KTM has scored its maiden victory in the Moto2™ class at the 2017 Michelin® Australian Grand Prix 2017, courtesy of Miguel Oliveira.
The Portuguese rider was superb with a runaway victory in the 25-lap race, and to add even more cream on the cake Oliveira’s teammate Brad Binder finished in a brilliant second place after a race-long battle with championship leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0).
Morbidelli now leads the championship by 29 points over Swiss rival Tom Luthi (CarXPert Interwetten), who labored into 10th position after two hard crashes over the weekend.
The race got underway with Oliveira, Binder and Morbidelli at the front of the tight pack, but the trio was able to pull a gap on its pursuers after front row starter Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) highsided on lap two, with polesitter Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) also brought down as collateral damage.
Soon after Oliveira began pulling a gap at the front, which he stretched to over five seconds in the mid stages of the race before greeting the chequered flag by nearly three seconds over Binder as a light sprinkle of precipitation began to cover the circuit.
“I’m really happy, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this win,” said Oliveira.
“I had a huge lead when the rain came. I was too cautious and I stressed a little bit and it was the longest race of my life. It’s my first victory in the category and the first for KTM – and not the last hopefully.”
While Oliveira checked out, Binder (last year’s Moto3™ winner at Phillip Island) and Morbidelli were glued together for most of the journey, with Morbidelli even touching the back of Binder’s bike as they charged into Doohan Corner (turn one) on lap 16.
That forced Morbidelli wide, and into the clutches of the charging Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia).
Nakagami soon dispatched Morbidelli, and then moved onto Binder to move into second place. However, the MotoGP-bound Japanese rider cooked his goose when he crashed at turn eight on the penultimate lap, bumping Binder up to second and Morbidelli back on the podium.
Binder also set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:33.864 on that action-packed second last lap.
Swiss rider Jesko Raffin (Garage Plus Interwetten), still without a ride for 2018, rode out for his skin to an excellent fourth position, with Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing), Alex Marquez (EG 0,0), Simone Corsi (Speed Racing), Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Luthi completing the top 10.
Aussie Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) was 15th.
Morbidelli is now on 272 points, ahead of Luthi (243), Oliveira (191), Marquez (190) and Pecco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46), who was 12th today.