Japanese rider extends his points lead despite a fracture sustained in qualifying
Takuma Matsuyama suffered a fractured wrist on Friday at Motegi, but that didn't stop the Japanese rider converting pole position into an incredible win on Saturday afternoon. He extends his points lead to 25, now ahead of Afridza Munandar as the Indonesian took second and Sho Nishimura suffered a costly crash out of contention. Syarifuddin Azman completed the podium to keep his run of form rolling in another impressive race.
It was Matsuyama who kept P1 from pole, the number 11 blasting away from the line and already able to pull out a couple of bike lengths from the off. Azman was in hot pursuit, however, as he managed to put himself in charge of the chase, with the fight for third remaining a freight train early on.
Little by little, however, the chasing pack would reign the two in, as Azman managed to reign in Matsuyama too. Then it became a classic group battle at the front, with the top ten covered by just over a second and a half and the gaps a constant concertina.
As the final laps appeared in sight though, it was down to a key group of six in the fight for the podium - Matsuyama, Munandar, Azman, Thai rider Tatchakorn Buasri, Shoki Igarashi and Nishimura. Drama hit on the penultimate lap for Nishimura, however, as the number 3 suddenly tagged the rear tyre of Munandar ahead of him and went down. That left Matsuyama with an open goal, and despite his fractured wrist, the number 11 would emerge victorious nonetheless.
Keeping calm and collected at the front, the points leader defended to perfection around the final two corners to keep the lead and blast towards the line ahead - nailing the exit too and no one able to get close as he crossed the line nearly two tenths clear. That gives him a 25-point lead ahead of Munandar as the Indonesian came second, narrowly escaping Azman on the drag to the line.
Buasri just missed out as he crossed the line in fourth, with Igarashi completing the top five as the last of the lead group, taking some good points after his dramatic antics in Buriram.
Warit Thongnoppakun was sixth and the first of those on the chase although the Thai rider cut the gap to a few tenths, heading Herjun Firdaus over the line. Wildcard Kanta Hamada impressed in P8, ahead of a solid race for Australian Harrison Voight. Wildcard Shota Kiuchi completed the top ten.
Abdul Mutaqim and Piyawat Patoomyos took P11 and P12, ahead of Nishimura as the title challenger was able to remount and score a smattering of points. Hildhan Kusuma and Shinji Ogo locked out both the scorers and the finishers.
Jacob Roulstone pulled into the pits to retire, Luke Power crashed out and Adenanta Putra stacked it early on - likely taking himself out of the Championship hunt in the process. He also took out an unlucky Rei Wakamatsu, who suffered a broken collarbone.
That's it from Saturday, but we don't have to wait too long for more. Race 2 begins at 10:30 (GMT +9) on Sunday morning, with every point pivotal before the season finale at Sepang.