It's back down to 12 points apart after Motegi stages another instant classic for the IATC
Sho Nishimura is back in business! The Japanese rider has had a tougher time of it since the summer break but he came out swinging in Race 2 at the Twin Ring Motegi to take an authoritative win. With key rival Takuma Matsuyama only taking fifth after a last lap wobble, that closes the standings right up as Matsuyama's lead is now back down to just 12 points. Completing the podium were Thai rider Tatchakorn Buasri and home hero Shoki Igarashi, with both able to just pull ahead of a close drag to the line to take rostrum finishes.
Off the line it was Matsuyama who took the holeshot from pole, although the number 11 had more company in Race 2 as Nishimura made a blinding getaway and was able to almost get alongside his compatriot into Turn 1. Matsuyama held firm, however, and another classic IATC group battle began in earnest.
Matsuyama led first, Syarifuddin Azman in pursuit, and Buasri was a firm presence at the front mid-race. It was only in the latter laps that Nishimura really started to put the hammer down, the eventual winner crossing the line in the top three in each of the last five laps...
In those last five laps, it was down to a five rider battle, with Harrison Voight just losing touch with the fight for the front. And it remained five, but the last lap would be a dramatic decider for one man at least.
Matsuyama was right in the fight to take the win, but a sudden moment for the number 11 saw him plummet back from the group, and it looked like it was all over as Buasri vs Nishimura vs Igarashi vs Azman raged on. But the points leader wasn't for giving up and he dug deep despite his injury, able to tag back on to the quartet by the time the final few corners were in sight. Would he be able to move forward?
By then, Nishimura had struck for the lead with a truly stunning move around the outside of Buasri; the Japanese rider inch perfect to take over in P1. And from there, he defended to perfection too - closing the door around the final two corners and able to stay ahead on the blast to the line. In the scuffle just behind, it was Matsuyama who just got shuffled back out of contention, crossing the line in fifth as the three men ahead of him went toe-to-toe towards the line.
Buasri was the man who won the slipstream contest, taking second just ahead of Igarashi. Azman, after three consecutive podiums, just missed out in fourth.
Behind Matsuyama's Iron Man ride to fifth despite his wrist, it was an impressive performance from wildcard Shota Kiuchi to take P6, with Harrison Voight taking a tumble on the final lap and out of the race. Then came the second group, headed by title challenger Afridza Munandar in P7 as a gaggle of riders all crossed the line within a second. They were Munandar, Adenanta Putra, Warit Thongnoppakun, Jacob Roulstone, wildcard Kanta Hamada, Herjun Firdaus and Piyawat Patoomyos - all the way down to P13. Hildhan Kusuma and Shinji Ogo completed the points.
That's it from a race weekend of two halves at Motegi - or certainly of two riders. After another stunning showdown, there's now only a single round remaining as Sepang International Circuit hosts the final two races in a couple of weeks - and it's only 12 points in it. Everything will once again get decided in Malaysia, so don't miss it and keep up to date with the Selection Event for next season that takes place just before the finale, too!