free except that one…oh and I also almost crashed on the last lap to be fair!”
1 – Brad Binder (RSA – KTM) 38’07.843
2 – Alex Marquez (SPA – Kalex) +0.758
3 – Tom Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) +2.683
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