Red Bull KTM Ajo factory racer Sandro Cortese won a hard fought Moto3 race in the GP of Portugal in Estoril in a thrilling two-way battle with Maverick Vinales of Spain in the last half of the race.
Cortese of Germany now leads the championship by just two points after taking two podium places in Qatar and Jerez in the two earlier rounds. Luis Salom of Spain riding the KALEX-KTM bike was third, depriving Zulfahmi Khairuddin of Malaysia of the first podium place for his country in the final corners. It was a great race for the KTM and KTM-driven bikes and especially for KTM’s construction team from the company headquarters in Mattighofen, Austria. The company brought them to the race as a reward for the hard work they had put in perfecting the bike.
“I had an unbelievable bike,” Cortese said. “It was so fast today. I felt so good all weekend. Everything was perfect and I enjoyed every lap. Vinales had such a good rhythm I just tried to stick behind him and then in the final lap I tried not to let him get the slipstream and when he went a bit wide I held the line and got past him.”
Cortese was on pole and Spain’s Vinales was with him on the front line of the grid and the two riders never left any doubt that they were both in it to win it. They started to put substantial distance between them and the rest of the pack by midway through the race and finished almost 11 seconds ahead of Salom at the checkered flag. The battle between the two leaders intensified in the closing laps and a cat and mouse ensued right up to the last corners.
Behind them the fight for third was also intense and it was only at the closing stages that Salom of Spain was able to make his pass stick on the talented young Malaysia rider Zulfahmi. Behind them, Danny Kent of Britain was next fastest KTM rider in eighth, who had been unfortunate to slip down the order after a mid race incident. South African Brad Binder, Salom’s RW Racing GP teammate was eleventh on the KALEX-KTM, followed by Hector Faubel (KALEX-KTM) and Australian Arthur Sissis riding the KTM machine. Alberto Moncayo, Faubel’s Aspar teammate on the KALEX-KTM finished fourteenth and Spain’s Joan Olive, riding for Niklas Ajo of TT Motions Event Racing on the KTM Moto3 bike was sixteenth. Ajo picked up a one-race ban after an incident with a marshal in Jerez.
Pit Beirer, KTM’s Head of Motorsports was at the race and amid jubilant team celebrations said he was happy to have his construction team with him at the event.
“It was great that they were here to see the win and to enjoy the experience together with the teams and riders,” he said. “We put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves in the past weeks. We could see in the opening rounds that we needed to do something to close the gap and find some more speed. In the end it was only some small changes, some small steps with the response and other things but it made the difference. Sandro was the fastest throughout the weekend. He felt great on the bike and we can’t ask for anything more than that.”
After three rounds KTM is currently second behind Honda in the Manufacturer’s Standings, training by 13 points. KALEX-KTM is in third place.
The next Moto3 race is in Le Mans, France on May 20.
Results Moto3 Estoril
1. Sandro Cortese (D), KTM, 41:34.536 min
2. Maverick Viñales (E), FTR Honda, +0.055 sec
3. Luis Salom (E), KALEX-KTM, +11.038
4. Zulfahmi Khairuddin (MA), KTM, +12.195
5. Efren Vazquez (E), FTR Honda, +20.934
6. Niccolò Antonelli (I), FTR Honda
7. Alex Rins (E), Suter Honda
8. Danny Kent (GB), KTM, +21.888
9. Alexis Masbou (F), Honda
10. Jakub Kornfeil (CZ), FTR Honda
11. Brad Binder (RSA), KALEX-KTM, +23.379
12. Hector Faubel (E), KALEX-KTM, +23.763
13. Arthur Sissis (AUS), KTM, +24.308
14. Alberto Moncayo (E), KALEX-KTM, +25.015
16. Joan Olive (E), KTM, +32.641
Standings Moto3 after Round 3
1. Cortese, 57 points
2. Viñales, 55
3. Salom, 49
4. Romano Fenati (I), FTR Honda, 45
5. Khairuddin, 29
9. Kent, 16
10. Faubel, 15
11. Moncayo, 13
12. Sissis, 12
18. Binder, 5
22. Niklas Ajo (FIN), KTM, 3