Portugal's Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has kept this year's Moto3 world championship alive after winning a dramatic 23-lap race at the 2015 Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
As Oliveira claimed the race win from Efren Vazquez (Leopard Racing Honda) and his own teammate Brad Binder, championship leader Danny Kent was left to lick his wounds after crashing out on lap 13 in an incident that also involved his main championship rival Enea Bastianini (Gresini Honda) and last-start winner Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda).
Kent's Leopard Racing Honda actually had his front taken out by Antonelli, with the Briton violently flung over the bars. Bastianini had nowhere to go and was caught up as collateral damage — and to add insult to injury his championship aspirations also evaporated in one fell swoop.
Bastianini went into the race 56pts down on Kent, but with only two races remaining — at Sepang and Valencia — his title hopes have disappeared, with Oliveira now the only rider capable of overtaking Kent.
Kent remains on 244pts after his third DNF of the season, while Oliveira's fourth win this season has taken him along to 204pts. A maximum of 50pts are available in the final two rounds.
The Moto3 race was one of mass attrition, with nearly 50 per cent of the starters failing to make the chequered flag, including polesitter John McPhee (Saxoprint RTG Honda) who crashed out in a three-bike incident on lap seven.
After the Kent/Bastianini/Antonelli imbroglio on lap 14, the race started to settle down, and it boiled down to a six-rider arm wrestle between Oliveira, Vazquez, Binder, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia Honda), Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 Sic KTM) and Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM).
Kornfeil and Navarra were chasing their first win in the category, but they will have to wait a little longer after Oliveira did all the hard work on the final lap and took a well-deserved win.
"That was a crazy race," said Oliveira. "And more importantly, I am really pleased that the championship remains open for another week.
"Once I settled into the group at the end I felt really relaxed, and I was able to defend my lead on the last lap."
Navarro, Kornfeil and Fenati finished in positions 4-6, while after a long and hard year Australia's Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra) finally scored his first world championship point — and then some more. Gardner was an impressive 10th, only seven seconds behind the race winner. He earned six points.
"I am relieved and happy to finally get a great result —and at home it’s even sweeter," said Gardner. "I pushed my way through the pack from the start, and then thought 'alright I'm here'.
"I just then concentrated on staying calm and score a good result. Thank God something has finally gone right — my dad was in tears!"
It was a mix of highs and lows for the Aussie wildcards, with Olly Simpson (KTM) the last rider to finish in 19th position, while Matt Barton (Suus Honda) retired with mechanical problems.
The championship continues with the penultimate round at Sepang in Malaysia next Sunday.
“Obviously from the good result here I hope to keep up the good work in Malaysia,” said Oliveira”, who has now finished in the top two at the last four races.
“Everything is not under my control, but obviously a title win is in sight…”