Alex Rins kept his astonishing rookie year going with his second Moto2 win of the season and his second career success at Phillip Island.
The 19-year-old from Barcelona, Moto3 winner here two years ago, took control of the 25-lap race on the Paginas Amarillas HP40 Kalex at Turn 1 on the second lap and was never troubled on his way to victory by over six seconds from British rider Sam Lowes on the leading Speed Up entry.
Third, taking a maiden GP podium in his 50th race, was 18-year-old Italian Lorenzo Baldassarri, Valentino Rossi’s protégé on his Forward Kalex, another 3.775 seconds behind.
“It looks like it was easy,” said Rins, “but it was difficult to stay focussed for the whole race. In the beginning I was a little nervous but then I focussed my mind and pushed.”
He pushed so well that he is now second in the world championship, eight points clear of Tito Rabat, who missed his second successive race because of a broken left arm and is unable to race in Malaysia next week.
A key moment came right at the start when Axel Pons, making his first start from the front row on the AGR Kalex, made the merest of jump starts, led the first lap but then had to serve a ride-through penalty and dropped out of the picture.
Lowes fought for the lead early on but was immediately at risk after making a gearing change for the race. “On the first lap when they came by me I thought it was a disaster,” said the 25-year-old Briton, “but in the end it was OK for the race, just no good on the straight. But Rins had better pace than me all weekend so fair play to him.”
The man who is already Moto2 world champion for 2015, Johann Zarco, finished off a low-key Island weekend by finishing seventh, never threatening to match the front-running pace on his Ajo Motorsport Kalex.
Swiss veteran Tom Luthi was on course to at least match his second places here in the last two years but crashed out of second place under no pressure at the slow right-hand hairpin at Turn 10 at the halfway stage. He was able to rejoin but finished 15th.
That left Jonas Folger in the last of the podium positions – until Baldassarri put an excellent move on him at Doohan Corner, slipping past on the right as Folger on the AGR Kalex looked left.
Folger was soon looking right and left to see what was wrong with his bike as it developed a flat tyre on the way into Turn 4 with just four laps remaining, putting the German out and easing the pressure on Baldassarri.
“Unbelievable!” said the elated Italian. “The race was very good, very difficult. I couldn’t believe I was third, but I kept pushing without any mistakes.”
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex) and Sachsenring winner Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Honda) were fifth and sixth, while Australian Josh Hook, deputising for the injured Dominique Aegerter on the Technomag/Interwetten Kalex, brought it home safely in 20th place.
“The first 10 laps were a struggle, and a shocking start didn’t help,” said the 22-year-old from Taree. ”After that I started going really fast, but I just left my run too late to get a higher placing. We have improved a lot over the weekend and I can take a lot of positives out of my performance and on to next week at Sepang.
“The biggest issue for me has been trying to turn the bike with a fresh tyre, but after that wears off I start to feel more comfortable on the bike and that’s when I can up the pace. It’s all about spending more time on the bike and working with the team on getting it right, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.”